Amanda Peet regrets some of her career choices. Playing a murderer isn't one of them
Amanda Peet, who plays Betty Broderick in "Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story", took pictures using the screenshot function on the iPad in her house in Los Angeles.
"I was really scared of playing a murderer," says Amanda Peet. But the 48-year-old actress adopted the psychological gymnastics required to take on one of the most difficult roles in her career: Betty Broderick, the suburban housewife who was convicted in 1989 of the murders of her ex-husband and new wife.
"I was really afraid to play someone who did this to the father of their children and their children," she adds, with the tone of someone who is still dealing with it. "And behave morally repugnant. Yes, that definitely scared me. "
The fear led to a multi-faceted performance that fans and critics described as the best of Peet's career. "Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story", in which Christian Slater can also be seen as Betty's ex-husband Daniel Broderick, follows the apparently ideal romance and marriage of the San Diego couple and their combative separation that preceded the brutal double murder, which aroused the national headlines. (The anthology series, whose first season is based on a podcast from the Los Angeles Times, is produced in collaboration with the Los Angeles Times Studios.)
The second season is again directed by Alexandra Cunningham and joins other recent dramas such as "Little Fires Everywhere" and "Mrs. America ”with a complicated portrait of a woman whose identity is determined by her role as wife and mother as well as by social expectations. The portrayal of Betty Broderick allowed Peet to face and dive into the complexity of this archetype and find depth in a woman who had been reduced to tabloid food.
"From outside the situation, she was a killer for me," says Peet. "When I was inside, she was an emergency person who had all the eggs in one basket, had no psychotherapeutic resources, and had the carpet pulled out from under her in the most basic, visceral way."
Amanda Peet as Betty Broderick in a scene from "Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story". (Isabella Vosmikova / USA network)
Peet is curled up in a pillow-filled corner in her Los Angeles home that she shares with her husband, Game of Thrones writer David Benioff, and their three children. Peet has reached out and holds her cell phone at a distance to take part in our video interview. She is back in town after a recent trip to New York to visit her mother, who has Parkinson's, on her 79th birthday. ("The airport reminded me of a zombie movie," she says.)
In this role, Peet thought a lot about her mother Penny and the social customs she had as a woman who grew up in the 1950s and started a family in the 1970s while balancing a career. But Peet also considered her own connections to Broderick.
"I am a very jealous person," she says. "I am definitely interested in air, what people think ... not all the time, but I can relate to it. I'm not immune to it. I can understand the feeling of wanting to keep up with the Jones seem to want to just being flawlessly healthy when things are not inside ... the discrepancy between the way things look and the way things are. "
And then it's about seeing your partner rise to success. Dan developed a lucrative career as a medical malpractice attorney in San Diego while Betty took care of her home and four children. Betty, as the show says, began to feel insecure about her marriage when his professional life began. Peet's husband together with his writing partner D.B. Weiss was in high demand due to the meteoric success of HBO's "Game of Thrones". Peet is familiar with uncertainties and wonders how a partner's success could affect a marriage.
"It definitely came to my mind when he was on site for many months and started Game of Thrones in a way none of us could have imagined," says Peet. "But we're pretty good communicators and I'm the daughter of a shrinker. So we had many advantages that [Betty and Dan] obviously didn't have. And I also think we're both big fans of the dance with the girl that brought you here. "
To prepare for the role, Peet chose not to review the footage or read stories related to the case. Nor did she read Bella Stumbo's 1993 book, "Until the Twelfth of Never: Dan & Betty Broderick's Deadly Divorce," which serves as the primary source material for the series. Instead, she let the screenplays inform her. One of the first questions before the shoot was whether she should look like Betty.
"When Alexandra said, 'I'm not interested in mimicking Betty Broderick. That's not what this is about. I just want you to try to capture that person's psyche.' Then I felt very liberated, "says Peet. "I tried very hard not to watch Betty's footage because I didn't want to disappoint or, I don't know, be misled by a tiny clip when I really had to try to get a more complete picture."
Actress Amanda Peet at home in a virtual photo shoot using the FaceTime app on an iPad. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
After Peet was cast, Cunningham emailed one of their mutual friends, actor David Duchovny. According to Cunningham, the actor, who was unaware of the premise of the series, suggested the author and producer find ways to open Peet's comedic side.
"I didn't really know how much that would blow the character out in so many ways," says Cunningham, "because Betty was a very funny person. Even in very inappropriate times, and especially after her detention, she was still trying to make jokes and to make people laugh because it was so important to them that everyone likes them. For Amanda, the humor and anger were right next to each other all the time. And the intelligence. I would only watch them on the set with their mouths open. "
For Peet, who has appeared in films such as "The Whole Nine Yards" and "Igby Goes Down" as well as in TV shows such as "Togetherness" by HBO and "Brockmire" by IFC, "Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story" stood directly in the spotlight on her. And she worked hard to make a living there.
"My whole life has been Betty Broderick," says Peet. "It was definitely all inclusive. Not like Daniel Day-Lewis - God bless him. I didn't come home and let everyone call me Betty."
But like in most of the projects Peet undertakes, she had questions. She often made the short walk to her best friend Sarah Paulson's house and made scenes with Paulson and her partner Holland Taylor aloud to get her input and guidance on her character's emotional beats. (Paulson points out that Peet returns the favor as a soundboard when she needs it.)
"It's just a testament to her commitment that she would have worked an insane day and would still have come over to head the lines afterwards, or we'd go to FaceTime and analyze things," said Paulson, whose nickname for Peet "Bird "is. "She didn't need me for any of that, but I think it's part of Amanda's way of moving around the world in general. It's like - and I'm not trying to infantilize her - but it's like a child in the park too and you keep turning over to make sure the person is still there and then you do the big, brave, brave thing because you know the people you trust are watching. "
Cunningham jokes that the questions would normally only reach them if Peet Benioff and Paulson had already asked and their answers did not match.
Christian Slater, left, and Amanda Peet as Dan and Betty Broderick in season 2 of "Dirty John". (Isabella Vosmikova / USA network)
"She always said," I don't want to bother you, "says Cunningham." And I think 'you're the only person who wants to bother me.' But so she would say, "I asked David and he said X and I asked Paulson and she said Y. What do you think?" … If I saw her name on the phone, I would be happy because we will discuss what we are doing together. And maybe she'll give me some insight and I'll help her. It was really like a dream that I never wanted to stop. I think it comes from the writer in her. "
Peet wrote while studying at Columbia University, where she studied American history, but it wasn't until she turned 40 and saw Hollywood's inhospitable attitude toward women of a certain age that she began to take writing seriously.
"I hadn't reached a certain level in my industry," she says. "There were other 40-year-old women who got the kind of writing I wanted and I just wasn't on those lists. Perhaps it sounds lame to me to complain because it's fun just as an actor to be. "
Peet made her debut as a playwright in 2013 with "The Commons of Pensacola", an off-Broadway play inspired by Bernie Madoff with Sarah Jessica Parker and Blythe Danner. In 2018 she premiered her second piece “Our Very Own Carlin McCullough” at the Geffen Playhouse. Both productions received solid reviews from critics.
"I am very sorry," she says, that she doesn't seriously write earlier. "And when my children show a little interest in becoming actresses, I always say:" You have to write that! You have to be like Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Write your own material. Don't wait on the phone. I think if I had been serious before, I could have done better now. I also feel like I wouldn't have done some of the lousy things I did because I realized that I had other resources at my disposal. I didn't have to play that woman or role in the unnamable film I don't name. I could have written instead of doing that. I think there was a time in my 20s when I was definitely chasing the hype instead of doing my job. "
Your letter will next be seen on Netflix. She will make her debut as the author and showrunner of television series with the upcoming six episode dramedy "The Chair" by the head of a university's English department. The series, in which Sandra Oh and Jay Duplass will play the leading role, counts Benioff and his colleagues, creators of Game of Thrones, Weiss, as executive producers on their $ 200 million blockbuster contract with the streamer . (Peet wrote the pilot with Annie Julia Wyman.) It is unclear when the series will begin production.
"It mocks science and treats and makes fun of overprivileged, desperate people, but it also digs up the heart and comedy and soul of what it means to be alive and to find out how to live your life "says Duplass. who reunite with Peet after working on “togetherness”. “Amanda is an incredible writer. It's just so funny and so sharp and very, very ... strict. Being in Amanda's hands and knowing how strict she is and how hard she works on it and seeing how these scripts go through designs because she is persistent is great. "
Despite her commitment to the site, Peet is convinced that there is a story that she would have mistreated as a writer: that of Betty Broderick.
"I don't think I would have been able to. The period and the story. Also to write a real person. I couldn't do it. I don't mind saying that. It's too difficult."
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