Exclusive: DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES’ Emily Bergl Interview

Emily Bergl

You probably know talented actress Emily Bergyl from her roles of Tammi on Southland or Annie on Men in Trees, but she does it all: television, movies, theater, even her own cabaret act. She recently joined DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES as Paul Young’s new jailhouse bride Beth and Daemon’s TV talked to her about what we can expect from Beth, why she thinks Southland’s Tammi is misunderstood, and the political comedy she shot this summer in Seattle.

Desperate Housewives airs on ABC Sunday nights at 9pm/8central and you can find all our Desperate Housewives coverage here. For now, enjoy the interview with the very funny and insightful Emily Bergl.

Congratulations on joining Desperate Housewives. How is it going so far?

Emily Bergl: It’s going really well. The scripts are really excellent this season. Mark Moses who plays Paul Young is an incredible actor. Most of my scenes are with him and our relationship is developing in all these directions that I never knew about. It’s a really genuinely fun show to work on. I think this is some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a television set.

Has it been challenging joining an established cast of actors, especially since Paul is well established on the show?

Emily Bergl: I was nervous at first. I didn’t know what it would be like, and frankly, I’d heard rumors about the show. I have to say that I’m bewildered because they’re completely unwarranted. I mean, Mark Moses and every single one of the desperate housewives including Vanessa Williams have been so kind and welcoming to me. I haven’t seen a single problem on that set. I have been on other sets that I have that don’t have that same reputation.

What can you tell us about Beth because she seems rather mysterious?

Emily Bergl: She is mysterious and she will continue to be mysterious in the forthcoming episode. We’re going to find out a couple of really, really interesting secrets about her in the next few episodes. I can’t say. That’s it.

What about your relationship with the desperate housewives, will she be interacting with them a lot?

Emily Bergl: In the next week’s episode the housewives want to find out what I’m all about. They’re very curious about the new jailhouse bride. So they invite me to their weekly poker game. So we’re going to see. It’s going to be pretty interesting to see how Beth, this quite different person, fits in to the Wysteria Lane group. She also has a glass of wine or two and starts spilling a bit.

I seem to sense that there are some potential mother issues with Beth. Is there anything to that?

Emily Bergl: That’s big. There are really big mother issues. Beth has lived with her mother her whole life. She’s been controlled by her mother her whole life. She’s been very sheltered. So we’re going to see her struggle in her relationship with Paul because she has really no experience with men. But her mother is going to be a factor in a major way this season. I can’t say anything else. I will say that eventually we will meet her mother.

In regards to Paul, are we supposed to believe that there is a love between them or is it more complicated than that or both?

Emily Bergl: Both. It’s more complicated than that but as they continue to live together as husband and wife we are going to see some real feelings develop on both sides.

Then we go to the much less glam life of the Los Angeles streets in ‘Southland’ –

Emily Bergl: Oh, I know. In ‘Southland’ it takes twenty five minutes to do my hair and makeup and half the time we’re just kind of hanging out on the streets. On ‘Desperate Housewives’ I’m quaffed for two hours and eating [?] sushi. It’s quite the contrast.

What’s up for Tammy then this year on ‘Southland’?

Emily Bergl: I have actually no idea what’s going on with Tammy and Sammy. I know that when we stopped filming before, that they had a big episode planned for her where she was going to make a huge mistake in the relationship which I guess isn’t that much of a surprise because she does tend to make a lot of mistakes. Although, she always has good intentions. Sometimes people describe my character as a bitch on that show and I have to say that obviously I’m living within her and I love her and understand her, but I really don’t think that’s an apt description. I think she’s lost. She’s frustrated and she’s in a relationship with someone where they don’t really understand each other.

I would never call her a bitch. Maybe I’d say she was confused.

Emily Bergl: It confuses me when people say that. I guess it’s because, I mean I know she has problems and I guess that’s just a go to word for people to describe women with sometimes complexity and issues. But I don’t think it really applies. I don’t think it applies to Tammy or Hilary Clinton.

How do you go about choosing your roles? You have an interesting variety of roles you’ve done in theater and movies and TV?

Emily Bergl: I think in particular on TV I don’t tend to gravitate to the victim roles. I’m not really interested in being the woman who’s there to cry over whatever accident has befallen her or her loved ones. I actually prefer to play the killers more. I consider myself a character actor and so every role that I do ideally I’d like it to be different than the roles that have come before it. I like for people not to know what they’re going to get when they see me whether it’s in a play or a television show a movie.

I’m interested in the film you shot this summer called ‘Grassroots’. Can you talk about that?

Emily Bergl: I just saw Stephen Gyllenhaal the other night and he said that it’s cutting together so well. I had a really great feeling on set when I made that movie. I really felt while we were making it that it was going to turn out really great and you don’t always feel that way.

It’s based on a true story and you actually shot in Seattle, right?

Emily Bergl: We did. It’s great shooting in Seattle. When you shoot in New York or L.A. people are over it. They’re annoyed that they have to wait to cross the street. In Seattle we’d meet people and they would thank us for shooting in their city. Seattle had more civic pride than maybe any other place I’d ever been.

Can you talk about a the film a little?

Emily Bergl: The film is a wonderful comedy which has some very real political overtones to it. It’s about an actual race for city council by an unemployed music critic named Grant Cogswell who was a little insane and didn’t have your average political temperament. It’s about how that race develops and really what that grassroots race meant in the larger context of where America was at that time and you can easily extrapolate to where we are now.

It looks great and I can’t wait to see it.

Emily Bergl: Jason Biggs gives such an amazing dramatic performance in this movie. He’s really the straight man and he’s really good at it. Joel David Moore. I’ve admired his work for years. He brings such humor and such nuance to this larger than life character. The great thing is that Stephen Gyllenhaal hired all these great character actors, and I would include myself in that, to round out these smaller parts which were very small on the page but ended up being really important as we shot the movie. I think what we tried to do is honor the uniqueness of Seattle and the really individual people who live there. Every single person in this movie is unique and different and we all tried to be very Seattle, how I dressed and in all of our locations. It’s a love letter to that city as well as to grassroots politics.

Are there any shows out there that you’d love to guest star on?

Emily Bergl: Obviously I’d love to do ‘Mad Men’. I feel like I have a face of another era and I actually do my own cabaret show which centers more on music from the ’20’s and ’30’s but I’m dying to be on that show because I love doing period pieces. I’ve done a lot of period pieces onstage but I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to do it on film.

Are you currently touring with your cabaret show? I know you did some shows in Chicago?

Emily Bergl: I did Chicago. I just did L.A. Marc Cherry actually just guest starred in my cabaret show in Los Angeles. He has an amazing voice. We’re taking a month long break and then we’re going to continue to tour around the country for the next few months.

You are really busy –

Emily Bergl: I have to say that I am pretty busy. I said last week that the month of October I wasn’t going anywhere and of course now I have an audition in New York next week and I’m probably going to go to New York but that’s the business.

Well, I’ve been following you since you were the diabolical Francie on ‘Gilmore Girls’ –

Emily Bergl: Oh, I love that bitch Francie! That’s wonderful to hear. The ‘Gilmore’ fans are so great. I met up with a ‘Gilmore’ fan on Twitter and they promote my cabaret shows. They’re just wonderful. Last year I did a play with Kelly Bishop. She is awesome. I’ve loved her since she was in ‘A Chorus Line’. We must’ve had over a hundred ‘Gilmore’ fans come to that play in New York. It was amazing.