FilmHelp interview: Betty Gilpin talks “Mister Green”

Betty Gilpin as Dr. Gloria Holtzer in “Mister Green”
A FilmHelp interview by Greg Pak
As we draw nearer to the premiere of my latest short film “Mister Green” at South By Southwest and the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, I’ll be interviewing a few of the key players for First on the spot is the brilliant Betty Gilpin, who plays Dr. Gloria Holtzer, a scientist with special plans for a jaded government undersecretary for global warming (Tim Kang). Betty was born and raised in New York City and graduated with a theatre degree from Fordham College at Lincoln Center in 2008.
Greg Pak: You came into the audition and just nailed every little nuance in the script. Tell us a bit about the audition process. How did you prepare? And what makes for a good audition process from your point of view?
Betty Gilpin:
I had never auditioned for a short before, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I guess something as simple as just knowing the lines really well helps me. An acting teacher of mine taught me a trick — when you’re memorizing lines to be careful to recite them monotonously, so you’re not married to a specific way to play the line. Then you won’t feel thrown if the director wants to change it up, and the lines will feel more natural. A bad habit of mine is to over-plan what I’m going to do in a scene, so that trick helps me. Is that what you mean by good audition process? Or do you mean the actual audition? A good audition to me is when everyone in the room — actor, director, casting director, etc. — are all in a good mood and an open, creative place. That’s when everyone does their best work.

GP: How would you describe your character, Gloria Holtzer?  What was the most fun part of playing her?  The most challenging?
I was very excited to play Gloria — she’s someone who is obviously incredibly passionate in a world where apathy is the norm. She’s fearless and ready to take on the suits, which I think is everyone’s fantasy a little bit. Even suits. And I love that she’s a bit of a nerd. A plant nerd. The most fun was playing (or trying to play) her sincerity and open-heartedness. The most challenging… well, I thought the most challenging would be looking like a person named Gloria Soto-Flores. Luckily you did a little name change there.

Betty Gilpin stays cool on the set of “Mister Green.” Photo by Michelle Marrion.

I would say the most challenging was acting in that HEAT that one day we filmed outside in the marsh. My GOD! It was hard to try to act all ethereal and world-changing when we all felt like the last of the dinosaurs under the sun. But it was in keeping with the script… perhaps you control the weather, Greg Pak? I wouldn’t be surprised.
GP: I have my ways.
Looking at your credits, I’m guessing you’ve been involved with theater productions with tons of rehearsal and television projects with very little.  Of course, due to our crazy schedule, we had almost no rehearsal time for “Mister Green.” What kind of adjustments do you have to do as an actor under those kinds of circumstances?
The little amount of TV and film I’ve done has had no rehearsal whatsoever… so this was actually pretty normal. It was definitely a shock when I started working — I was used to doing plays where you’d spend months rehearsing. Film and TV — it’s sort of here’s the script, memorize it, aaand GO. You just kind of have to accept that in that moment, you don’t really have time to be nervous or mess up. You’ve got an entire crew who are doing their specific jobs, so you have to do yours. You begin to feel like a flesh puppet sometimes. 🙂 But it’s all worth it!
GP: One of my tricks is to treat the auditions like rehearsals and actually work on the scenes with the actors rather than just have them read and go.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given regarding pursing a career in acting?
“Actors have three curses- death, taxes, and five years in LA.” I also like my dad’s advice- “no one can be you better.” Awwwww.
GP: What’s the one thing you wish every director knew about actors?
But Greg, you know all. Hm. I guess that we do our best work when we feel collaborated with and comfortable…and when we wait less than twenty minutes for an audition. And when there’s snacks. What a terrible answer. 
GP: Dude, snacks are key.
Dream role?
It’s weird but ever since I was little I wanted to play a female Nicely Nicely in “Guys and Dolls.” I mean, a tailored purple tux and you get to sing “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat”?? Oh, I would also magically have a gospel singer’s voice. Also that boring old Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet.” I think there’s a thousand ways to play her and it would be fun to find out which worked for me. I’m thinking helium addict.
GP: Besides “Mister Green,” where can folks see you next?
Wow, I have nothing to plug here really. Every blue moon you can see me playing drug addicts or lesbians on TV… I have yet to do something my father can watch comfortably. Oh, except “Mister Green”! Thank god.