Julie Ann Emery seems to have an eye for picking shows. She was seen last year as a grieving widow on arguably the season’s best new show, Fargo. And now, she can be seen as Besty Kettleman on 2015’s buzziest new show, Better Call Saul.
Kettleman schemed with her husband to steal a boatload of money and they almost paid for it with their lives. While they haven’t been seen since abandoning their makeshift campsite when Jimmy (the one day Saul Goodman) stumbled upon them, Emery will be back on the show later this season.
We recently spoke over email about what’s it like to film in New Mexico, whether or not Betsy can be blamed for turning Jimmy into Saul and how she mastered a Minnesotan accent on Fargo.
Hi Julie Ann–thanks so much for taking the time today. Let’s first start off with where most folks are probably watching you week to week and that’s with Better Call Saul. Your character Betsy has popped up in the early episodes and it looks like she and her husband Craig might be responsibly for setting Jimmy McGill on the road to becoming Saul Goodman. Is that a fair assessment so far?
The entire series is about Jimmy’s journey into Saul Goodman, but I LOVE that Betsy is his first true corruption. The first time Jimmy/Saul takes a bribe is not from a drug-dealing gangster like Michael Mando’s Nacho [but] it is from a suburban, All-American housewife.
That saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”? You better not judge Betsy Kettleman by her appearance.
How many episodes will you be in this season? Will the storyline with the Kettlemans carry through until the season finale?
We are not allowed to reveal very much about the future on the show. Including this. I can say that the Kettle-saga is not over. The best is yet to come.
Is Betsy a bad person for taking the money and making her kids camp out in the wilderness?
We talked about this on Kelley Dixon’s awesome “Better Call Saul Insider” Podcast for an upcoming episode. As an actor, I can’t classify a character as a bad person and successfully step into their shoes. I believe Betsy is doing everything she can to achieve the American dream for her family. She has a vision of what she wants for herself and the Kettle-clan. She is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that vision. She is TENACIOUS.
In our society, middle class families go into crazy amounts of debt to reach that upper-middle class mantle for their kids. And upper middle-class does the same to achieve the next rung. It is the ever moving finish line to success. Let’s just say Betsy has taken it beyond the credit cards and second mortgages.
In terms of taking her kids into the wilderness, SHE IS A GREAT PERSON FOR DOING THIS!! Take your kids camping, hiking, somewhere with no cell reception. It is amazing and will change their lives!! (Just maybe leave out the BINGO sing-along)
What’s it like filming on location in New Mexico?
New Mexico is gorgeous! The sky is incredible and seems to go on forever. Our DP Arthur Albert manages to magically capture it on screen, but seeing it in person is another experience entirely. Albuquerque is surrounded by gorgeous mountains [and] the sunsets are amazing. And then every now and then … there is an epic sand/windstorm. I had never experienced that. It almost feels Biblical.
Not that you needed to watch it to play Betsy, but how much of Breaking Bad did you watch before you started filming Better Call Saul?
All of it. Everyone should watch Breaking Bad. It is brilliant filmmaking on television.
Any teases you can give us for some upcoming episodes?
You’ll get no spoilers here! Enjoy the unfolding twists and turns.
What’s it like getting to work on Fargo, arguably the best show on television last year (at least in my mind), and now getting to work on yet another critically acclaimed show, Better Call Saul? Do you just have an eye for picking the right projects?
Aw thanks! So proud to be part of both shows!
I am what we call a journeyman actor. Which means I’m not an A list movie star, I don’t generally have “my pick” of roles. The upside of that is I get to move from role to role with the freedom to transform into whatever the character calls for. I’m not tied to maintaining a star’s image. Which I happen to love.
Spending a year shooting Fargo and then Better Call Saul, was a lucky glorious happenstance. To work with the best writers and directors on TV, with great actors pushing each other to the top of their game, to spend so much time with Bob Odenkirk (a truly great human being) … that is a brilliant year whether you are a journeyman actor or a movie star.
Also, Noah Hawley, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould are all insanely gifted and great human beings. They are a pleasure to work for. There is no confusing temperament with talent among any of these guys.
Your accent was really, really good on Fargo. (Actually, everyone’s was.) Was it hard nailing that accent without it becoming a thing that controlled your performance?
Thank you! That Minnesotan dialect was both what made the material really sing and was the most terrifying thing about the shoot for a lot of us. I spent a ton of time off-camera working the dialect. I hoped that when “Action” came, it could become a background concern for me. It is so much a part of who Ida is. A good hearted, strong, mid-western woman who spends more time taking care of everybody else than herself. Life is simple and straight forward for Ida, so the dialect had to become simple and straight forward for me. Unlike … Betsy Kettleman.
Obviously, the upcoming second season of Fargo will be a prequel set long in the past, so we won’t be able to see your character again. But would you ever want to return to the world of Fargo?
YES! YES! A THOUSAND TIMES YES!
Where else can we see you now besides Better Call Saul? Any fun upcoming projects later this year?
You can catch me on The Following later this season. Fun fact: The Following‘s Executive Producer Alexi Hawley is Noah Hawley’s (of Fargo) twin brother. So much talent in one gene pool!
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Look out for Team Kettleman! Their antics are about to heat up!
Better Call Saul airs at 10 pm ET on Mondays on AMC.
(Image courtesy of AMC)