Bethany Joy Lenz, best known for her role as Hailey James Scott on One Tree Hill, is returning to TV after a year-long hiatus. When One Tree Hill ended in mid 2012, Joy took a break from acting to spend time with her daughter. The legal debate around her divorce put her career on hold, but when everything subsided she was able to get back into the groove of things.
One Tree Hill lasted nine seasons, which required Joy to dedicate nine years of her life to The CW drama. During her “comeback” Joy decided to concentrate on projects that were “strategically designed to move her career in a direction that was not quite the same thing as she was doing on One Tree Hill.”
Auditions for the show came up and Joy told her manager she wanted to jump into sitcom work and get her feet wet, to see if she still enjoyed it. “Lucky me, I won the job” she exclaimed. Cue in her first comedy sitcom in about eleven years.
Joy appeared on Men at Work, starring Danny Masterson of That 70’s Show. The episode, The Pioneer, aired on May 9, 2013 where Joy played Meg, a single mother and love interest for Tyler (played by Michael Cassidy).
“The first three days, the first two and a half days, were really difficult for me because I haven’t done comedy in a really long time.” In addition, Joy had to face the difficulty of appearing on an unfamiliar set as a guest star.
“Walking back onto a completely new set which didn’t feel like home and I didn’t feel the comforts that you feel after you’ve been on a series for ten years and you know everyone there. I was walking on a brand new set desperately hoping to contribute something to this great show that I really respected”
So what did help Joy during the filming? All the cute guys, she joked. In reality she admitted it was all about loosening up and finding energy from the audience. “I have a tendency to hold back a little at first, to be respectful to the environment and figure out where I fit in. Maybe I should talk to my therapist about that. Maybe I need to be more present and bring more to the table. ”
One of Joy’s weakest points as an artist is comedy improv, she admitted. “I could do drama improv with no problem. When people expect me to be funny, and their looking at me like boom make a joke! I kind of freeze up like Ah, I can’t handle the pressure. So that was challenging for me, which is another reason I really wanted to do it.”
Joy admits that on the set of OTH there wasn’t much improv, but she joked that the writers would probably disagree with her as she never stuck to the script and was always changing the lines. “I was probably the bane of their existence for ten years.”
At first the situation was stressful but than Joy admitted, feeling the audience’s energy and hearing the immediate laugh was really helpful. Just like anyone else, Joy recalls coaching herself through the process. “Thank God they like me. I was funny. Oh good. It’s working.” Joy exclaimed.
She might be trying to break out of the mold, but that doesn’t mean she’s changing her career to comedy. After her appearance on Men At Work, Joy will continue honing her drama skills on the final season (8) of Dexter. She explains the decision to be on the show was a very rash, but obvious one. “Will you be on Dexter” they asked, to which Joy replied, “Uh yes, I will.”
Q) So how did you get involved with the episode?
A) I took some time off when I finished One Tree Hill and spent some time at home I decided to move out to L.A. and just really continue working which is something I was on the fence about. Especially since I’ve had my daughter. So now that I decided to move back to L.A. and so after some projects that were strategically designed to move my career in a direction that was not quite just doing the same thing as I was doing in One Tree Hill, which I loved doing, but I wanted to explore some parts of my abilities as an artist that I haven’t done in a long time. Especially comedy since I started doing comedy when I was young and doing sitcoms and then I stopped for a long time doing drama. Because I was doing drama. And so when Men at Work was one of the auditions that came up and I told my manager I really, really want to get this because I would have the opportunity to jump into some sitcom work again and get my feet wet and see how that feels. And see if I still enjoy it. And lucky me I won the job.
Q) What a great comedy to be on!
A) Yes it’s a great set. It was a great show. I had seen a couple of episodes and I just really thought this would be such a perfect place for me to do my comedy experiment and see if it works. And I hope it did. I had a great time.
Q) What did you find the most difficult aspect about filming the show? There’s so many good looking men.
A) The first three days, the first two and a half days were really difficult for me because, like I said I hadn’t done comedy in a long – especially sitcoms. A very, very long time probably ten or eleven years. And walking back onto a completely new set that didn’t feel like home to me, it didn’t feel the comforts that you feel after you’ve been on a series for ten years and you know everyone there. It was a completely new environment and I have so much respect for artist’s environment and everybody does it differently. And so not only was I walking on to a brand new set trying to – desperately hoping that I would be able to really contribute something to this show that I respected but also trying to navigate everyone’s energy and everyone’s vibe and like how does everybody work here. That’s probably the best way to answer that question. I think the first few days were just difficult in getting my feet wet.
Q) Are there any funny moments during filming where you just couldn’t keep a straight face?
A) Yes I think for me that happened when we we’re filming live because everything is so unpredictable. After the first few takes you really start listening out and then you find your energy with the audience and I could really tell the guys were so used to this and they really had their own routine with the audience and with each other. There wasn’t a particular story of a moment but there were lots of little things that happened throughout the filming that were surprising and fun.
Q) I was wondering when you got the job did they tell you anything particularly about your role to help you out or just give you the script?
A) I pretty much just got the script. That’s something that like I was saying before, every environment is different. Everyone involved from producers to the other actors are very collaborative on the character work and on wanting to get facts, story and information, but I’m not sure that in TV there’s a lot of time for that. I think it’s more you get what’s on the page. The writers are pretty clear about the character and what they want to say and who they want you to be. In terms of the producing and directing they were great about steering me. If there was something in particular they wanted they’d just come up to me and talk to me about it and we’d make an adjustment. And the writers are always rewriting especially on sitcoms. There constantly rewriting even the moment you’re filming they rewrite something.
Q) Danny Masterson said they were kind of flexible there about like if you wanted to try out new jokes and stuff. Did you do that kind of thing?
A) Oh no I didn’t. If I had been there for maybe a few episodes and was really comfortable — I think that’s another thing about coming into someone else’s set, someone else’s show is that you or I have a tendency to hold back a little bit first because – I don’t know. I just want to be respectful of the environment and let everybody else kind of do their thing and figure where I fit in. Maybe that’s something I need to talk to my therapist about. Maybe I need to be more present and bring more to the table. I don’t know.
Q) So you played a mother on One Tree Hill for quite some time and then I understand that on Men at Work you’re also playing a mother. How does it differ from being a mother in real life to playing one on screen and do you feel more prepared for this role now after One Tree Hill and your own child?
A) Well I think if there had been a lot real intense interaction with the kids that the answer might be yes, but there was no interaction. There were no actual kid scenes in the episodes. It was more adult shenanigans. I’m not sure that an actress who is not a mother would be able to contribute in her own way just as much. But I did play a mom on One Tree Hill and that did help I think having my own child. I’ve always had a real heart for kids and I love children. So I don’t know maybe it did.
Q) And then you said it was kind of a more comedy based show than you’ve done on One Tree Hill. How is it different working on a set that’s live and interacting with an audience more than kind of the drama One Tree Hill set?
A) I think one of my weakest points as an artist is comedy impulse. I can do dramatic with no problem but comedy, I’m funny but not — like I’m funny in my real life with my friends, people that are expecting me to be funny and they’re looking to me like boom make a joke! I kind of freeze up but I’m like “Ah I can’t handle the pressure!” So that was challenging for me, which is another reason why I really wanted to do it. There’s only one way to get better at something and that’s just to do it. That’s probably how it was different for me. I was just used to One Tree Hill there’s not a lot of improvisation. Well I’m sure the writers would disagree with me about that because I was constantly changing the lines. I was probably the bane of their existence for ten years. They never said that, but yes I think that would probably be the major difference and just being in front of a live audience and you’re feeling energy from them. And that’s what’s so great for comedy is you get to hear the immediate laugh and you feel relieved like oh God. Thank God they like me. It was funny. Oh good. It’s working.
Q) You’re weren’t the only guest star on that episode. You also had Ben McKenzie there. Did having someone else there who was dealing with the same issues you were as far as the new set working with new people, did that help at all? Did you enjoy interacting with him?
A) I did! He was a lovely person. He was very funny. I think he also is close friends with one or a few of the guys on the show and so they already had a rapport and there was a comfort level there to just sort of spitball ideas and play. And he was great, and it did help. I think it was encouraging for me to see another quote unquote dramatic actor on the show. He was very funny. He was really impressed with his instincts.
Q) You were talking so much about how you were really trying to get into comedy, but it looks like coming up you’re going to be in a much more dramatic role on Dexter. I’m just curious to see or hear more about how that decision came along, too.
A) Yes well I should clarify. Not trying to change my career into a comedy career. I just want to be able to explore. As an artist, as an actor we have so many different sides and so many different ways of expressing ourselves especially after one thing for so long. Sometimes it just feels really good to just kind of break out of that mode for a while. But yes the decision of Dexter was “Will you be on Dexter?” Yes I will. So it’s not hard at all.
Q) I know you got your start on soaps and the state of soaps these days is kind of a flux and now they’re starting to move to cable or online, stuff like that. What do you think about that? Do you think that’s a smart move?
A) What a great question! I’ve got so much nostalgia around soaps. I mean I would come home from school when I was a kid and my mom had All My Children on and I watched All My Children for years and years. I don’t know how many of you guys watched that show, but like I was watching it when Natalie was thrown down the well by her crazy sister Janet. It makes me really sad that they’re kind of dwindling and disappearing. The bell shows, he’s really figured them out Bold & Young & the Restless. Yes, maybe it will jump over to cable. I don’t know I mean I guess programming has to evolve but now we have what nine thousand channels? The average person probably has about five hundred. But it’s still a lot and it’s not like it used to be when the soaps were on and we were kids and we had to walk up to the TV and turn a dial and you had like a channel. I think that now with Reality TV and people are so much less apt to sit and follow a story line and just to have noise on in the background, which is disheartening, disillusioning for me regarding our culture because I don’t know.
Q) Did it really kind of teach you the ropes?
A) Oh yes. Yes it really, really, really did. I would recommended it to most young actors. It’s like a boot camp for actors and it really hawed my dramatic improve skill. Because you’re getting, sometimes fifteen to thirty pages of dialogue a day that you have to learn. Some of people – a lot of actors would sit and they prepare for days in advance. I got into the habit of sitting in the hair chair and learning thirty pages of dialogue in an hour and a half. That’s why when I got up to set of course I wasn’t going to get all the lines right. I do have a photographic memory so that helps me, but I couldn’t get a line that you just kind of go with the feeling of the scene and just how it feels. And that helped so much to be able to be in touch with your instincts as an actor. With soaps there’s so many wonderful theatre actors and really well-trained actors in that feel that you can play with and who are prepared to play off of you. And there’s not kind of the same pressure that I have found in Prime Time to get it exactly right. There’s a lot more room to play and its fun. I really loved it. I loved being on a Soap.
Ok, one tree hill fans. I know you’ve been wondering when you’d see your favorite Tree Hill faces again. Well, tonight’s the night. Bethany Joy Lenz is returning to TV tonight, but this time, she’ll look a little different. She’s donning a comedic cap and joining a rambunctious cast of characters for one episode of men at work, tonight at 10:00 pm EST on TBS.
In the episode, Bethany plays Meg, Tyler’s new girl — the first girl he’s dated who is a mom. Adding to that complexity is Bryan, played by one of Raked’s favorite dramatic actors, Ben McKenzie.
I was able to participate in a conference call with Bethany, where she discusses her return to TV, her interest in comedy, and even her upcoming role in dexter. Check out the highlights below.
Why men at work? After Bethany took some time away from acting, she wanted to get back in the biz. But she didn’t want to jump back into a dramatic role similar to what she had before. She wanted something that was “strategically designed to move my career in a direction that was not in the same way as one tree hill.” Enter: comedy!
Bethany had done some comedy when she was younger, but stopped once she got a dramatic role. But now she really wanted to, as she put it, “jump into sitcom work again.”
“Lucky me, I won the job!” she said. “It’s a great set. It’s a great show.” For her, it’s the perfect place to try out her comedy experiment and see how it goes. And she had a great time.
Any challenges? Bethany confessed that the first few days were tough for her. She hadn’t done comedy — especially sitcoms — in a very long time, probably 10 or 11 years. She was also walking onto a new set that “didn’t feel like home.” It took some time to navigate everyone’s energy, their vibe, and how they work in the new set.
That being said, she had no hesitation talking about the fun she had. The guys of men at work had their routine with each other and the audience, and she said the funniest moments were when they were filming live.
What about the live, interactive audience? Bethany confessed that one of her weakest points as an artist is comedy improv. She feels that she’s funny when she’s out with her friends, but as for performing, that’s one reason she wanted to do the show: “There’s only one way to get better at something and that’s just to do it.”
Fortunately, with the live audience, she had a little a little help. When she’d get that immediate laugh from the audience, that payoff gave her some relief.
How about working with Ben McKenzie? Ben McKenzie (of southland fame) is also guesting on tonight’s episode. Bethany said he was “a lovely person” and “very funny,” and she was happy to see another dramatic actor on the show. She did note that he was close friends with one or two guys on the show, so he had a great report.
And dexter? No, Bethany is not jumping ship from drama entirely. Her upcoming role ondexter proves that — and from her enthusiasm, being on that show is a no-brainer. For this, they came to her. Simply put, “Will you be on dexter? Yes, I will.”
And how about her soap-y past? Bethany was a part of guiding light back in the day, and she has a fondness for them. She said that makes her kind-of sad that soaps are “dwindling.” Starting with soaps is certainly something that she’d recommend to young actors. She remembers sitting in the hair chair, memorizing 30 pages of dialog in an hour and a half (granted, her photographic memory certainly didn’t hurt!). “I loved being on a soap,” she said.
Don’t forget to watch Bethany Joy Lenz on tonight’s new episode of men at worktonight at 10 pm EST on TBS. And catch her in the upcoming season of dexter!
Exclusive: Awkward Mini ‘O.C.’ Reunion
It’s a mini O.C. reunion on this week’s episode of Men at Work, as Benjamin McKenzie guest stars on the comedy series, and just like the old days, his character brings some drama. ET has your exclusive sneak peek.
In 2004, Michael Cassidy joined The O.C. for a recurring role on its second season. His character did not appear on the third season of the show and he later bounced around on various TV shows.
Cassidy now holds a lead role on the TBS comedy Men at Work and is now being paid a visit from one of the lead actors of The O.C., Ben McKenzie, in the second season of his show.
The two have yet to appear on screen together since 2005, but as we see in the clip, some things never change, as the drama of their old O.C. days carries over into McKenzie’s guest spot on Men at Work.
Cassidy’s character, “Tyler Mitchell,” encounters McKenzie’s character upon picking up a girl that he is dating. Taken aback by his presence, Tyler is unsure how to react, saying, “I’m sorry, I just didn’t expect a good-looking, male babysitter.”
McKenzie’s character tries to ease the tension by telling Tyler that he need not worry about him or dating a woman with children, but he leaves out a significant piece of information that he should have told Tyler at the onset.
“Sorry to keep you. I see you’ve met my ex-husband,” Tyler’s date says as she enters the room.
Check out his reaction in ET ‘s exclusive sneak peek of the former O.C. co-stars reuniting for the first time in eight years. The full episode of Men at Work airs Thursday at 10 p.m. on TBS.
On next week’s episode of “Men at Work,” Bethany Joy Lenz makes her first TV appearance since saying goodbye to “One Tree Hill” — and she’s ditching the angst and drama for some straight-up comedy. Now, Zap2it has your exclusive first look clip at Lenz’s new role as Meg, a single mom who connects with Tyler (Michael Cassidy) in the produce aisle.
When Tyler shows up to take Meg on a date, he’s surprised to meet her babysitter — who is also her ex-husband Bryan, played by Cassidy’s former “The O.C.” co-star and current “Southland” cop Benjamin McKenzie. Despite Bryan’s history with Meg, the dudes get along pretty well. Almost too well.
Tune in to TBS on Thursday, May 9 at 10 p.m. EST. to see the big teen drama reunion go down. In the meantime, watch Cassidy and Lenz get their flirt on in the clip below.
The actress of ‘Dexter’ Aimee Garcia tweeted a picture of her on set with Joy:
LOVE this girl! @BethanyJoyLenz #Dexter pic.twitter.com/r00yqAaUcF