Multi-talented artist Betty Buckley is heading to Wickenburg this weekend for a glitzy fundraiser.
At $100 a head, the tickets are a little steep, but she’s Betty Buckley, the Tony and Emmy-winning star, not to mention the legendary Abby Bradford in “Eight Is Enough.” (We also liked her as the feisty PE coach in “Carrie,” who slapped the taste out of Nancy Allen’s obnoxious teenaged mouth).
The 69-year-old actress recently turned in the performance of her career in M. Night Shyamalan’s surprise smash “Split.” The horror-thriller was released last month and will likely reach the $200 million mark after its initial run in theaters.
Also, don’t be surprised if Buckley picks up some snazzy hardware for her portrayal as psychologist Dr. Karen Fletcher, who treats a troubled patient (James McAvoy) with multiple personality disorder.
Buckley is now sharing some of her spotlight with the town of Wickenburg, headlining the fourth annual Find Your Center gala, a fundraiser for the Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts.
AZ Big Media recently spoke to the quintessential musical theater actress, who is exactly what we thought she was – an entertainer with a heart of gold.
Q: I was surprised to read that one of your first jobs was as a reporter for a Fort Worth newspaper. How did your job as a journalist help you as an actor?
A: I really think of myself as a storyteller and as a journalist, I was trained to tell stories to get to the facts. It’s about getting to the heart of the matter and the essence of the story, getting to the essence of the character.
Q: How did you formulate your character as a psychologist in “Split” to make her so multi-dimensional?
A: I’ve actually been interested in the subject matter of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) since a teenager, and saw “The Three Faces of Eve” starring Joanne Woodward for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. I was fascinated with the creative capacity of the human mind in response to pain and suffering. In preparation for the part, I worked with a psychologist in New York City for several weeks. I also worked with her on several projects, including “Grey Gardens,” the musical I did a few years ago. I played Big Edie in that one. I wanted to know how these two socialites who once had great wealth let their world crumble around them. She has experience working with DID patients and she worked with me scene by scene, line by line, what my character would be feeling on a personal level, what her professional demeanor would be. Then I had a week-and-a-half rehearsal process with M. Night and James McAvoy, who is a wonderful, wonderful person and I’m a huge fan of his work. Night told me he wrote the role of Dr. Fletcher for me, which was generous of him to do that. I love him and I love his work. The psychologist also made herself available to me the nights before my big therapy scenes with James. I’d call her to go over my notes to make sure I had the right take on the part.
Q: Can you give insight into M. Night Shyamalan’s style of direction and collaboration?
A: He’s very exacting because he also writes his own material. Anytime I would suggest line changes he would listen but would always go back to what he wrote. He wanted things exactly as he wrote them. In many cases a filmmaker will ask you to improvise. While we worked like that in rehearsal, he definitely wanted it as he wrote it. As a person, he’s a very joyous guy and enthusiastic and passionate about his storytelling. He has a team of people that he’s collected through the years, many of who have worked on a majority of his films. He always shoots in Philadelphia (where he was raised and resides). It’s a real joy to work with this family of people. It’s a very happy set. Night’s a very mischievous person and so am I, and so is James McAvoy. There was a lot of teasing between the takes, and made it fun to go to work. Night really radiates light and joy, and is a passionate guy about his work. It’s just a pleasure to get to be one of his teammates.
Q: You have acted in film, television, cable and Broadway, but your real love appears to be music. What does that give you the other art forms do not?
A: Music is the universal language and helps us to express feelings we didn’t even know we had the exact words for. It also creates realms inside ourselves, parts of ourselves that we’re otherwise out of touch with. There’s no finer pleasure for me to stand on a stage or be in the creative process with brilliant musicians. My collaborator for the past few years has been Grammy-nominated Christian Jacob, who’s a brilliant pianist and recently wrote the score for the Clint Eastwood film, “Sully.” He’ll coming with me to the Webb Center for the Arts in Wickenburg on Feb. 18.
Q: Tell me what this night will look like?
A: We just did this collection of new tunes called “Story Songs,” that we will bring to Wickenburg. To be a story teller in your community is a service in and of itself. It’s a calling to do that, and it’s a privilege to get to tell stories to help the community feel our universal essence, and to remind people of that connectedness we share.
If you go:
What: Find Your Center Gala featuring Betty Buckley
When: Saturday, Feb. 18, 6 to 10 p.m.
Where: Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts, 1090 S. Vulture Mine Road, Wickenburg.
Information: 928-684-6624 or visit http://dewpac.org/