Interview: "One Tree Hill's" Bethany Joy
Actress and musician Bethany Joy Galeotti plays Haley, the quintessential girl-next-door, best friend to Lucas Scott (Chad Michael Murray) and love interest for Nathan Scott (James Lafferty) on The CW's hit drama "One Tree Hill". The young Florida native began her theatre career as a child in Dallas, Texas. By the time she was 13, she moved with her family to New Jersey and began her transition from stage to screen through a series of national commercials and television pilots. After two successful years on the soap opera "Guiding Light", Galeotti headed to the West Coast, where she booked roles on "Felicity, Charmed", "The Guardian", "Off Centre" and "Maybe It's Me". Not long after, she landed a role on "One Tree Hill" and found herself heading to North Carolina, where she's been for the last six seasons.
Bethany spoke to us in this exclusive interview about why she still enjoys playing Haley James Scott, starting a band and directing an episode of "One Tree Hill".
TeenTelevision: Since you started out in theater so young, when did you decide that you wanted to make a career out of acting?
Bethany: It was really after I did my first show, "The Wizard of Oz", where I played a Munchkin, at the age of 7. I was getting good feedback on the auditions that I was going on, and it felt so much like home to me to be on stage, so I thought, "I'm just going to do this, as much as I can." When you're a kid, people start asking you, "What do you want to do when you grow up?," and I thought, "Gee, I guess I'll just keep doing this." I don't know if I had a moment, where I decided that I wanted to do this for a career, but I knew that I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. I just didn't know what a career was, at the time.
TeenTelevision: How did you originally get involved with "One Tree Hill"?
Bethany: It was just a random audition. I was really selective about the projects I wanted to attach myself to, and I still am. Pilot season was winding down and I got a script for this show, "Ravens", from my manager, and she said, "I think you'll really like it." I was feeling lazy, so I skimmed through it and really only looked at about a page and a half. I just thought, "I'm not into this." It wasn't because I thought the writing was bad, or anything like that. The writing was great. It wasn't because of any particular reason, other than I just wasn't feeling it. I didn't get it and somebody else did, and the show got picked up.
TeenTelevision: How did you end up getting cast on the show, if someone was already hired for your role?
Bethany: They called me again and said, "That pilot, "Ravens", is called "One Tree Hill" now. Take a look at it because we want you to come in and read for this character, as we're going to try to bring in a new girl." So, I took a look at the pilot and was like, "How did I miss this?" I was kicking myself for turning down the pilot audition. I just couldn't believe it! It was so well made, and I was really impressed with the heart of the story, the characters and the writing. I called my manager and said, "I have to do this. This is spectacular!" And, she said, "Okay, great! There's a catch: it shoots in North Carolina." So, I went to the audition, then I went to a bigger audition and then I went to a screen test where I read with Chad Michael Murray, and some sort of magic just happened in that room, between the two of us. Everybody could feel it. I had screen tested for a lot of different things and I had never felt that spark or connection. I left the audition and Chad chased me out into the parking lot afterwards, gave me a hug and said, "Welcome to "One Tree Hill". I can't give you the official word, but I think it's as good as yours." Then I got the phone call about two hours later, telling me that I got it. I had about seven days to get my stuff packed up and shipped out, before I found myself in North Carolina.
TeenTelevision: When you watched the pilot, was there anything specific that you responded to that made you decide you wanted to be a part of the project?
Bethany: I responded to the small town aspect. There were a lot of shows on TV that were very glamorous, young Hollywood shows, and I liked the idea that this was more cozy and there was more opportunity for characters than there was for story drama, just for the sake of glossiness. I always respond to the heart of a story, no matter what. So, when I watched the pilot, I thought, "Man, there are so many places they can take these characters." And, I loved Haley. I thought she was so cool and fun. She was the girl I always wanted to be when I was in high school. She didn't fall into any particular circle. And, she just had this great wit, where I thought, "I wish I had wit like that. I want to play her, so I can pretend to have wit like that."
TeenTelevision: When you were first told about the four-year jump ahead on the series in Season 5, was it exciting to find out that you'd be playing someone closer to your own age, while still playing the same character?
Bethany: When I found out about that, I called (show creator) Mark Schwahn and was like, "You have to do this! This is a genius idea! We don't want to be in high school anymore." I thought that was a really brilliant move, and we were all really grateful for it. We wanted to be able to further our storylines, in a way that wasn't quite as predictable as all of us going to college together. It was the most fun for me, coming back for Season 5, because Haley had been through so much and Nathan was in a really bad spot. It was so refreshing. I got to be dramatic for awhile. It was like a new character. She's found her way back since then, but for a good 10 episodes, I got to play a woman that had been really beaten down.
TeenTelevision: What's it been like to play a mother on the show?
Bethany: It's great, playing a mom! I love Jackson Brundage. He's a fabulous kid. His mom's really wonderful, and he's got a great little brother and older sister. They're just a really loving family, and so easy-going and great to have around the set. You never know what you're going to get with kids because the parents can really ruin the experience for you, if they're not cool. But, Jackson's mother and her husband are just so cool, and they could care less about this industry, which makes them so much more fun to hang around. I really love their family.
TeenTelevision: Did you ask anyone for tips on how to play a mom?
Bethany: I've always had a motherly instinct and been really great with kids, for as long as I can remember, so I knew it wasn't going to be too much of a challenge. Plus, some of my closest girlfriends have children that are Jamie's age. I've watched them and watched those kids grow up, so I've picked up little things, here and there, but everything is just pretty much instinct.
TeenTelevision: How odd was it to film the episode where you were faced with actors who resembled you because they were auditioning to play your character in Lucas' film?
Bethany: That's the episode I directed, so I actually got to cast all those people, which was really fun. I was really excited to see the girls they brought in. We went through every actor in the South to find people who fit. We had a great time! It was a little bit surreal, but it might have been stranger, if I hadn't been so involved in it.
TeenTelevision: What was the experience of directing an episode like?
Bethany: There are so many elements to directing. I've spent so much time on set, for the last six years, that I know this crew and cast and we all have a really good rapport with each other, so I was relying on that to be able to help me, in spots where I started feeling like, technically, I was having trouble. I had so many people around me that were there to offer advice or say, "It's okay. You don't have to have all of the answers. It's a creative process. You get to figure it out as it goes along." That was really encouraging to hear. As an actor, you don't realize how much a director has on his mind. My viewpoint of directors, up until I actually directed, was that "They've done all their prep work, so they must know everything there is to know about how this needs to be shot. They must only be here now to help me give the best performance and just be here for me, as an actor." It's a really common misconception among actors that the director has had all this time to prepare, so he must just be there for them. But, actually getting behind the camera and realizing that, even with all your prep work there are still so many things that pop up at the last minute and you're trying to keep so many things organized in your mind, I was really surprised at how difficult it was to maintain my focus, in the organizational and technical aspects of directing, and also be totally free and available, creatively, for the actors. It was cool to learn how to do that, and it would be really fun to practice that again.
TeenTelevision: Was it at all nerve-wracking to be in charge of these people you've been working with for six years?
Bethany: It wasn't nerve-wracking to be in charge of the people I knew. What was difficult was all the guest stars we had that I didn't know. If you're working with your friend, just because you're in a position of authority, it doesn't mean your friendship goes away. There's just a new dynamic at play. But, working with people that I had never met before, or people that I had never actually built a relationship with, was a lot harder. It was a lot more difficult for me to figure out how to let them be creative, but still have authority in the situation and not make them feel like it's gotta be my way. That was really tough to navigate. When you have guest stars coming in, some of them are really insecure about being on a show they've never been on before, especially the guest stars that came in to play us. They were only there for a couple of days and, bless their hearts, were probably just so overwhelmed by the whole situation and probably felt really insecure. It was hard to figure out how to let them be creative and maintain my vision, at the same time.
TeenTelevision: Is there anything that you'd still like to see happen with Haley, before the show is done?
Bethany: I don't know. I really trust our writers. We've got a great staff. Haley's got a lot of ways to express herself, which is awesome. If anything, I think it would be fun to dive into the marriage between Nathan and Haley. Right now, it seems like it's either always sunny or they have some massive fight. It would be fun to see a little bit more of the back-and-forth, that happens within marriage, that can sometimes be really difficult. It doesn't have to be over some major thing. You can wake up in the morning and feel great, and in the afternoon you have a big fight, and by the end of the day it's all over and you're happy again. That kind of stuff would be fun to see.
TeenTelevision: What have you learned about yourself, after doing the show for so many seasons?
Bethany: So much! I am really thankful that this show is filmed in North Carolina. There was so much that I had to learn about just being a professional and how to treat people that you work with. There are so many ways that I've grown, personally, with my family and my close friends, that have bled over into my work ethic. If I had been in L.A., and was auditioning while we were filming this show, for the first three years, I would have gotten a reputation for being really difficult and it probably would have been really hard for me to find work because there were so many things that I just did not understand and nobody ever taught me. To be able to have come so far, and to look back at this show as such an amazing learning experience, I'm now in a position where our crew and producers all trusted me and respected me enough to let me be in an authority position, which I guarantee you would never have happened in the first three years of this show. I had very strong opinions about things and I had no leeway for anybody else's ideas. So to be able to learn how to be a part of a collaborative group, and how to be kind to everyone and respect everyone's creativity, has really opened up a whole new world of professionalism and friendship for me that I'm just so grateful for.
TeenTelevision: What has the experience of working with this cast been like? What do you think it will be like when you finally have to move on from them?
Bethany: It's gonna be tough. It's been wonderful. You don't work with a group of people like this, for this long, without one of two things happening: either you all end up hating each other, or you all end up loving each other. And, I think it's been a real blessing that we've all ended up loving each other. We're totally a dysfunctional family, but we are genuinely grateful for each other. We have real friendships and real relationships. It's going to be really sad to see them go. I've known them almost longer than anybody else in my whole life because I moved around so much as a kid. I've been here longer than I was in real high school. It's been really fun. It's a great group of people, and I think we'll be near and dear to each other's hearts for many years to come.
TeenTelevision: Have there been any storylines for Haley that were particularly memorable for you, or that you enjoyed doing, and was there anything that really took you by surprise?
Bethany: I really enjoyed coming back in Season 5 and having the opportunity to play a different part of Haley -- an angry, beaten-down version. That was actually really fun for me. And, I had fun doing the music tour that I went on with Tyler Hilton and The Wreckers. We had a really great time. That was a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Who has a writer on their show that decides to send them on a 50-city music tour, just for the hell of it? I have always really loved the Haley/Lucas friendship. I'm always excited when I see a scene come up on the schedule that's got me and Chad in it together. He really feels like my little brother. We've built a great friendship. That's what really stands out for me.
TeenTelevision: What are the qualities that you love about Haley, and in what ways are you different from her?
Bethany: Haley has more control issues than I do. She's a little more high-and-mighty than I am. She's really compassionate, but she has a tendency to look down her nose at people sometimes. That's something that she's really had to break herself of, over the years. That's more of a departure for me. I don't struggle with those particular issues, but I used to, so I can understand where she's coming from. She's often a lot more compassionate than my instinct is to be. Once I get to know somebody, which takes me a little while, then I can really warm up, but sometimes I feel like, "I have friends and I don't really need anymore." That's such a hard and cold way to go through life, and I love how open Haley is about new people coming into her world and just welcoming everyone. I want to be someone who is open like that.
TeenTelevision: Have you thought at all about what you want to do, when the series is done?
Bethany: My husband and I are opening up a restaurant in Washington. And, I'm going to be in the recording studio this summer, with my friend Amber Sweeney. We started a band, called Everly, and we're going to be doing some music this summer. I've also got a musical for Broadway that a composer friend of mine and I have been working on. Hopefully, we'll secure the rights to that soon, and then we can start doing workshops. I just plan to go home and hang out. I think I'm done acting for awhile. There are so many other things I want to do, and I've been acting since I was a kid. If something really special comes along, I might jump on it, but I think I'm just going to check out of the acting world for awhile.
TeenTelevision: Why open a restaurant?
Bethany: Honestly, we've always looked for opportunities where we can just do business as a family. It will be my husband Michael and I, and his family. We've always looked for something that we could do that would touch the community somehow. This just came up through a relational connection, and it was really exciting. We thought, "We don't know anything about the restaurant business," but we'll be taking over ownership, which is great. It just felt right. This was exactly what we'd been looking for, as something that we could all be a part of and do together. We've got a lot of people in our court that are helping us, that do know a lot about the restaurant business, so that we won't fall flat on our faces. It was a little drop of fate, I guess.
TeenTelevision: Do you hope to collaborate with your husband again on anything, musically?
Bethany: Yes, absolutely! I'm sure we will, someday. That would be fun. But, we don't have any plans for that, right now. We've got so many other things in our field of vision, but that's always an option.
TeenTelevision: What do you get out of writing songs and singing that you don't get from acting, and vice versa?
Bethany: Unless you're doing theater, acting is really a director's or producer's medium. You experience something on set one way, and then it goes to the editing room and the director and producer put everything together the way they want it. In film and TV, you have to really be satisfied in the moment that you're acting in. You can't wait for the final product because it's almost never going to come out the way that you wanted it to. That isn't to say that it's bad. It's just hardly ever exactly what you, as an actor, were envisioning. Theater is a little different for me. I find that to be incredibly thrilling and just a wonderful creative outlet, very similar to writing my own music. The music is something I can do, sitting in my room, thinking to myself. I can't really bust out into a monologue. Writing my own music is more of a private experience.
TeenTelevision: If you had your choice, are there specific types of roles or genres that you'd like to do, that you haven't had the chance to do yet?
Bethany: I'm dying to do a vampire action movie. I'm such a sci-fi freak. I saw Underworld and I was like, "I have to do that!" There's a great sci-fi movie called Equilibrium, and I'd love to do something like that. I'd love to do an action movie. I also love fantasy movies, like The Lord of the Rings. And then, I love small independent movies, like The Wrestler, where everything gets to be really subtle and understated. All that stuff seems fun, but I don't really put it on my horizon and say, "I've gotta accomplish this, at some point. I've gotta make sure I play this kind of character." Life is just so unexpected, and I'm really enjoying where I'm at right now. If I did decide to come back to acting, after the show is over, it would be for something that was really special to me. Whether it's going to be one of those types of roles or not, I don't know.