Bellamy Young Interview: Political Intrigue Heats Up as the President's Life Hangs in the Balance on ABC's 'Scandal'
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Bellamy Young (born Amy Young on February 19, 1970) can be seen starring on the ABC drama series Scandal. She portrays First Lady Mellie Grant, wife of Fitzgerald “Fitz” Thomas Grant, III (Tony Goldwyn). The political thriller also stars Kerry Washington, Jeff Perry and Joshua Malina.
The North Carolina native has starred in several Broadway shows including The Life and Randy Newman’s Faust. She has guest starred in many television shows such as Law & Order, Nash Bridges, American Dreams, Scrubs, NCIS, CSI: Miami, Grey’s Anatomy, Boston Legal, Dirty Sexy Money, Two and a Half Men, The Mentalist, Castle and Criminal Minds (as Beth Clemmons).
“You know, it’s all storytelling. It’s such a joy to be able to challenge yourself in different mediums. In television, it’s got to be a much smaller performance necessarily because you’re six feet away from someone on their sofa. In film, obviously you have to think your thoughts, and the camera sees everything because your face is as big as a wall. But it’s just a nice challenge. I’m so fortunate to have the options. It’s a nice challenge to get to work out the muscles on different levels.”
Film appearances include Picture This, We Were Soldiers, Larceny, Mission: Impossible III, Trust Me, This is Not a Test, In My Sleep, Pound of Flesh and The Cottage.
The winter finale of Scandal airs Thursday night, December 13, 2012. New episodes will return after the first of the year.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Bellamy, you are a southern girl!
Bellamy Young: Yeah, from Asheville, North Carolina, up in the mountains.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you enjoy growing up there?
Bellamy Young: Oh, I loved it. You can’t have perspective until you get away, but now I hold it so dear. Asheville is absolutely my favorite place in the world. I’m lucky to have gotten to travel a couple of places, and every time I go somewhere, it just makes me appreciate Asheville more. It’s so beautiful.
It wasn’t that cool when I was growing up, but right now it’s so cool when I go back. There are so many vegan things to eat, there’s music and art. It’s great, and the people … it all comes down to the people.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Yes, it does. There was already an actor named Amy Young, so how did you come up with the name Bellamy?
Bellamy Young: There was a little four year old in How the Grinch Stole Christmas that took the name Amy Young back in the day. I was trying to think of names where people would still call me Amy because I couldn’t imagine being a Charlotte or a Violet. My options were pretty limited, and I came up with Bellamy. It makes me think of my uncle who, after my first dad died, did all the dad stuff for me. So it’s sort of a homage. It has “Amy” in it, and I’m southern, so I thought I could get away with it, you know?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It is a beautiful southern name.
Bellamy Young: Thank you.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I love Scandal! It has gotten so exciting lately, especially with the assassination attempt on president Fitzgerald. Will it be revealed in the winter finale that Huck was the shooter?
Bellamy Young: Well, you will get a lot of answers, but they may make you ask more questions. I mean, you know Ms. Shonda Rhonda is the master at that. Right now you see Huck, and he’s in a room holding the gun, and you’ll find out why. There’s never just one person who marches up and takes a shot at a president, so there is a rich tapestry of people behind the moment that we ended on last week with him in the red hoodie in the hotel room.
You’ll start to peel back the story that surrounds that moment, the things that led him up to there. But it’ll unspool for a little while. It’s a complicated bit of doings, all the little fingers in that particular pie, and it is so juicy. This winter finale is shocking. You’ll like it. You will. I promise.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): There seemed to be so many people running around and much confusion in the scenes surrounding the shooting. Were those scenes difficult to play?
Bellamy Young: Just because there’s a lot of choreography. You always want to find the truth of the scene in the actor’s eyes, in the setting and the pace. There are always a number of elements to get right to make sure that a scene looks and feels authentic. But when there is such an event, it’s even more so.
That episode last week was actually the directorial debut of a brilliant man who has always been our director of photography, Oliver Bokelberg, who is a wildly accomplished DP, but he took on his first directing job with that script which was Shonda’s script and which was epic. It actually finished at sixteen minutes over what the network would air, and I know there will be a ten minute longer version on the Season Two DVD. I think Oliver did an astonishing job.
That night we were up in Pasadena doubling it obviously for D.C. Our production designer is a genius so everything looked perfect. We had maybe 100 extras, five cars and crane shots. They just had to do it from so many angles. We were working with squibs and explosives and blood. There were just so many pieces that we needed to get so that they could craft the puzzle later on. So, yeah, you had to take your time, but I think he did an astonishing job. I’m just overwhelmed.
The ER scene got a little truncated in the edit. I’m hoping there will be a longer version of that first ER scene because that was really beautifully done, too, and beautifully written. But that’s the joy of our jobs to get to spend time on stuff like that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): When you auditioned for the role of Mellie Grant, what were you told about her?
Bellamy Young: I had the script. It was two pilot seasons ago, and this script was far and away the best thing that I read. It was a beautiful script. I knew Kerry and Tony were attached. I just had two lines in the pilot episode, but I had such a sense of what I wanted to do with it. I went out the night before and bought an outfit, which I never do. I am the worst shopper! It’s just not my thing. But I knew I just wanted to give it my all, be a part of this, and I guess initially I just tried to think about being the right partner for Tony.
Tony has directed me before, he’s an astonishing director, such a lovely actor and a lovely man. So there were just sort of big enough shoes to fill to be perceived as the suitable partner to him. I really just sort of sat with that feeling. Then we thought maybe there would be a three-episode arc for Mellie hopefully because I wanted to stick around a little while, and they just started writing amazing stuff. As the character grew, my sense of her grew.
Truly one of the great blessings of the job is that they’ve incorporated the flashback episodes. When you’re playing a part, you’re only ever meeting that character in the one moment they’re in. It’s usually a high-pressure moment because you want something dramatic, but you have to remember that their whole life is in the form of this moment. The amazing thing about this gig is that they give us a chance to live those moments to learn more about those relationships, and then everything in the present becomes much more reasonable and so much more fun to play because you build histories with people.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And gives the audience more of an understanding of the characters’ backgrounds.
Bellamy Young: Exactly, and we as actors feel so lucky to have these jobs, so we do all the work we can about developing character histories and relationships just to make sure it looks textured, nuanced and real.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Bellamy, since your character left town, are you completely off of Criminal Minds?
Bellamy Young: No. They’ve been really sweet to me. They’re such a good family of people. They’ve transferred back to New York, but they were very clear on me being Hotch’s girlfriend. They said, “No. No. He’s going to come and visit you.” I know he did in later episodes. They negotiated three with the network … that I could do three this year, so hopefully I’ll get to do the other two. I’ve already done one.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Having a relationship has made Hotch happier. It has been nice seeing him smile (laughs).
Bellamy Young: I know. He can be such a little black cloud (laughs). Now he’s got such tenderness in him. It’s nice to see him with his kid and with a girl, just to be happy.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You have several Broadway and theater credits, so why did you want to try television and films?
Bellamy Young: You know, it’s all storytelling. It’s such a joy to be able to challenge yourself in different mediums. In television, it’s got to be a much smaller performance necessarily because you’re six feet away from someone on their sofa. In film, obviously you have to think your thoughts, and the camera sees everything because your face is as big as a wall. But it’s just a nice challenge. I’m so fortunate to have the options. It’s a nice challenge to get to work out the muscles on different levels.
I still love the theater, and I hope to do much more of it in my lifetime. I don’t know where I’d be if I couldn’t sing. Singing means everything to me. But it’s all about the story and the words. I’m not in a position where I’m like, “Oh, I turned that down because …” It’s not like that. I audition for things, and I’m lucky that I work as much as I do. I’m truly fortunate to have happened into a job with words as good as any play I’ve ever done. I get monologues in this job, Melissa. It’s amazing! It’s a gift.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And you are so enjoyable to watch. Was your first TV role on Another World?
Bellamy Young: Yeah, totally … Dr. Courtney Evans! I went to do a show that Randy Newman wrote, a treatment of Faust, and they replaced me with Stina Nielsen on the show. I’ve always loved that about soap operas where you tune in one day, and it’s a different human being but the same character. We totally got to do that with Dr. Courtney Evans! I totally loved it!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Many actors started their career working on daytime dramas. They talk about how difficult it is because there are many lines to learn in a short amount of time.
Bellamy Young: Well, I loved it. I thought I was big doings because they’d send a car for you and drive you out to Coney Island where we’d shoot Another World. I thought that I had arrived because someone was driving me somewhere. It was the height of luxury. I’m blessed with short term memory. I have terrible long term memory, but good short term memory, so on that drive, I would just learn my lines. I loved it!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me about yourself. What fills your spare time?
Bellamy Young: This year has sort of been consumed joyfully with a job. This is my first series regular job. Always a bridesmaid, but this time bride! I’ve never done press before either, so that is really different to have your energy going in one direction learning and exploring and finding things out about the character you’re playing and then in a perpendicular direction, commenting on it. It’s cool. I just had a lot to learn.
As a person, I work so I can travel. I love to travel. I get home as much as I can. That’s a very important part of my life. Out here I miss New York, so I have to remind myself about the many joys that LA has to offer and foremost among them are my friends. I have incredible friends.
Getting to hike in astonishing beautiful locations or having a home where I can foster animals feels like a luxury to me. Feeding the outdoor animals feels like a luxury to me and just doing the little things that make every day better is great.
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