Laura Bell Bundy (Photo credit: Jeremy Cowart courtesy of Big Machine Records)
Well known for her country singing prowess, Laura Bell Bundy is also demonstrating her comedy chops on two different television shows this year. She has made a memorable appearance on the CW series HART OF DIXIE as Shelby, who first dated George Tucker (Scott Porter) and then turned her amorous affections on Brick Breeland (Tim Matheson). Then in a stroke of good fortune, Laura was also cast this year in the FX comedy series ANGER MANAGEMENT, playing opposite Charlie Sheen as a psychologist with issues of her own. In a recent exclusive interview, Laura candidly shared all the fun she is having working on both shows and how neither has put a crimp in her also very active singing career.
Let’s talk about ANGER MANAGEMENT. How did that opportunity come up and what attracted you to the role of Dr. Jordan Denby?
LAURA: It’s how it always works: you get an audition and you get a break-down of the role from your agent. But at the time I was in Europe on tour with Rascal Flatts and I was opening for them, so I said I couldn’t come in because I was obviously not there, and my agent said, “Well, can you put yourself on tape?” and I was like, “No, I’m drunk in Ireland. I want to be drunk in Ireland. I don’t want to learn lines and make a tape and send it across the country back to you.” So I just kind of let it go because I was sort of living in the moment of my European adventure. Then I was on my way back and my agent was like, “Well, they still haven’t found anybody and they’d like to see you tomorrow morning.” So as soon as I got in, I was frantically trying to learn the lines for an appointment with the head writers of the show and it went really well. But I didn’t think I did that great of job. Then about an hour later, they called and said they wanted me to test and meet Charlie [Sheen] for a chemistry reading with him. Then I did that and met Charlie. We got along swimmingly. Then a few days later I was offered the role. It was a really fun part because as an actor there’s a lot to do as Jordan because she’s a little bit emotionally unstable. She’s a former alcoholic — well, she is an alcoholic and she’s really struggling to stay on the straight and narrow in regards to that. But she really struggles with it and Charlie doesn’t help her. That dynamic is really fun to play.
Sounds like you fell into the role and it worked for you.
LAURA: (Laughs) I think there are these moments when you’re an actor, and you think, “I did such a great job,” but then you never hear anything. You want, want, want things to work out, and it doesn’t. Then other times you feel like the sky opened up and you couldn’t run away from it. And this particular time, I feel very much like it was fate-ish. It was sort of supposed to happen and it is just a really good fit.
With all the different layers to Jordan, is there one particular quality that stands out for you that you really love portraying?
LAURA: (Laughs) I love playing a drunk. It is so fun to have her kind of loosen up. She’s a little buttoned up because she’s trying really hard to not lose her shit. So the interesting thing about her is both of those things. She’s a little buttoned-up and then all of a sudden she’s letting loose. She’s a little bit bipolar and that’s totally fun. It puts my character in awkward situations and that’s the most fun for me to play. I like the comedy of awkward situations.
How would you describe Jordan’s relationship with Charlie Goodson (Charlie Sheen)? What is her role in his life right now?
LAURA: In his life right now, she is a big pain in the ass to him. He didn’t want to hire her, but her uncle runs the Grant Foundation, so he kind of had to hire her. She was basically hired before she did the job interview. So she comes in and she’s completely emotionally unstable. She’s coming from a weekend bender, basically, and she’s trying to keep it together. He thinks she’s off her rocker and is like, “Well, thanks for coming in.” And she tells him, “Not only do I already have the job, I’m your new boss.” So to him, she is a pain in the butt. She’s a total pain in the butt. But what happens in their relationship is that they have things in common and at the end of the day, they are actually there for each other. So it’s a really fun kind of thing as they get to know each other. At first, they kind of hate each other and I think they will end up liking each other.
Would you describe them as rivals at this point or are they kind of warily keeping an eye on each other?
LAURA: I don’t think they are rivals because they work together and they are in it together and at the end of the day they have to get their work done. So they are kind of it it together, having to work with each other. So they are having to do all of this. But there is an element of pushing each other’s buttons that is definitely there. It’s very Hepburn-Tracy.
“Hart of Dixie”
How different is it to work on a show like ANGER MANAGEMENT versus HART OF DIXIE?
LAURA: It’s totally different. They are completely different characters, completely different environments, completely different formats. HART OF DIXIE is a single-camera dramedy with heightened Southern in its tone. It reminds of how I grew up in Kentucky and there’s a little bit of the blue-blood kind of thing going on there, and a little bit of that going on in Bluebell, where I’m pretty much impersonating my mom. So that has its own thing for me. And obviously it’s single-camera where we’re doing live shots and close-ups and turning around. Then on ANGER MANAGEMENT, it’s like every scene is live theater. We’re coming in and we’re learning the blocking and going all the way through. We do that a couple times and that’s it and we move on. It’s a little bit of a different energy and you’re also trying to get laughs. At least, I am in ANGER MANAGEMENT — in trying to get the crew to laugh because we don’t have a live audience. So you’re trying to get those beats. Comedic beats are so important. They are crucial for that show to work. Where HART OF DIXIE is funny, but the point is not to be funny, the point is to be kind of crazy and dramatic and silly. There’s an absurdity. A little bit in ANGER MANAGEMENT and in HART OF DIXIE. It’s what makes you want to watch it.
When you are looking for TV roles, are these the kinds of characters you are always looking for?
LAURA: Meaning is playing a crazy character type-casting? (Laughs) I like playing strong characters. I have a strong personality, so it is easier for me to commit to a strong character who has different levels and dynamics, in terms of a little bit of madness going on inside. It’s easier for me if I can identify what that is. So I like that. It’s harder for me to play characters that are just like me because that requires studying who I am, which is fine and I can do that. But I like to have someone in mind that I’m emulating. It helps to make it more natural for me. I think I look for characters that have a lot going on inside. It is so much more fun to play. And sometimes I play characters that have nothing going on inside, but by the time I’m finished with them, they have a lot of stuff going on inside because of how I thought about them. I definitely like crazy characters. (Laughs)
You are also pretty established in your singing career right now. How do you straddle both worlds of working in television and singing?
LAURA: It’s so funny ’cause I’m on a show called ANGER MANAGEMENT, but it’s all time management really. I really have to do have to put a lot of time into my work, so I have to figure out my priorities to make everything work. I’m fairly good at multitasking, meaning I can go to set and as I’m waiting around I pull out my computer and work on a song or something. I touch it up or I work on mix tapes, which is something I’m doing now. Or whatever. I’m always doing stuff when I’m sitting around waiting and there’s nothing to do. Instead of playing Sudoku or reading a book, I work. Then on my off days, I’m off doing shows. So I’m really kind of stretching the limit in terms of the output. It’s hard on my personal life and social life, but I also get a lot of energy from my work. It’s like my hobby. So it’s pretty satisfying. But it’s a juggling act. I don’t have a lot of time off and that makes me look forward to Christmas.
“Hart of Dixie”
Any teasers about what fans can expect to see about Dr. Jordan’s life on ANGER MANAGEMENT?
LAURA: (Laughs) They don’t tell us anything! I do know a couple of things, and they are pretty crazy. Only two episodes with me have aired, but if you’ve seen those, you’ve seen that she’s a bit of a hot-mess. So I think they are going to definitely play into that. It should be fun to play. I hope they keep on with it! I love the show. It’s really a happy group of people. Seriously. I’m not blowing smoke. I walked on the set and I was like, “Oh my god, they’ve got doves flying out of their ass. What’s in the food?” It’s just a really happy group of people. They laugh all the time, which makes me laugh all the time. I’m just enjoying the heck out of it.
Finally, what’s next for your character Shelby on HART OF DIXIE? Is she gone for good?
LAURA: I’m still doing HART OF DIXIE. I’m making both shows work. I think my next episode of HART OF DIXIE comes out around the third week of November. I’m still working on HART OF DIXIE when I’ve available, so you should be seeing me throughout the season and you will be shocked. (Laughs)
To see more of Laura’s zany character Dr. Jordan on ANGER MANAGEMENT, be sure to tune in on Thursday nights at 9:30 p.m. on FX — and be on the lookout for her to return to HART OF DIXIE as well starting this month.