Known for her memorable performances in such series as NCIS and PICKET FENCES, Lauren Holly has carved out a remarkable career in television. Her current television series MOTIVE has brought her back into the spotlight with a role that is equal parts sass and sizzle, which is not easy to do in a police procedural. But Holly has brought a unique and eye-catching portrayal to the role of Dr. Betty Rogers.
In a recent exclusive interview, Lauren provided a few hints about the secret life of her character as well as offering teasers about the upcoming Season 2 finale, which just may bring out some secrets that were better off left in the dark.
It feels like the show is ramping up to a massive cliffhanger. Are we going to get a cliffhanger that is going to leave us hanging for Season 2?
LAUREN: (Laughs) You just know that you will! There has to be something at the end of every season.
Before we jump into that, why don’t we talk a little bit about your character Betty and what initially drew you to the character.
LAUREN: Dr. Betty is the medical examiner on the show and I guess what drew me to the character was that she was really smart and good at her job and a bit sassy. I loved the fact that she was kind of the one that was full of life and it felt like she had a lot of secrets. There’s just a lot going on with her. It is really interesting that of all the characters on the show that it would be the older woman.
Betty strikes me as someone who is a little outside of the box. She goes to her day job, but she has this whole other life that perhaps we do not know anything about. Have you gotten a chance to experience what that whole other world might be like yet?
LAUREN: I have. It’s funny because the audience would have known a little bit more this season except it got side-tracked by this other story. So I have a feeling next season you are going to get a little bit more.
Betty has a little bit of a flirtatiousness and a sassiness to her. Is that something you are bringing to the role or is that something completely written in?
LAUREN: I think it is a little bit of both. I think they hinted to me when they were creating the character that they wanted that. So they sort of write that for me and I enjoy it and I tend to milk those moments a little bit, and give them a little extra sometimes.
Like in one of the more recent episodes, it seemed like she was coming on to Lucas and then she reached behind him and gives him a report. I can’t imagine that was completely written in. I kept thinking, “I’ll bet you’re having some fun there!”
LAUREN: (Laughs) Yeah, I did. I love working with Brendan [Penny] and I hope that we get to do more in this next season. It’s funny because the finale is airing [tonight] and we’re all gearing up for Season 3. We’re about to start shooting, so I’ve been reading the beginning scripts and I’m scared that I’m going to give away stuff, but I’m excited about it.
As far as the facade that Betty wears to her job as a medical examiner is that something she creates to protect herself, or is that the mask that she wears so nobody peeks into her world too much?
LAUREN: I think it’s just that her job is a serious one and she is very respectful of the victim and all the people who are attached to them, and that when she is there it is business first. So I think it is more out of respect, to be honest.
Do you think she’s more concerned about solving these cases or simply being as respectful as possible to these people that she is in charge of when she gets the bodies?
LAUREN: I think it is hand-in-hand. I think she wants to do both because solving the crimes is respecting them.
So that’s her way of honoring them in that way: “We’ve finished your life and story for you.”
LAUREN: Absolutely. Like, “Let me figure this out for you, so you can rest.”
Have there been, in particular for the second season, any particular cases or crimes that stood out for you that you really liked?
LAUREN: My favorite episode from this last season was “Bad Blonde.” It was when we didn’t know where the body was. That was a good one.
We know that the storyline involving Warren Christie’s character Mark Cross has been going on through this season and from the previews it looks like he has either been set up for murder or he did murder somebody. Is that going to be the cliffhanger or will they resolve that storyline in the finale?
LAUREN: (Laughs) I can’t give you the cliffhanger! But you know who it involves.
Mark Cross. It seems like Betty did not like him even if she did not know anything about him from get-go. Does she have an instinct about him?
LAUREN: It’s just that Angie is her buddy. So she’s just a girl’s girl. She’s just making sure that her friend is okay.
So Betty is just reading the tone in their dynamic and she’s siding with her friend in this situation.
LAUREN: Yeah, she’s just got Angie’s back always.
Well, Angie is known to bend the truth and goes her own way when she needs to. Is that something that Betty will support or is Betty going to be a hard-liner and say, “I’m not crossing any lines for you”?
LAUREN: I don’t think Angie would ask her to cross lines, but if there is one that has been proven is that in their friendship they do not really judge each other. They are not about judging. They are honest with each other and they see what is going on and they support each other. But they don’t judge each other because everybody is fallible. Television characters are never really too black or white, and ours are kind of a little dirty. They do good things. They do bad things. They try to learn.
What do you think is the foundation of that friendship? What is the commonality that drew Betty and Angie together? It seems like they would be people that wouldn’t work well together, but somehow they have developed this interesting friendship.
LAUREN: I think because they are both good at their jobs they developed a mutual respect and that started it.
What do you think you have learned portraying Betty?
LAUREN: I’ve learned how tough a job it is to be a medical examiner, that’s for sure, and how much they play a part. They have this ghoulish reputation and it’s not at all like that.
When you are doing those kinds of scenes with the dead bodies, does that bother you as an actor, or are you completely comfortable with that?
LAUREN: No. It’s really cool actually because you’ve just been in hair and makeup with the actor who is being the body, and getting all the special effects makeup done. You’re just more amazed at what they were able to do. It’s not weird because after “cut” you’re usually talking to them before you start rolling again. So it’s kind of cool, and I have the cool set because there’s tones of fun things in it. Everybody likes to work in my set and go through everything that’s on display, but they can’t take anything.
So you got all the cool toys, huh?
LAUREN: (Laughs) Yeah.
Another interesting choice for this character was they didn’t just make her a bit sassy and flirtatious, but her wardrobe choices are always interesting. It’s not what you expect. Is that you or is that strictly coming from wardrobe?
LAUREN: I think I have a lot to do with it. I just want to make the most of the time that I have because I’m only there a couple days every episode because I fly across the country every week to do it. So it’s all about being a little splashy. And I’m launching a clothing line, so next year Betty is dressing in my clothes.
Really?! That’s phenomenal. What’s the name of your clothing line?
LAUREN: It’s called “Lauren’s Closet.” It’s from a company called Le Chateau that is a big Canadian company. They have stores in New York and Dubai, as well. It’s launch next week.
Are they going to feature clothing, like business wear?
LAUREN: I have everything from the most fabulous footwear to evening gowns.
Wow, that is quite a variety. How fun is that?
LAUREN: It’s just awesome, actually. It’s been really exciting.
Just because they haven’t hinted at it much on the show, what would you say is the dream guy for Betty?
LAUREN: (Laughs) From Betty’s perspective, he’d be 10 years younger — maybe 15 years younger — and he’s got to be in some sort of high-pressured job with crazy hours, just like hers, and he’d better be really smart.
It’s interesting because we do not see much of Betty’s personal life and it would be interesting to see what is in it.
LAUREN: Definitely. I think it would be! It’s probably a whole other television show.
For the big season finale, what can you share to get us excited about it?
LAUREN: That really big decisions have to be made that can change the course of people’s lives.
Do you think from the minute that they find the body that Betty will have some instincts on what happened there, or will she be withholding judgment and waiting to see how it plays out?
LAUREN: I think she withholds her judgment because she’s learned from experience that she has been surprised before. Every time I read a script, I love it because I love trying to figure out what the twist is going to be. There’s always a twist. You think you’ve got it figured out, but you don’t. Then once you find out how the victim and killer met, there is usually a twist in the reason. And I love that. I have to say that in every episode I get a little surprised.
I have to say that I am surprised to find I have more empathy for killers on your show than most other shows, which is highly unusual.
LAUREN: Well, the thing is that sometimes crimes are done in the heat of the moment and it can be that one decision — wrong decision — that can ruin your life.
There is an element of humanity that hits me every time I watch the show. You can pretty much see yourself in those shoes if the occasion arose and it is terrifying to consider that possibility.
To see whether Mark Cross does manage to come out of his dire predicament unscathed, and what part Betty has to play in either saving him or condemning him for a dastardly crime, be sure to tune in for the Season 2 finale of MOTIVE on Wednesday, August 27th at 10:00 p.m. on ABC.