Bette MacDonald has been leading a distinguished and successful career within the Canadian entertainment industry on TV, radio and on stage performances for over 20 years.
Bette’s active involvement within the industry is evident from notable tasks which she has undertaken such as appearing at the Canadian Winnipeg Comedy festival as well as working alongside Symphony Nova Scotia. The latter of the two performances was such a success that she was brought back for an unexpected yet highly appreciated two night encore presentation.
For the past five years, Bette and her husband, Maynard Morrision have been working on a holiday special known as “Tis The Season ” with it having been critically acclaimed and it has been selling out major halls since its inauguration.The production was in-fact such a success that it has consistently received standing ovations.
More recently, the actress has been starring as the tough yet kind-hearted secretary, Trudy Walsh in CBC’S hit sitcom Mr.D. With the show having been renewed for a third season and the actress being kind enough to participate in an interview with me we extensively discuss her involvement with the show. Particularly, we discuss aspects of how she has related to her character, how thew character of Trudy interacts with other characters on the show as well as what is in store for the third season of Mr. D. The delightful actress also reflects on the success of Mr. D as well as the other projects which she has been working on.
Read through the complete interview below.
Abbas Karimjee:Lets start by discussing your appointment to the role of Trudy. Were you contacted or did you audition? Could you please walk us through this initial process?
Bette MacDonald:Sure Abbas. I was contacted by producer, Mike Volpe who told me about the show idea and the character. He said that both he and Gerry thought that I would be right for the part, so they asked me to read for it. I’m so glad it worked out.
AK:How have you related to the character of Trudy?
BM:Well, I love playing this character. Love it. Trudy doesn’t suffer fools, she speaks her mind and she has a great sense of style (thank you Martha Curry for the best wardrobe ever!) I believe that when she’s not working, Trudy is living a fabulous life that her colleagues may never learn about. Maybe she’ll be George Clooney’s new girlfriend!
AK:What challenges have you had to overcome to portray the character of Trudy?
BM:I don’t find the character challenging. I understand her and I probably shouldn’t say this but I think Trudy and I are similar in some ways. Oh Dear.
AK:Trudy takes great pleasure in competing with and tormenting Robert as evidenced in various ways such as when they were competing for a gift to buy Callaghan. How do you think Trudy feels about Robert and how would you describe the two’s working relationship?
MacDonald comments on how Robert’s big plans for the school does not sit well with Trudy, but how Trudy also deeply cares for the character as well.
BM: It’s very likely that Trudy has been at the school a lot longer than Robert. He probably came to the school with a big attitude and big plans which, needless to say, would not sit well with Trudy. In her heart of hearts, I believe she cares for Robert. There are moments when she feels sorry for him. Poor Robert. Such a knob. The fact that Robert is played by the freakishly talented and darling Jonathan Torrens makes those scenes a joy to perform. I just love working with him.
AK:Trudy does not tolerate Gerry’s incompetence as seen from how she reminds of him of his responsibility to perform basic tasks, such as completing attendance and handing in forms. How would you describe the two’s working relationship and how do you think Trudy’s no nonsense attitude with Gerry speaks to her personality?
BM:Trudy will not tolerate any kind of disruption of her perfect system. She is the type of gal who, by night is probably the life of the party but by day runs a well oiled machine of her making. She probably has a system that has been working perfectly for years and here comes Gerry who will have to learn the hard way, that forms must be filled in and returned immediately! Poor Gerry has to learn everything the hard way, doesn’t he.
AK:Trudy often gets irritated when she feels as though she is being undervalued as the mere secretary at Xavier academy such as when Lisa put on a show on secretary appreciation day which suggested that her main role was as the coffee lady for the principal. How do you feel Trudy generally feels she is viewed by her colleagues , in terms of how she contributes to the overall operation of Xavier academy. How do you feel that the way she views the treatment she receives from others impacts her relationships with the staff members, in general?
BM:It was so hard to play angry while those sweet, lovely kids were doing their little play. I had a hard time not cracking up. Poor Lisa, her intentions are so good. It’s in the execution that she has some trouble. Trudy runs a tight ship. She’s aware of everything that goes on at the school. I’ve heard that every school has someone, usually a secretary, who has the keys to all the locks, who knows where the bodies are buried, who must not be crossed….. at Xavier, that person is Trudy. I believe her colleagues learn that Trudy is not to be messed with.
AK:This past season we have seen Trudy and Lisa develop a friendship of sorts as seen by how they spent time after work. Why do you think they have connected together and grow would you like to see this develop?
BM:Trudy feels sorry for Lisa. She’s a sweet girl who tries too hard. Trudy first started going out for the odd drink with Lisa because she likes drinks so much but eventually she began to like her. Trudy is kind, I think but one should never mistake kindness for weakness. Especially not in the case of Trudy Walsh.
AK:What are you able to tell us about what might be in store for the coming season of Mr D, both for the show in general as well as specifically for the character of Trudy?
BM:This season, we laughed more, had a harder time getting through scenes without cracking up. This season is the funniest of the three. The characters have developed even further, their relationships are more intricate and the writing, which has always been wonderful, continues to get stronger. I laugh out loud when I read these scripts. The character Gerry is revealing some very interesting layers while continuing to be hilarious. The real Gerry is hilarious and knows exactly what he wants this show to be. He has maintained from the beginning that he wants the show to be real and as funny as it can be. He has been very successful. Right on Gerry!
AK:What are some of your favourite memories from working on the show thus far , either onscreen or offscreen?
BM:There are many. I love working with these people. It begins with Gerry who is an extraordinarily funny and kind man. The cast is a group of talented actors and comedians who love to work. They will do whatever it takes to serve the scene. The best memories so far involve doing scenes that are so funny that you spend your entire work day laughing. In this season I was in a scene that is the funniest thing I’ve ever been a part of. I can’t say what it is but when you see it, you’ll know what I mean. It’s the actor I share the scene with who makes it so funny. The kids in this cast are very talented and mature, far more mature than many of the “adult” actors. We have so much fun with them. And without them, we sometimes meet in a local pub after a day of shooting. Love those nights and hope to have many more.
AK:Mr D has achieved record-breaking ratings on CBC since the debut of CBC’S hit sitcom, Little Mosque on the Prairie with the series premiere earning a 1.3 million rating. Why do you think the show resonates with such a large audiences?
BM:Everyone can relate to this show. We’ve all had the school experience. There is a big teacher following, of course. It’s a liberating thing to be able to laugh at some of the absurdity that the educational atmosphere can create and to know that you are not the only one who sees it and understands it. More importantly, perhaps, is that the show is so funny and smart. This show doesn’t talk down to the audience. Everything is not spelled out, we know our audience is bright and is along for the ride. There is an old theatre expression, “If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage,” so we cannot overstate the importance of the writing team. They are some of the best in the business.
AK:What message do you have for fans of the show, with MR.D approaching its third season?
BM:Well, first of all, I want to thank them for tuning in week after week. I can say, without reservation, that season 3 is the funniest yet. We are extremely fortunate to be able to work in this business and we don’t take that for granted. We know how valuable the audience is and we can’t wait for them to see what’s coming!
AK:Are you working on other acting projects which you would like to share with readers?
BM:Yes! I am currently writing our holiday show that we tour in December. It began as a one nighter and we are now going into our seventh tour. I’m also writing and preparing for a show that I’ll be doing in March with Symphony Nova Scotia. This will be my third show with them. I love working with them. They are superb musicians and lovely people. We take a very interactive approach. It’s challenging and horrifying in many ways but I love it!
Thank you for asking me these questions. I love talking about Mr. D.!