Friday, March 5, 2010

Interview: JoBeth Williams Is "Uncorked"

JoBeth Williams, who got her big break in the biz playing Brandy Shelloe on “Guiding Light” and gained international success for her role in the supernatural thriller “Poltergeist,” is back on the small screen playing a winery owner in the Hallmark Channel original movie “Uncorked.” She co-stars alongside “Dexter’s” Julie Benz, Elliott Gould and Scott Elrod of “Men in Trees” fame. “Uncorked,” which is a romantic comedy about finding a passion that isn’t a paycheck, premieres Saturday, March 6 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, 8 p.m. CT (with encore showings throughout the weekend and the following week; see local listings for days and times).

As an actress with an already-busy schedule, what made JoBeth want to play the role of winery matriarch Sophia Browning? “It was really refreshing to read a script that I thought was really sweet, without being saccharin sweet. I loved the character. I loved the idea of this woman, as a sort of born-again hippie. She and her husband had been hippies in the old days, and they owned this vineyard. And I love Elliott (who plays her husband Paul) — Elliott happens to be a friend of mine — so the idea of us being a couple was fun.”

JoBeth was also reunited with Julie Benz, who plays Johnny. JoBeth tells me: “I’ve worked with Julie a couple of times. The first time was when I did a series with John Larroquette called ‘Payne’ some years ago for CBS, and Julie played our maid. And then I did four episodes of ‘Dexter,’ and I played her mom. So it was fun reuniting again. I adore her; she is a dear, terrific girl.”

While many things drew JoBeth to this film, the scenery was a big factor: “We filmed in the Santa Ynez in the Solvang area, which is a gorgeous area north of L.A., and shot in this wonderful vineyard. Everything seemed right about it, and it made me want to do it.”

Working with Elliott Gould was a big draw as well. “Elliott is just wonderful. He is very funny and has a very dry sense of humor. He just really has a great heart. He has a wonderful outlook on life; he’s very laid-back. He has a lot of wisdom. I love being around him and talking with him and spending time with him.”

JoBeth could see a bit of herself in Sophia, telling me: “I could certainly relate to wanting the best for my child and to see him be happy. I’ve seen my own kids go through their own ups and downs, and as a mother, you want to make it better. For Sophia, I think that was her driving force, to help her son get over the loss of his wife.

“And I think I have a certain amount of the old hippie in me. I went to college in the late ’60s/early ’70s. We were against the war, and were of the ‘make love, not war’ school of thought. I like that this woman made the choice to live not in a big urban situation. She just felt very earthy to me. That’s a part of me that I hope I have. I was raised in cities, but I was raised in Texas, so there’s a certain amount of connection to the earth. I really liked her Earth Mother quality.”

While a big message of the movie is finding a balance between your work life and your personal life, JoBeth hopes audiences take away this message: “I hope people take away a really positive feeling that family can ground you. I think a lot of the time, we don’t give our family connections the kind of credit they deserve, like how important they are to us and how much they mean to us. I think family makes all the difference.”

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