Kathy Bates Finds Peace, With ‘Disjointed’ and Some Herbal Medicine
Back in 2012, Kathy Bates lit up a cigar, spat out some salty zingers and won an Emmy for her guest role as the ghost of Charlie Harper in “Two and a Half Men,” the CBS sitcom cocreated by Chuck Lorre.
Now she’s lighting up again — only this time it’s reefer — as Ruth Whitefeather Feldman, the owner of a Southern California medical marijuana dispensary in “Disjointed,” Mr. Lorre’s new Netflix comedy, starting Friday, Aug. 25.
Created with David Javerbaum, a former late-night writer for Jon Stewart and James Corden, “Disjointed” pits Ruth’s tie-dyed activism against the business acumen of her son, Travis (Aaron Moten), a newly minted M.B.A. whose father is a Black Panther turned corporate lawyer for Big Pharma. Ruth wants to rail against the Man; Travis wants to grow their shop into the Walmart of cannabis.
Why would an Oscar-winning actress with four seasons of Ryan Murphy’s FX anthology “American Horror Story” on her résumé jump a prestige ship for a streaming sitcom? “David is so talented and Chuck has an amazing track record, so I decided to roll the dice with them,” Ms. Bates, 69, said in a call from Los Angeles. “I’m not stabbing or slicing anybody up. But there’s an intensity being in front of a live audience again that’s so much fun.” These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
So, do you smoke pot?
Yeah, I do. I’ve had a prescription for some time for chronic pain. I’ve really become a believer. I find it just as, if not more, effective than other pain relief. Originally, when I was going through breast cancer, my oncologist prescribed some, because my recovery was painful and the marijuana was a tremendous help. And now they have vape pens, which are a lot less caustic in terms of smoke. And since you can control the amount of your intake, you can smoke and be functional during the day — although I don’t smoke when I work. That to me is unprofessional.
And you support marijuana legalization?
I do and even more so now that I’ve become more educated about what its properties are. And you see how it’s helping people like the partner of our cannabis consultant, who has cerebral palsy, or the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, a group of football players I met who were suffering from different head injuries and it helped them tremendously.
In a WebMD article , you spoke about your double mastectomy in 2012 and about “going flat.”
Breast cancer runs in my family, and there was something suspicious in my right breast and I thought, you know, just make mine a double. I struggled for a long time with the prosthetics and the heaviness of the bra and the heat. I thought, why am I wearing false breasts when I don’t have breasts? I’m not saying every woman needs to do this, but at my age, what’s the big deal? I’ve had very, very heavy breasts all my life, so quite frankly it was nice not to have much of that. There is a silver lining: I can lie on my stomach when I’m getting a massage.
You aren’t doing “American Horror Story” this season, but you’ve credited Ryan Murphy with reviving your career. Can you explain?
At the end of the second season of “Harry’s Law,” we were canceled because they said our viewership was too old, and it was a real kick in the gut. Shortly after that, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I felt that, well, maybe I’m done here. One of the worst things you can be in Hollywood is old. Ageism is alive and well. But my friend Jessica Lange had done the first season of “American Horror Story,” and I said, “Boy, I’d love to meet with Ryan.” And so she arranged for that, and he pitched the character of Delphine LaLaurie to me — and it was spring’s awaking. This little kid inside me that loves to dress up and pretend, that I thought was done for, just came to life again. It gave me confidence. And I owe that to Ryan.
I’ve always felt that if you just were left to your own devices to mature and grow as an artist, it’s like the richness of wine over the years. And that should be appreciated and celebrated in a business that is about art. But the art and commerce butt heads instead of supporting one another. It’s a shame and a waste. Because even at our age we’re continuing to evolve and be inspired by other actors. And when you see the young ones who have that power, you go, “Ah yes, now I can begin to let go a little bit.”
Are you ready to let go?
I feel I went through a stormy sea and now I’ve pulled into a beautiful harbor, and I want to be here for a while.The Oscar-winning actress talks about her new Netflix pot comedy and living on a high in her third act.
‘Disjointed’s’ Elizabeth Ho Spills The THC About Netflix’s Surprising Stoner Sitcom
@ brettwhite Feb 5, 2018 at 9:30am
Where to Stream:
Every Netflix Original Show That Has Been Canceled So Far
With ‘Fuller House’ Leaving Netflix, The Traditional Multi-cam Sitcom Once Again Seems In Danger of Extinction
An Infusion Of Marijuana Cooking Competition Shows Are Giving Viewers The Munchies
The Top 13 Stoner Movies & Shows on Netflix
After you binge all of Season 1 of the Netflix sitcom Disjointed, you might be left with some questions. Like, “Do they actually smoke weed on Disjointed?” and “Is Disjointed filmed in front of a live audience?” and “Wait, did a multicam sitcom really just tackle a serious issue like the disproportionate systemic criminalization of a substance that can be used for medicinal purposes or to just, like, make you way chill?” That’s because Disjointed, the latest show from network hitmaker Chuck Lorre, is nothing like what you’d expect. It’s kinda like Cheers in a California weed dispensary, except with Kathy Bates at the helm and mind-bending commercials that mess with the Netflix structure. The show tackles serious issues while being crazy broad, and it plays with storytelling conventions while also sticking to one of the oldest TV formats around. When you expect Disjointed to zig, it zags, and then zags again.
To get answers to all those questions, Decider had some one-on-one time with Elizabeth Ho, who plays Jenny. The recently released second half of Season 1 pushed the dispensary worker into new territory, as she settled on a life path, got serious with her boyfriend Carter (Tone Bell), and confronted her overbearing mom about all of those things. In our talk, Ho not only reveals the answers to some questions that Disjointed fans have been asking all season, she also reveals what it’s like to work with the legendary Bates and the viewing habits of the Disjointed ladies (hint: it involves murder).
DECIDER: Part 2 of Disjointed Season 1 gave Jenny s ome cool stuff to do, like we actually got to meet Jenny’s mom. What was it like playing opposite your TV mom?
Elizabeth Ho: So what drew me to the role of Jenny, besides I get to pretend to smoke pot all day, is that I feel like Jenny is at a precipice of deciding like who she really wants to be. Does she follow what her family wants, or does she follow what she actually wants to do? Which I think a lot of 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds, 40-year-olds feel like they’re still figuring out in their life.
So for this back half it was really fun to have Elizabeth Sung, who plays my mom, come in and to physically be present in the scenes and to have that interaction with her. She’s such an incredible comedic actress and she plays being the mean tiger mom so well. And I think for Jenny it really gave Jenny and opportunity to stand in who she really is which is, she’s a woman who’s working at a dispensary and helping people and it might not be the traditional route that everyone was hoping that she’d go, but it’s the route she picked and also–spoiler alert–it’s a big deal she tells her mom about Carter. That’s a huge step for Jenny to stand in her own truth and be like, “This is who I really am and you can like it or you can’t but I’m not gonna hide from you anymore.”
It’s been really cool watching your relationship with Tone Bell really grow over the season, culminating in that moment with telling your mom that Carter is Jenny’s boyfriend. What has it been like working with Tone Bell?
Well, first off Tone Bell is one of the most handsome men I’ve ever met in my life. He is such a joy to work with. It’s been really fun exploring that relationship, especially since we saw Carter’s PTSD really evolve through season one and how he dealt with using cannabis as a form of medication as well as therapy. I feel as though Jenny is so excited to have Carter be on this path of health that sometimes she overlooks – she puts all her energy in Carter and not enough on herself. And so it’s been really fun trying to find that balance of play with Carter and Jenny also, you know those quieter moments where Carter and Jenny can have a “Come to Jesus” like he wants to do stand-up and she doesn’t know what she wants to do. And what does that look like when Jenny has had basically her whole life planned out? This is a huge change and to have someone like Carter in her life to support her I think is a big deal. I don’t know if she’s had that before in her life, especially in a partner.
You also get to work with Kathy Bates–
Yeah that newcomer, I think she’ll do well.
When you were auditioning for Disjointed, did you know it was going to be the Kathy Bates sitcom?
I didn’t know that going in. I went in kind of late. I was brought in a little bit later and I just knew it was a Chuck Lorre production and I had worked with Chuck before and David Javerbaum was an EP on it and creator as well and I had followed his career from Daily Show and I was like “yes yes! Of course I’ll come in and read this.” Of course, you know, the kicker is Kathy, someone who I’ve admired her work for I feel like, since Misery , probably a little before that. I love that she’s done all this stage work and she’s a titan, I think, in this industry–especially being a woman of her age. It’s very hard to find women with careers like this and I really admire that about her.
And then being on set, you know, I was, well, I was pretty frickin’ nervous but she is exactly like she interviews: down to earth, funny as all get out, very generous acting partner, and a great leader on set. I mean, she’s #1 on the call sheets. She sets the tone. We call ourselves, the cast and crew, family and she’s the one who sets that precedent so it’s been an absolute blast getting to work with her. And getting to watch her work has been such a learning experience. It makes everyone on set up their game for sure.
And it’s also great to see her in a multicam setting. What’s it been like to work in that format?
I love multicam. I think it’s the closest we can get to Vaudeville. And that to me is, like, Vaudeville obviously comes from us telling stories around a fire. It’s just something that’s so embedded in our DNA. And yes it is bigger, and yes we do have a live audience, which I know has been a weird turning off point for people but I love the format of sitcoms because you get to merge humor, especially with Chuck Lorre at the helm, with some bigger topics that I think that a lot of shows shy away from. And it gives the audience an opportunity to laugh while also being educated and start that dialogue especially about something like marijuana.
Like, I would never have guessed that a sitcom like this could be so influential in opening up that dialogue, at least in my social media, between kids and parents. That’s insane to me, when people will tweet out like “I’m watching this with my grandma. I’m watching this with with my mom.” You know? And I would never have thought that. They’re having these discussions and I love that.
In terms of sitcom format, it’s the sweetest job you can get. It’s basically a 9 to 5. We are very lucky to have incredible people, writers, producers, who make run-throughs go by really quickly. We’ve had such fun directors like Richie Keen, Jamie Widdoes, James Burrows.
You had James Burrows directing the pilot! He’s a legend.
He’s the king, man. And when you get that, I feel like you get the blessing from Jimmy and Chuck you’re like “Okay, I think we’re on to something here.” Especially also when you have someone like Kathy Bates who is like, “This is funny, I want to do this. This is important, this is something I want to continue to do.” She’s done so much incredible work on television recently like with American Horror Story . And the live shows are so much fun. I couldn’t ask for better audiences and it’s really fun and always surprising to see what people laugh at. ‘Cause we will think something is funny in rehearsal and then we get it up on its feet in front of an audience and people will laugh at something none of us thought was funny.
This is something I’ve always wondered about the Netflix multicam shows. Before Netflix, multicam studio audiences were theoretically also watching along at home, so they would be familiar with the show and the week-to-week storylines. But the Netflix shows drop all at once. Did you notice a difference between the live audiences in the first and the second half of Season 1, since they might have been able to watch the show on Netflix–or did you actually tape all 20 of them at once?
Yeah, so we taped them all at once. We kind of got audiences who obviously came to see Kathy Bates and a Chuck Lorre show. I don’t think these audiences understood we’d be saying “fuck” and making scatalogical jokes and talking about cannabis so much. But we were really great to have a great warm-up guy and his name is Mark Sweet and he helps guide the audience through. Some shows can drag and that’s usually because of technical difficulties. If we do get to come back, I will be really excited to see how that changes because we were basically in a vacuum. We were shouting into a blackhole, and we show the audiences playbacks so they understand who the characters are and a little bit of what’s going on. But what’s so fun about multicam, and especially a show like Disjointed , is you can tune in pretty much any episode and the archetypes of the characters are pretty broad so you know what’s going on. You don’t have to see everything, you can sit back and let it wash over you and still have a great time.
Speaking of a great time, there is one thing that everyone online wants to know about the show: do y’all actually smoke real weed on the show?
If we did we’d all be so messed up. None of us would get any work done. No, it’s this herbal mixture that’s really disgusting, has no carcinogens in it, but it tastes like butthole and everyone has like a hairball in the back of their throat by the end of the night. You know we have vape pens and those are just flavored oils, there’s no CBD or THC in them. We do have Dr. Dina on set to make sure that everything on set looks as real as possible–she’s Snoop Dogg’s doctor of choice. So she’s been great at making sure everything looks real, you know, making sure that what we’re smoking isn’t dated and that’s been really fun.
You know it would be fun to smoke on set but it’s pretty much a 6-hour taping and to continuously have to inhale and inhale, we’d be all so messed up. We wouldn’t get anything done. The audience would be hot boxed and no one would do anything we’d all just sit around and just raid craft [services].
If Disjointed comes back for Season 2, what would you want to see happen for Jenny? Any big fingers-crossed hopes?
Oh yeah big fingers-crossed is that she really leans into becoming a healer and looks to Ruth as a mentor. I would love more scenes with Michael Trucco and with Dougie [Baldwin] who plays Pete. I feel like Pete really got isolated these last couple episodes with Biowave and I have the most–he’s so incredibly talented, I had the most fun working with him. And oh, and Liz Alderfer. When you get the two Lizzes together, we’re so crazy. I’d also love to do a rap music video but I don’t know if they will let me. It’s probably for everyone’s safety that I don’t but you know a girl can dream.
One last question: what are you streaming or bingeing right now?
Oh this is gonna be embarrassing. You promise you won’t laugh too hard at me?
No you can laugh. I’m really into The Bachelor .
Oh, our site is all about The Bachelor .
Arie is so boring but I can’t stop watching that trainwreck. I’ve been watching that and I’ve been watching Dark. And I am pumped about RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3. I’ve also been bingeing Staircase Murders which is a documentary that is on YouTube illegally I think… because I love true crime. Actually you’ll love this: the ladies of Disjointed–so that’s myself, Betsy [Sodaro], Nicole [Sullivan], and Liz–we love to get together and watch true crime together. Yeah, you know, just us girls, watchin’ murder.
You can stream all of Disjointed Season 1 on Netflix now.Get ready to have all of your burning questions answered, Disjointed fans! ]]>