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Betty Buckley Prepares to Take the Lead in Hello, Dolly! National Tour

Betty Buckley Prepares to Take the Lead in Hello, Dolly! National Tour

Betty Buckley
Photo by Myriam Santos

The star of stage and screen has had a busy summer, with a new album, a role in AMC's Preacher, and the upcoming musical tour.

Betty Buckley has built an iconic repertoire of work over the years, a star of stage and screen who truly respects the craft. Early in her career, she won a Tony for originating the role of Grizabella in Cats on Broadway. The same year, she starred alongside Robert Duvall as Dixie in Tender Mercies, a character she fondly recalls as one of her favorites.

In the years since, she's taken the stage in London, New York, and across the US to play roles in Sunset Boulevard and Music of the Night. And at 71, she has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. She recently appeared alongside James McAvoy in Split, her second film with writer/director, M Night Shyamalan.

I recently spoke with Buckley from her ranch in West Texas. She considers it her oasis away from the hustle of New York and Los Angeles, a place to unwind during downtime in her busy schedule.

"I love my ranch," she says. "It's been a really incredible gift in my life that I gave myself 15 years ago. It really makes for a very balanced life to come here. I just rode my horses this afternoon. All the stuff that clutters your mind just falls away. It's a beautiful day here, and everything's really green."


James McAvoy and Betty Buckley in M Night Shyamalan's Split

It's been a particularly busy summer for Buckley. She's preparing to embark on a national tour, fulfilling the iconic titular role in Hello, Dolly! And with the third season finale of Preacher airing this weekend, she wrapped production earlier in the summer as the delightfully wicked Madame L'Angell. In June, she also released her latest album, Hope.

During these troubling times, she considers the musical compilation to provide just that for listeners and fans, hope. For her, it was also a therapeutic experience to record.

"I pick songs that can help people feel their feelings and go through a catharsis of their emotions while they're listening to that music," she says. "That's always been kind of my Modus operandi if you will. I hope people listen to Hope and start to feel better. From my experience, the musicians that are doing beautiful work, the filmmakers, the actors, all the artists who are putting really beautiful positive work in the world that give me a reflection of what's true, I'm very grateful for."

As for her role in Preacher, it's allowed her to explore a darker side of her artistic range. But those are the roles she enjoys playing. And as a fan of the show, she was immediately intrigued with her character, someone she describes as one-dimensional in the graphic novel, an opportunity to bring her own brand of gravitas to the interpretation.

"They told me she was this really evil character, this Cajun sorceress, and she's the grandmother to Jesse Custer, the preacher. She loves him, but she's this really evil, abusive gal," she explains. "I'll tell you, when I went to acting school in my early 20s, the specific thing I wanted to learn how to do was play psychologically complicated and abhorrent characters like the great Kim Stanley and Gena Rowlands. And I specifically studied hard to learn how to do that. That was my dream, to play psychologically complex ladies. So, I've gotten to do it a few times, but I have to say it's probably one of the darker characters I've ever played. It was really fun."


Betty Buckley in Preacher on AMC

Next month, she returns to the stage in the iconic role of Dolly Gallagher for the national tour of Hello, Dolly! The role has recently been portrayed in a Broadway revival by the likes of Bernadette Peters and Bette Midler, a fact Buckley does not take lightly.

"Between you and me, I'm somewhat daunted about it," she says. "I saw a show with Bette Midler, and she's one of my all-time favorite leading ladies. So, I thought it was so perfect, the production and her performance. I never imagined it as something that would come my way."

As she's learned, a tour requires a bit of stamina. She'll be performing eight shows a week, with stops from Miami to San Francisco and everywhere in between.

But Buckley keeps focused in her life and career with the use of meditation. She also teaches it as an acting tool, having recently offered a five-day workshop at the Terry Schreiber Studio in New York.

"I've been a meditator since I was in my mid-20s, so I teach the tools that I've learned with all the great teachers that I've studied with," she says. "And it's a really beautiful way of working, as I call it, a fail-proof technique. When I put myself in the trust of the meditation, it always reveals to me what I need to do. It's really kind of exquisite, the way it all comes together."

And it's an exquisite process to witness in Buckley's work, something her students are lucky enough to take away from her lessons. She offers a bit of advice for up-and-coming actors, a piece of wisdom that seems to apply to most of life's experiences:

"All humans just want to love and be loved, that's it. That's all we want. And all humans want to be seen and appreciated and respected for their humanity. Some human beings have learned an aberrated definition of what love is, and their behavior follows that. So, it benefits the actor to approach each character as an advocate."

Buy Betty Buckley's Hope at iTunes or Amazon. Tickets for her national tour of Hello, Dolly! are now available online. And see her in the season three finale of Preacher, Sunday at 10/9c on AMC. See her in a clip from this season below:

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