Bethany Kay Talks Dietland, Stunt Work, and Superheroes

If you’ve been watching Dietland on AMC  — or even just paying attention to social media since it premiered in June — you may have noticed actress Bethany Kay declaring, “I am a goddess!” Kay played a bit part in the series pilot as Janice, a Waist Watchers meeting attendee whose total confidence in her body leaves main character Plum feeling some kind of way.

After Janice left the scene — taking our hearts with her — Kay actually returned to the Dietland set to do some stunt work. We caught up with her via email to talk about the series, her experiences on set as an actress and as a stunt person, and the upcoming Faith movie based on the Valiant Comics superhero.

Fatventure Mag: Can you tell our readers a little bit about you and your performance background?

Bethany Kay: Sure! I started performing in summer camps when I was seven! And I have a huuuge singing voice and so precocious little me sang all the time in church too. I got to undergrad and thought I’d end up a psychiatrist but the acting bug bit me and I just couldn’t shake the … well, there’s no positive bug metaphor, there is there? Ha. I ended up going to grad school for acting and a bunch of TV shows later here I am!

FM: What has the feedback been like for your brief appearance as Janice in the Dietland premiere?

BK: I mean, overwhelming in the best way. I knew when I read the pilot this was going to be something special but getting to call myself a goddess and BELIEVING it? It’s just not a narrative that we curvy gals are offered all that often and I was so excited and lucky to get to be the literal face of that kind of positivity after the pushback she gets in that Waist Watchers meeting. Plus I’ve seen at least one “Be More Janice” t-shirt out there and C’MON, that’s just the best feeling, to inspire people like that.

FM: What are your thoughts on how fat people are represented in pop culture?

BK: Well, we’re too often the butt of the joke: I even have a deal with my reps that I don’t want to audition for projects that would portray me in that light. I’m a human: I love people and music and hikes and a good whiskey and books and sitting with friends and talking about all the ways the world is so much bigger than what we can possibly imagine. Why reduce all that into a sad sack archetype? It’s not responsible, but it’s also just not interesting. Seeing the post-date scene in Episode 8 of Dietland? That’s a game-changer and damn good writing.

FM: Do you think Dietland is changing how people perceive us?

BK: Oh absolutely! Or I do hope so. Just because I have extra weight on me doesn’t mean I don’t want or deserve as full a life as my straight-size friends and family. Watching Plum struggle in work, friendship, romance, everyday existence because of her weight? I hope that’s reaching people who need to understand it, for sure.

FM: What was it like to do stunt work for Dietland? What does that involve?

BK: It was fun! And I can’t stress enough that it WAS fun because the stunt coordinator and his team made it as safe as possible: I mean talk about Protocol and Preparation and … Padding. Lots of padding. I was there in case the actor I was doubling needed someone to step in for any reason, and because it was New to me I just spent as much time following John and Alexa (our stunt coordinator and stunt utility), watching what they do, and trying my best to make them look good!

FM: Did you have special training before filming any stunts?

BK: Not before that week but we sure took a good amount of time to rehearse before we hit set, to make sure I knew the best way to take my fall in a way that looked real but also that could be repeated numerous times if necessary. I did a bit of light stunt work on Boardwalk Empire, too, and funnily enough that involved me springing up from a bathtub while this was me falling. So gravity was on my side for this one!

Bethany Kay

FM: As a fat woman, did you find stunt work difficult or inaccessible in any way?

BK: Nope. I would imagine that’s also due to this being an easy maneuver but I felt taken care of for sure. That’s not to say I don’t have SO much respect for folks who do stunts for a living: the stories are sexy as hell to listen to but those folks are SO disciplined and highly highly skilled. They put in a phenomenal amount of training to look that good onscreen.

FM: Did doing stunt work push you out of your comfort zone?

BK: Not on this set. Had I been asked to do something that involved a high fall or lots of water… I’m sure I may have a different answer!

FM: How were you treated on set, both as an actress and as a stunt person? Was your treatment any different in these two roles?

BK: As an actor I’m there to tell my part of the story and efficiently. I’m there to give the team takes that inspire a great edit. If I get to call myself a unicorn and a goddess while doing it — well, sure! But there’s a bit more play and the team on set supports that. As a stunt person, it’s a similar vibe but I’m answering to and working with the stunt coordinator as well with a strong focus on physical safety: I want to hit those marks dead-on as we rehearsed and everyone on set is there to support that focused outcome. But again, it’s all to tell the strongest story we can. It was such a friendly set to begin with that it was like going to visit buds who were working on this awesome secret project. As actors we don’t always get to come back to play some more and their trusting me as part of the team means a lot!

FM: Would you like to do more stunt work? Why or why not?

BK: Sure! Now that I know how disciplined the team is and how much they’re going to take care of me, I’d be happy to learn more! Bring it on! I’ve yet to die spectacularly onscreen: write it up, folks!

FM: Would you ever want to do your own stunt work?

BK: Hahaha well … I have. For me it really is about feeling comfortable enough to be the best actor I can be while executing. If I think my acting will suffer because that comfort level isn’t present? Then I hope we can talk about finding someone who can either teach me or make the project look as good as it can in the moment. But I’m a Jersey gal, I’m game.

FM: Do you think there’s space for more fat folks to do action sequences in film and TV?

BK: I think as these stories evolve, yeah, there sure will be. Trust us: we know our limits and man, do I like surprising people.

Faith Issue #7 / Valiant Comics

FM: Have you seen the news about Valiant’s Faith Herbert comics being adapted for film? Is that a project you’d want to be involved in?

BK: Who WOULDN’T want to play a superhero? I have two nieces and two nephews and I see the way they play and how much their imagination jumps off from the stories they read. Getting to show them that my not-a-size-6 self can achieve that kind of fabulous? It makes me excited. Very very excited.

FM: Aside from stunts on set, are there any physical activities you enjoy?

BK: I go on EpicWalks around NYC all the time: no destination, just go for miles and miles. And kayaking in South Carolina when I visit those superhero-loving nieces and nephews I just mentioned. And swimming after I fall in the river about half the time … ha!

FM: If you could offer one piece of advice to the Fatventure Mag readers, what would it be?

BK: That’s a good one. I think living with sincerity and empathy are brave and NECESSARY. You know what powerhouses you are, and please show that off, but encourage other folks you meet to do the same. I’m endlessly surprised by how powerful humans are when they show up for each other in an honest way.

To keep up with Bethany Kay, follow her on Twitter and InstagramDietland airs Mondays at 9/8c on AMC. You can watch full episodes on AMC’s website.

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