Nerds and Beyond had the chance to sit down with the talented Bethany Joy Lenz and talk about her work on the new scripted drama podcast from iHeartMedia, Aftershock. Stacked with a knock-out cast, Aftershock comes from the mind of Sarah Wayne Callies who is joined by the likes of David Harbour and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as fellow actors and executive producers. Aftershock also features names like Tati Gabrielle, Janel Parrish, Russell Hornsby, Rockmond Dunbar, Tovah Feldshuh, Bethany Joy Lenz, Michael O’Neill, Austin Amelio, and EJ Bonilla.
Best known for her work as Haley James Scott on the hit 2000s drama One Tree Hill, Lenz has been immersed in a plethora of artistic mediums, including television, film, television films like Bottled with Love, theatre, music, and the realm of podcasts, easily traversing a variety of sectors of entertainment. Without further ado, let’s jump right into our talk with Bethany!
*THIS INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED FOR CLARITY*
Nerds and Beyond: First of all, thank you for taking the time to sit down with me. I’m very excited to have this opportunity to speak to you!
Bethany: I’m so glad! Thanks for reaching out. I’m always excited to talk about Aftershock. It’s such a cool project.
Nerds and Beyond: So for our viewers who aren’t familiar with Aftershock, can you just describe the basic premise of the podcast and also tell us a bit about Karen, the character you’re portraying?
Bethany: Yeah! There’s been a massive earthquake and there has been a new island that’s appeared off the coast of Los Angeles. There’s a woman who has disconnected, been separated from her family during the earthquake and she’s trying to get back to them. I play Karen, who is found as a group of people who are already on this island, and this group that she’s a part of… let’s just say they’re a little creepy.
Nerds and Beyond: And correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re the one narrating the intro and outro to the podcast, right?
Bethany: Yes, I am.
Nerds and Beyond: How did you get chosen for that honor?
Bethany: I don’t know! They just… Sarah just called me. Sarah and Ben Haber, I guess they just were like, “Hey, we need somebody to do all this stuff and we like your regular voice too” — because I do a French accent as Karen — and then they asked me, “We like your speaking voice too. Will you do this?” I was like “Sure, yeah!” I had all the equipment from some other podcast stuff that I was doing, so I said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” It was actually really fun. It’s always been a little mini dream of mine to do stuff like this, to do radio work and narration, so this was a really fun little opportunity.
Nerds and Beyond: Well, you’re doing a great job so far. You have a very calming voice.
Bethany: Thank you, thank you. And I guess I shouldn’t say it’s a little opportunity. I mean my goodness, it’s a great opportunity. The podcast is doing so well! I think we’re all just blown away at how it’s taken off. But I guess we shouldn’t be. The pedigree between Sarah, David, Jeffrey and the concept and the fanbase that all of them have and the big boom right now in fiction scripted radio. I just think it’s such a winner, and I’m really proud of her.
Nerds and Beyond: Yeah, it’s really a great project. So, in Aftershock, like you mentioned, your character Karen has a French accent. Do you speak French and if not, how did you train yourself and prepare to speak in that accent?
Bethany: Un petit peu. Usually, when I go to France, I say to everyone, “Bonjour. Je regrette, je parle pas francais. Parlez vous Anglais?” which means, “Hello. I’m sorry, I don’t speak French. Do you speak English?” [laughs]. That is sort of what I say everywhere so… it gets me around. I have spoken a very minimal amount of French since high school, and that’s to kind of get around. I know some basic phrases, and I can understand a little bit more than I speak. And most of my French experience has been in Paris, so that’s the accent I know best.
And, I mean, I really don’t know if the accent’s any good or not. I have deep questions about it [laughs]. However, I have a girlfriend who is French, my friend Amira, and I just sent her some of my lines and I was like, “Hey, I need to know how to say some of this stuff. Can you say this to me in your accent? Can you just say this into your voice notes on your phone?” So then I copied that as best I could. Hopefully, it’s convincing enough [laughs].
Nerds and Beyond: That’s a very unique story of how you came up with that accent!
Bethany: Yeah, but I don’t think Sarah knew that. Apparently, she was on set on a show with Hilarie Burton, and Sarah was mentioning that she needed someone with a French accent or someone French for this character in this podcast Aftershock, and Hilarie said, “Wait, call Joy! Joy is such a Frenchie, she’s such a francophile. Call her!” So she did, and I was like “Yes!” And then I went, “Shit! I gotta figure out how to do a French accent for real now.” But that’s what you do as an actor, you just say yes and figure out how afterward.
Nerds and Beyond: Speaking of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Hilarie Burton Morgan, there are a lot of names our viewers will be familiar with attached to Aftershock. One in particular is Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who’s an executive producer and also a cast member. You have a connection with him through Hilarie, your former cast member on One Tree Hill. Was it a cool coincidence when y’all found out you’d be working together on this project?
Bethany: Well, as I said, I got involved because of Hilarie’s suggestion. Sarah is a good friend of mine, but I think that she didn’t know… for whatever reason she hadn’t thought of me for that. So I totally credit Hilarie for giving her the idea, and I’m so glad. Yeah, it was just a coincidence that Jeff was working on it as well. But I didn’t actually get to do any scenes with Jeff. I mean, he was in New York doing all this stuff and I don’t think Karen was in any scenes with Jeff either so, we didn’t actually get to work together. But, you know, it’s always a nice little couple degrees of separation in this business. There’s always some sort of family connection.
Nerds and Beyond: What initially drew you to the role of Karen?
Bethany: The idea really just came through Hilarie, so Sarah just sent me the script and said, “Hey, would you read Karen for us in this project?” and I said yes. So I’m just super flattered that she thought of me and took the idea and ran with it. And I was super excited about the script. Of course, I want to support my friend, and I was really glad that when she sent it to me it was really good! [laughs] You know, sometimes friends have ideas and then the projects aren’t always what you want them to be or not always up to par with what kind of work you want to be doing. But I expect nothing less from Sarah. Everything that she does is really high-caliber and she’s a very creative, very smart woman.
Nerds and Beyond: Yes, she’s phenomenal! So, Maude seems to have a significant amount of influence over Karen as we’ve seen up to this point. At the time of this interview, only three episodes are out, but when Karen is apart from her, she seems to change a little bit, become a little more sympathetic and autonomous. But as soon as she’s back in the older woman’s orbit, it’s like she’s under her spell again. Can you talk a little bit about the dynamic between Maude and Karen and how that will be important moving forward? As much as you can.
Bethany: Ooh, I might have to get back to you on that one. The other thing that you have to remember is that I have not read all of the script, I only read my episode. Yeah, your observation is correct. The reason it’s hard for me to answer that is A) I can’t give spoilers but B) I haven’t read all the scripts. So I’ve only read stuff that I was a part of. So how it all intertwines with the whole story, I wouldn’t be able to say because I haven’t seen the whole thing. I’ve been learning it as we go. And that’s because Sarah and Ben wanted to keep a really tight lid on everything to make sure that nothing got out. I mean it’s really common in this industry when there’s a high-profile project. You want to make sure that you don’t send everything over email and you can’t just send files all the time because it can get leaked. Things happen. So, I think a lot of us involved with the project haven’t heard all of it yet or read all of the script. So I am on the journey with you guys!
Nerds and Beyond: Can you tell me a little bit about your experience recording this podcast since you all had to record remotely basically during the height of the pandemic?
Bethany: Yeah, it was fun actually! I was grateful to have something to do during the pandemic that was a professional gig. I was like, “GREAT! Something to do!” I recorded with Sarah and David Harbour in Burbank at just a recording studio that she had connections with. We knocked it all out in one afternoon. Just pushed through everything.
I’m sure that she can enlighten you more on the experience [of] recording piecemeal like that with everyone all over the place, which I’m sure presents an enormous challenge. Because as actors, you rely so much on the energy of the other person in the room. So to be doing that across the nation, you know, you get a file from someone and it’s like, “Oh, great but I really wanted to do it this way.” So then, she had to direct and help them adjust as they were recording, sometimes without the other actors. I’m sure it was a big challenge. But for me, it was really easy. I just showed up to work and read my lines and had David and Sarah in the room with me, so that made it a lot easier.
Nerds and Beyond: Speaking of podcasts, I’m a huge One Tree Hill fan, and I can’t in good conscience let you go without asking you at least one question about your other project that you’ve got going on.
Bethany: Aw, sure. I’m so glad to hear that you’re a fan! I’m always so glad to hear that from the college-age, younger generation! That’s such a cool thing.
Nerds and Beyond: You and your former co-stars Hilarie Burton Morgan and Sophia Bush decided to launch Drama Queens, the One Tree Hill rewatch podcast, which is also through iHeartRadio. What inspired you, both personally and as a group, to take that trip down memory lane all these years later?
Bethany: We were inspired by the idea of restoration and reclamation. Being able to take back the space that had been clouded for us by a lot of unhealthy sources, a lot of unhealthy people, a lot of unhealthy internal insecurities and perspectives. And to take that back and reclaim it and turn it into something even better than it was before in terms of our friendship, our connection with each other, and our ability to support and lift each other up. And to support and lift up other women. And set the example for young women that we always wanted to set when we were younger women and just didn’t quite have the platform to do so. We’re really grateful for this opportunity, and we all feel really inspired. We talk daily about ideas and how to make it better, how to make this world a better place for girls.
Nerds and Beyond: Yes. It’s really important what you guys are doing, speaking up about what went on behind the scenes. Because obviously, as the audience, we don’t get to see that. So kudos to you guys.
Bethany: And the hard part is, we didn’t want to ruin it for anybody. As a fan yourself, you know when you’re a fan of a show, you hold it dear to your heart and you don’t want it to be soiled, especially if something really bad was happening on set. It kind of muddies the water, it sullies the memory of it. So we really wanted to keep the great memories alive, and keep the fandom alive and excited and fall even more in love with the show. Because sometimes, it’s helpful to see the flaws in things. It helps you have a better perspective. If you can see where the redemption is on the other side of it, seeing the flaws can sometimes make the redemption of it a lot more powerful.
Nerds and Beyond: One more quick question about Drama Queens. Obviously, you can be heard singing in the theme song, but did you write it as well? How did that little jingle come together?
Bethany: I did write it! Yeah, you better believe I wrote that. They said, “Let’s do a theme song. Joy, write a theme song!” and I said “Okay!” [laughs]. I don’t know, it came to me. It was one of those. It was too easy. I wrote in an hour, in an afternoon. The tempo kind of popped into my head and the tone of it and what I thought it should sound like, what would be really fun. I just started tapping it out and writing phrases and words and just crafted it, wove it all together!
Nerds and Beyond: It’s so catchy!
Bethany: Thanks! You can download it. It’s on iTunes.
Nerds and Beyond: Closing out, it seems like you’ve comfortably stepped into another sector of the entertainment industry with these podcast gigs. Do you think podcast roles are something you plan to continue pursuing in the future — whether that be scripted like Aftershock or more freestyle like Drama Queens?
Bethany: Absolutely! I’ve got a couple of other ideas right now. I’m in contract negotiations on one concept in particular and talking with another company on something else personally that revolves a bit around music. So, there’s some good stuff happening in that world, and I love scripted podcasts. I’ve been dying to be a reader. I want to read books, like audiobooks. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was in high school. So I’m hoping that I can start getting into some of that too, because I really love audio work.
Nerds and Beyond: Well, that’s about all we have time for. Do you have any last words or thoughts that you want to touch on?
Bethany: I really appreciate your support and encouragement. Thank you for your interest. Let’s hope these projects have a long shelf life!
Once again, we extend a huge thank you to Bethany Joy Lenz for taking the time to speak with us! Aftershock‘s new episodes release on Wednesdays on iHeartRadio and all other major platforms. Make sure to check it out, and as always, stay tuned for more updates!