"Just grab a glass of wine and relax": Jennifer Bartels talks about her character Diana on 'American Woman' and losing herself in her job
Bartels plays the dynamic role of ‘Diana,’ alongside Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari for Executive Producer Kyle Richards in American Woman
For any celebrity, the road to success isn't always so smooth. You have the proverbial mountain to climb, the struggling career, the feeling of euphoria on finally having made it and the quest for more. Actress and funny lady Jennifer Bartels is one person who can attest to these events like no one else.
For those who aren't aware, Bartels was a member of truTV’s first scripted sketch show, “Friends of the People,” where she served as writer, performer and executive producer for two seasons. Additionally, she served as writer, performer and executive producer in the relationship dramedy series “Broken” on ABC.
She has since wrapped Season 1 of Paramount Networks anticipated “American Woman” playing the dynamic role of ‘Diana,’ alongside Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari for Executive Producer Kyle Richards.
In our exclusive interview with the actress, she talked about the importance of hard work and respecting work ethics, and how it is crucial to take some time and sit down to relax every once in a while.
1. Have you ever had a fangirl moment on a show or appearance which has left a mark with you?
I guess it would be the time I had the chance to meet Robin Williams at an event where I was performing. It was an absolutely life-changing experience. As a matter of fact, it was his death which made me realize that the world had lost such a gem and that too impacted me in a lot of ways.
2. What was it like to have worked with Will Smith in the past?
It was absolutely amazing. You know, it was my first movie, and I had just like three lines. To a lot of people it might be nothing, but as an actor, it was amazing for me. And Will Smith is just so friendly and so kind, with such humility, and that I think is a part which makes you a person, famous or not.
When he was around, everyone loved going to work. People used to say, "We love our job because we get to work with Will every day", so he's that kind, that nice. It was just amazing. And it was a lesson to me, a big lesson in life, that you don't always have to be a jerk if you're famous!
3. You've donned multiple hats over the years as a writer, performer as well as an executive producer. How do you manage to juggle your time between all of your commitments?
So when I started, I would say yes to everything. Because as an artist, you have to be constantly on your feet and doing something so that you do not become obsolete in any way. We live in a world where there are people who are famous just for being famous..so I had to put myself out there constantly. I didn't want to be just an actor, so I decided to write. And then when I did not have a role for myself, I thought I'd just write my own role.
And its hard, maintaining that balance. Because as people, not even as actors, we are always trying to know if you're doing enough and you keep thinking, "what else can I do? What else can I be doing?", so you have to set that balance. As artists, that's the world we live in, and that's how things work.
4. How important do you think it is to have a healthy work-life balance? Personally, where do you draw the line?
It's hard..because we work under extremely pressurizing circumstances. As a professional, you always have to be ahead of everyone, because you never know when the next person might walk in to take your place. So it's a lot of pressure to put yourself out there, and I think it is important to have certain people in your life, whether your friends, family, even a therapist, to keep you grounded. It's really nice to know that there are people who care for me and I am extremely thankful to them.
This business doesn't stop, and you always have to be working. It's like there's no space to stop. So maintaining a balance is hard. So just grab a glass of wine and relax for some time, if that makes you happy!
5. What was your journey from being a theater student to appearing on the big screen like?
It was...hard, you know? It's not easy, especially since there are so many people out there who want to be an actor to be famous, or whatever their reasons are. Because the second you stop putting in the work, there'll always be someone around the corner ready to take up your job. So a lot of it depends on your work ethic, and how hard you work, how kind you are to people, things like that. One of the most important things is your ethics when you're on the job.
6. What made you decide to take up American Woman as one of your projects?
I mean, of course, there was Alicia Silverstone. And then I also had people like Kyle (Richards) and John Wells attached to it, so. And I was not just called, but I had to audition twice for the role before it was finalized. And one of my main reasons was the character I got, the role of Diana, because she's such a multi-dimensional and powerful woman.
7. Can you tell us a little more about how you perceive your on-screen character Diana to be? What do you like the most about her?
The character of Diana is that she's an extremely multi-dimensional and powerful person, and she has a voice of her own. If you understand the women in the 70s, (which is where the characters are based) the thing about Diana is that I feel like I'm not a real-life Diana, and it's someone I would really like to be. As people, we are always involved in our own things and are afraid to take risks every now and then. But Diana, she's this person who tries to find her own footing in the world, and even though she slips, she gets right back up and continues to go for it.
8. If you had to play a different character on the same show, who would you ideally go for and why?
There's a character..it's a guest star, (a woman) who plays an agent. What I love about the character is that she's this strong, ball-busting fierce woman on screen, in a typically no-nonsense kind of way. When I looked at her character, I was like, "I want to play this role!"
9. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you spend time on the sets when you're not filming? What is the general vibe like?
I read a lot, snack a lot, and take a nap here and there every time I get a break. Also, I love 70s music, so I go back to my vanity suite since all the stars on set get one of their own, and I take a nap, listen to some music and just relax. Read, nap and snack - that's my go-to thing during breaks.