Bitsie Tulloch, who plays Juliette Silverton on NBC’s Grimm, spoke to Hollywood.com about Grimm, her feature film Parkland, and her journey from Harvard to Hollywood to Portland.
So Grimm is one of television’s most popular shows right now. What do you think makes the fans so loyal?
Grimm has a little something for everyone – it’s a procedural, it’s fantasy, sci-fi, horror (albeit a palatable kind of scary in my opinion), and there’s plenty of romance and humor. David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf who created Grimm had previously been on Buffy and Angel – they EXCEL at mythology, which is one of the best things about this show, and Season 3 is delving deeper and deeper into that mythological Wesen family tree. I also believe that one of the reasons it’s been so successful internationally is that it’s not a show that is easily lost in translation – fairy tales and the format of a fairytale transcend language and culture. The fairytale format is often about a young protagonist forging his/her path and fighting against all odds in order to find his way home. But at the end of the day, as in life, it’s more about the journey than the end goal, which I think is something to which everyone can relate.
How do you see your character, Juliette, growing this season? Do you relate to Juliette on any level?
Juliette will be tested in many ways: both her physical and mental endurance, but also her understanding. She finally began to believe in the Wesen world in the penultimate episode of season 2, when all her Wesen friends morphed for her. In the next episode, she was literally thrown into the fire and having to fight for Nick’s life while fighting to save her own from a zombie invasion. Season 3 will see her getting much more involved in the action (the Scooby Squad, if you will) and putting to use her background as a doctor. As far as relating to her, I think I’m pretty thoughtful like she is, and I similarly tend to put my foot in my mouth. But I’m much more impatient and stubborn than she is, all of Season 1 she was incredibly understanding about giving Nick his space in the wake of his aunt’s death. If I was at all unsure about a friend or family member hiding something from me I think I’d last maybe 24 hours before confronting them.
Can you give us some insight into how Nick and Juliette’s relationship will change now that she has her memory back and knows about his powers?
Juliette finally being in the know about Nick and about the Wesen world changes everything for both of them. It’s been really fun for me and David Giuntoli shooting season 3. Our characters spent 2 seasons hiding things from each other! It’s been a blast being able to actually discuss the Wesen world and cases in more detail. This will both test and strengthen their relationship – but being able to go through this together I think ultimately just brings them closer together. They’re a team again.
If you could sum up Juliette in a sentence, what would it be?
Juliette is smart, sincere, and well-meaning. She can be a little naive about the ways of the Wesen world, but that’s not her fault, and she’ll learn.
Can you share a little of the culture on the Grimm set?
The cast and crew are tremendous. Everyone on the cast lives within about a 5 minute walk from one another. David lives 2 doors down from me in my apartment building, and Reggie is a few floors up! Everyone else is super nearby. Being on location we are definitely much closer than we would be had Grimm shot in LA. We are constantly doing things as a big group such as going out to dinner, bars, or even just live-tweeting. David, Bree and I watched the World Series together at my place. As hard as it was to leave LA in the beginning, now I realize what a blessing it has been, and I do love Portland.
The show is filmed in Portland. Beautiful city! Can you tell us how it is to film such a huge show outside of Hollywood? Must be fun for the locals.
I love Portland. It’s simply fantastic. It’s a small city full of creative people – it has a very artsy vibe which I love. Amazing food, all very fresh, great wine (love the Oregon Pinot Noir), and lots to do, whether it’s wine country, the coast, or hiking up to the top of Multnomah Falls. The locals all know us here which is sort of funny – it must be what it feels like to be super famous anywhere else. Everyone is super kind and pleasant. Nothing stalker-ish so far with the exception of being followed around a grocery store for 20 minutes – that I could have lived without.
Congrats on Parkland! Can you tell us a little about your character Marilyn Sitzman?
In Parkland I play Maryland Sitzman, who was the assistant to Abraham Zapruder, the man who inadvertently filmed JFK’s assassination on a home movie camera. It was the first time I’ve played a real person onscreen so I first tried to do as much research as possible about her and from that point on my focus became more about the idea of a small-town girl in a big city. I kept thinking about this girl in her early 20s who was brave enough to leave her town and her family behind, and be on her own working in a metropolis. That in and of itself speaks volumes of the huge changes happening as far as a shift in gender politics. I can definitely relate to her independence and bravery. I read every interview she ever did and watched footage of her, and as much as the event clearly traumatized her, she was always clear-headed and courageous.
This is a very important film (with an all-star cast) about a very important time in our history. How does it feel being a part of this?
Parkland was a different experience from any other film I’ve shot, not only because it was set in the 1960s and about one of the most controversial assassinations in history, but because I was playing someone who actually lived and breathed (not to mention the INCREDIBLE ensemble cast). Marilyn broke my heart, it was incredibly easy to access an almost unsustainable level of emotion because I was so hyper aware that she had been 23, so full of hopes and dreams, and then was mere feet away from seeing her idol murdered. It makes me emotional to even think about it now. Then our director Peter Landesman showed me home video footage that Zapruder had taken of Marilyn and his secretary Lillian Rogers so that I had an idea of how loving he had been as a boss, and how close-knit the work family was. That was very important to me because it was just me and Paul Giamatti out on that grassy knoll together and I knew I had to feel intimate with him and relate to him as a brother/father figure. We shot that scene right in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, which was incredibly poignant and agonizing. Paul and I were standing exactly where Abraham and Marilyn were standing. Shooting just feet away from where JFK was shot, looking at the X that has been painted on the street that marks exactly where he was shot,– that in and of itself added a heaviness to the entire situation. I was getting fairly emotional from the moment I stepped out of the production van because it was so eerie being there. Paul kept saying to me, “It’s just so sad.” You know? There’s no other way to put it. That was a moment that obviously changed the course of history but also shattered the lives of these simple people who were just out there watching the motorcade. They wanted a glimpse of glory and instead got bloodshed.
On a happier note, I really bonded with Paul and Billy Bob. How could you not? They’re both such incredible men and actors. We were all supposed to fly from Dallas to Austin after we finished filming in Dallas, but at the last minute we decided to drive. We all piled into an SUV and made stops along the way at BBQ places. I have a hilarious picture that Billy Bob took of me eating a pulled pork sandwich next to Paul, who was taking a photo of Billy Bob. Paul and I had a great time catching up at the Toronto Film Festival in September.
People may not know this about you, but you went to Harvard. How does having a background in academia help with your acting?
My intention was always to just take a brief break from academia and then go to graduate school for art history. I suppose I had a tiny inkling that I was interested in acting but I was certainly never one of those people who as a child was always dressing up and putting on plays. Acting never occurred to me as a career until I was an adult. My becoming an actress was a serendipitous journey that started with Marshall Herskovitz discovering me in a play in LA and casting me as the lead in ‘Quarterlife.’ It was such a magical way to enter this industry and this world, and now I quite literally can’t imagine having more fun doing anything else. As far as the academic background helping, one of my majors was English literature and I do think that I’m very good at breaking down a script and story. There’s no part of me that regrets getting an education, even though it had me starting the game later in life.
What’s next for you?
I’m doing an independent film over my brief winter hiatus, but otherwise I’m here in Portland shooting season 3 of ‘Grimm’ until mid-April 2014.