Exclusive: James Franco’s Mom, Inspired By Her ‘Fearless’ Son, Takes On ‘General Hospital’
Like mother, like son. James Franco’s mom Betsy has made her TV debut alongside the eccentric actor on General Hospital, and she tells Crushable exclusively what it’s like watching him in action.
“I’ve never acted with anyone of his caliber,” she said in an interview Friday. “It’s really improved my acting. He really becomes the character. … It was shocking.”
We know what you’re thinking: What is James Franco’s mom doing on General Hospital? Betsy, a children’s book author based in Northern California and also mother to actor Dave Franco and artist Tom Franco, began dabbling in acting after Dave left for college six years ago. She took classes at Stanford’s Continuing Education program and joined an improv-comedy group called “Suburban Squirrels.” She told James, “I’d love to have one line in a project you’re doing!”
“My sons had really grown a lot through acting, and I wanted to know what it was all about,” she tells Crushable.
She got her big break of sorts after filming a video on Funny Or Die that caught the attention of General Hospital‘s head writer Bob Guza. He asked James, “Is that really your mother?” So James asked Bob, “Why don’t you have her on?”
Weeks later, Betsy was filming episodes alongside her son, who returned to the ABC soap to reprise his role as the shifty “Franco.” His character resurfaced on Wednesday, and Port Charles’ top detective and mob boss are working together to track him down. They then question Betsy, who portrays “Karen,” Franco’s mother, but she is evasive (see a video clip below). The mother-son duo will be involved in a major plot twist to come later this season.
“My character is very well-written,” she says. “People will be very surprised by the twist. … This is a real character. I’ve loved being characters.” Plus, she says, “How many times do you get to act with your son, who is a wonderful actor?”
What was THAT like?
“We both felt this strangeness going on because we are mother and son but we aren’t this mother and son,” she says. “It was parallel realities.”
Betsy is signed on for 13 episodes and counting, and initially, being on set of the long-running soap was “intense” because she’d never been on such a fast-paced set. But she was welcomed with open arms by the cast. “They were SO nice to me,” she says. “I had a dressing room next to Dante (Dominic Zamprogna). A bunch of people were in his room. I peeked in, and they said, ‘Come in!'”
As for James, she says he’s friends with everybody, and down to earth despite his goofy-artiste persona.
“He’s very experimental – he’s fearless,” she says. “He’ll try movies, performance art. … Just understand that he’s pushing the envelope. He wants us to think outside the box.”
As a young boy, “He was very curious about everything. He could focus very, very sharply, even as a baby.”
Among her favorite James movies: Milk (“a beautiful performance”), Pineapple Express (“I didn’t realize he would be an adorable drug dealer”) and the upcoming drama Howl, wherein James channels Allen Ginsberg. The actor, who seems to move with ease between popular and indie entertainment, high and low culture, partly joined General Hospital for a performance-art exhibition he is showing June 22 at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
“My kids don’t seem to have any boundaries between the different mediums,” she says. “I used to have them, and I don’t know why.”
(Photo courtesy of ABC)