Gather ‘Round: A discussion with Beth Dover on Life, Compassion, and Tomato Gravy


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Words by Trey Jordan

Photo provided by Beth Dover

 

“Oh you like movies? My cousin is an actress.”

That’s how the conversation started with Mike Mullaney of Goat Island Brewery in Cullman, Alabama. The conversation that led me to Beth Dover.

Doesn’t sound familiar? Well load up your Netflix account and turn on a little show called Orange is the New Black. Beth plays the role of Linda Ferguson on OITNB, a show that has garnered social and critical acclaim.

My film obsession was triggered, and I knew I had to speak with her. So what did I do? Just what any good Southern neighbor does when they are out of sugar–I asked. And like any good Southern neighbor, Beth was happy to oblige.

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Beth was driving into Hollywood to read lines for an upcoming role to add to her blossoming career. We had each other on speaker–I needed to take notes, and she needed to weave through the bustling LA traffic.

For Beth, travel is a part of the job. Her stepfather was a military man, so she grew accustomed to being on the road before she ever started acting. She admits that these days her Southern roots are closer to her heart than to her home.

“I actually lived in Montgomery from six to eight years old, but I have always been moving,” she said.  “I don’t sound like a Southerner when I speak, but I love country cooking and country music. Most of my family lives in the South, so there is always that connection. I certainly feel at home when I visit.”

Beth went to high school in Tampa, Florida, and graduated with a degree in theater from The University of Florida. She got one of her first acting gigs while living in Tampa.

“Being so close to Orlando, Nickelodeon Studios was right in my back yard.” she said. “Long story short, I went in and got the part of Leanne for an episode of Keenan and Kel.”

Admittedly, I played fanboy for a minute. I didn’t ask if she liked orange soda, but it did lead nicely into another famous orange. I asked what Orange is the New Black has done for her career.

“With Orange, the show has really put me in front of a lot of eyes, which has been great. It’s on Netflix, so its seen all over the world,” she said. “I wasn’t originally supposed to be on for so long. When I first booked the role of Linda, it was only supposed to be for one episode. I’m now in my 5th season and I’ve been so thankful for the opportunity.”

She has a lot of comedy under her belt. She’s appeared in shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Another Period, and she even voiced a role in Bob’s Burgers. Her dramatic role in OITNB has been a welcome change, and a true learning experience.

Orange has been amazing. Typically I’m a comedic actor, and this show has allowed me to be funny, but also to be this real and complicated villain.” she said. “After this season wraps, I’ll be working on a horror film with Joe.”

Joe is Joe Lo Truglio, another well known name in the world of comedy–also known as Beth’s husband. The two met 15 years ago and now have a son, Eli.

“Joe wrote this really great horror film that he’ll be directing and I’ll be starring in. There is no comedy at all, it’s straight horror, so it will be this really fun challenge for us both.” she said. “I love working creatively with Joe.”

Despite her success, Beth believes the glamor surrounding actors isn’t necessary, and in most cases, it’s misplaced.

“I mean, did you see what just happened to Geoffrey Owens?” she said.

Geoffrey Owens, a pivotal character on The Cosby Show, was recently shamed for working at a Trader Joe’s. The public quickly came to his aide in support.

“Actor or no actor, we’re all just people trying to figure out a way to do what we love and be happy,” she said. “People think that just because you’ve been on TV that you have all this money and, that’s just not the case. Your average working actor only makes about $32,000 a year.” she said. “To be shamed for working hard while still pursuing your craft is terrible. He should be commended.”

When we started the conversation I made a promise to not make anything too political. However, the birth of the #MeToo Movement and the power shift in Hollywood had me curious about the thoughts of an actress right there in the middle of it.

“It’s been a pretty interesting year hasn’t it?” she said. “I think we are moving in a direction now that is good for the industry as a whole. We feel empowered to speak out against the power dynamics and expectations that are set for women in Hollywood. This dialogue has extended to other disenfranchised people as well. It’s about power and the systems in place that allow injustices to happen.”

As she continued, her passion for people and life spilled out in a way that made me just stop and listen.

“We are all so much more alike than we realize. I will always stand firm in my beliefs, but it really feels like politics has become destructive and divisive,” she said. “The presence of the 24 hour news cycle has a lot to do with that.”

“When my mother flies out to LA, she brings bacon grease in a mason jar and she cooks me and all my friends this big southern breakfast. It’s always such a sound reminder in these moments that, sometimes, all we need to do is set aside our differences and just talk to one another. Of course homemade biscuits and tomato gravy from mom always helps.”

Well, make room at the table. I couldn’t agree more.