As adorable as he is, a teddy bear come to life makes for a complicated romantic partner, particularly one who has co-dependency issues, a salty sense of humor and an appetite for booze and weed. Then, of course, there are the legal challenges to his very existence as an independent being. But Jessica Barth makes it look easy as she returns as Boston checkout girl Tami-Lynn in "Ted 2.".
The actress, accomplished in both comedic and dramatic roles – including an occasional guest voice on "Ted 2" director Seth MacFarlane's "Family Guy” -- checked in with Spinoff Online to discuss the relationship challenges facing Ted and Tami-Lynn, her wardrobe inspirations, who left her star-struck on set, and why it's totally OK to give her an actual teddy bear.
Spinoff Online: What was especially fun about playing Tami-Lynn the second time around? Was there something new to her you got excited about?
Jessica Barth: Yeah, the difference is I got to expand so much on her character, and now she's married and she's trying to settle into her domestic life, being a good wife and then going through marital problems and trying to have a baby. And then, standing by Ted through this whole process proving his personhood. So I was really excited to do some of the more dramatic scenes and some of the more emotional scenes to flesh Tammy Lynn out more. I mean, she's a really unique and fun character that you don't often see in films, so I was really excited that I was able to take that to the next level in a sequel.
Even in comedic contexts, I really liked the level of reality that you play her with. Was it on your mind to keep her – within the world of "Ted," of course – a relatively real person?
Yeah, absolutely! I approached her in any way that I do any character that I play, and I really prepare a lot. I do all the backstory. I really create as much of the character as I can – like. really specific choices, and I had to make the relationship with Ted just like I would if he was a human being. So I never looked at him as a teddy bear in doing my work, because I need to believe in that relationship in order for the audience to believe in it. And it's no fun playing a caricature of somebody, so I really just had to make specific choices to make her a real person, so people would root for her and invest in her.
As fun as this job is, there are a couple degrees of difficulty that it comes with. The first one is the Boston accent, which you once again nailed. Did you slip right back into it?
Oh, thank you! No. I definitely – I could slip back into it, but in order to really try to be flawless with it to where people really … I had a reputation in Boston to uphold! I had to do as much work in the second one as I did in the first one. I have a pretty good ear, but I wanted it to be really authentic so I spent a lot of time with the girl from Quincy, and I spent a lot of time in bars in Boston and just going around and really listening to the people. My driver on both "Ted" and "Ted 2" was from Medford, so he would help me out a lot. That was really important to Seth in order to cast me, and I just really wanted to keep that going.
Did Mark Wahlberg give you notes or tweaks this time around?
Occasionally for a word here and there, I would ask him, for sure, just to make sure I was saying it right.
Second degree of difficulty: her wardrobe. What did you love, and what did you hate?
Well, I loved how it looked. I hated how it felt [laughs]. They're not the most comfortable clothes. One outfit in particular, I had to be sewn into the bodysuit, into the jeans. It was not the most fun of the movie, but she's very specific in her wardrobe.
And it was a very collaborative process in creating her look – Cindy [Evans] is the costume designer, and she was amazing. We spent a lot of time going through different outfits, going through all different pieces for her, down to her jewelry. How long my nails should be, things like that. But it was really fun. The first one, in terms of my hair, I watch a lot of "Jersey Shore," and took style notes from Snooki. And this one, she's matured a little bit, so I took some makeup tips from the Kardashians – anything over the top and always going out, full-blown hair and makeup would add to her character.
Tell me about shooting scenes opposite Ted essentially by yourself. Was it any easier on the second film, or was there a scene especially tricky to pull off?
It was actually – it required a lot more this time around because I had to get to those emotional depths. I had to have quite a few dramatic scenes in the movie, and to do that opposite an empty space is quite difficult. So I had to really be prepared and really do my work as an actor, so that when I was able to go on set, I didn't have anybody looking back at me to react off of.
I did my best to make it as real and believable as possible, so that was a really cool acting challenge. Seth is, obviously, there acting with you off-camera, but it's not the same as looking at somebody. So it's definitely, definitely a challenge, especially for the more emotional scenes, and the fight scene, the same thing: you just have to hope that you do your work and it comes across in a believable way.
One of the fun things in this "Ted" film is all the celebrity cameos. Did you get to share a scene or be on set with someone who just blew your mind?
Morgan Freeman! [laughs] Thank God, the first day he came on set, I didn't have any lines. I just was able to sit back and watch him do what he does so masterfully. He's unbelievable. And I was definitely star-struck – and I don't get star-struck quite often, but I was definitely geeking out over Morgan Freeman. I'm like, "Hello, Mr. Freeman. I'm a huge fan!"
But he was really down to Earth, and the ultimate professional, and he's really funny which I was kind of surprised at: that he's really funny and down to do whatever joke that Seth threw at him. I had to act with him. We all had to say different things to him in the hospital scene that didn't quite make it into the film, but I had to say some pretty vulgar things to him. So that was probably the most challenging of all.
You've been friends with Seth for quite a while. Do you get to say to him, "Dude, that line is just too far. I can't ..."
I would have no problem saying that to him, but I pretty much trust him with anything creatively. I trust that if it's too far, he won't use it. But I'm always open to have fun and explore any situation that he wants. And then I really trust that he will take it out if it's not working or give me something else to do if it's not working. I just rely on his comic genius.
Do you ever take it a step further on your own?
No – I'm not going to try to top him! I think he's the master. I'm just going to let him do his thing [laughs]. But he definitely allows you to play around and be open. He's open to suggestions, and he loves improvisation and all of that. I love improv, but in a film like this with a script like this, I kind of leave it to them. They're extraordinary writers, amazing comic writers. So I just let them do their thing and hopefully, it comes across funny.
You made such a great impression in the first film. How did that part change things for you, both in Hollywood and in your everyday life?
Yeah, it opens a lot of doors. People look at it like, if a studio like Universal is going to trust you, if someone like Seth is going to trust you with a role like this, it opens doors for you and allows people to take you more seriously as an actress. I do get recognized and people were kind of surprised that I am the way that I am. That I'm not like Tami-Lynn in a lot of ways, so that's always fun. And they're like, "Wait, wait – what? I didn't expect that."
And you have a lot of creative abilities and ambitions outside of acting. Has this franchise helped you get traction with any personal projects?
Yes, it has, and people that I'm meeting and are able to meet with and just people that I'm meeting with as friends. I'm able to hopefully collaborate with them. It just basically opens doors and easier to get meetings and things like that. People actually want to meet you, instead of like, "Can you please meet with me? I really am good!" It's a nice way to showcase what you can do, especially in the sequel because I get to be more dramatic, have more dramatic scenes, so it's not just me and my fight scenes. I have to cry and go through this whole range of emotions with her, which is really fun.
Tell me what we're going to see you in, and how these roles may be different.
The role that I'm finishing up is a horror film, and it's an exorcism film. So I wanted to do something different than Tami-Lynn, just for that reason, so people can see me in other things than just a character. It's a horror film. I love horror films. I'm happy to be a part of it. And yeah, I think that it was just important to myself and my team to do something as far away from Tammy Lynn as we could.
Is it real weird now if anybody gives you a teddy bear as a gift?
No – I would just laugh at that! I think that's hysterical. I actually have two of the Teds. I have one from the first one, and I have one from the second one that has a tuxedo. I'm told there's supposed to be a Tami-Lynn doll coming out, so that will be fun.
”Ted 2” opens today nationwide.