#80: Bellamy Young - TV's "Scandal" Star
“[My] job is to prepare, know your lines, and have thought about story arc and have ideas about character, but your job is to go in there, relax, open your mind, live in the other person’s eyes, and just react to what’s happening in the moment. That’s what a meditation practice can bring you. That sort of utter calm and utter presence. You’re not in the future and you’re not in the past. You’re just living this moment,” says Bellamy Young, known by many for her starring role as Mellie Grant in ABC’s Scandal. Bellamy tells Dan about her meditation practice, which she has made part of her bedtime routine, along with conversation of Scandal’s season six finale (Spoilers beginning after 30:00), and questions from Twitter.
- Bellamy talks about developing her own meditation practice method, and the benefits it brings to her work as an actor.
- Bellamy talks with Dan about her adopted mother’s tragic loss of four husbands
- Dan tells of his history as a problem child, including his first arrest and his career as a graffiti artist.
- Bellamy tells how her life is all built off of talents she pursued based on erroneous information about her birth parents.
- Bellamy tells about her proudest accomplishment in her life, which happened this year.
Q&A with Twitter followers:
- Spoiler Alert: Bellamy discusses the Scandal season finale, and her becoming emotionally invested in the outcome of her character Mellie’s election campaign.
- What Bellamy would do in her first 100 days as President
“I focus on just getting a little space at first between my atoms. Then a little more space between my atoms, and a little more, and eventually I just dissolve into everything, and I'm reminded that that's our actual natural state. And I stay there, thoughtless and suspended and complete, for as long as I can.” -Bellamy Young
“I started in a lot of different ways, because you must. I started with the breath. I tried with a candle. I tried so many different things. It really came back to a visceral experience of oneness, for me. It's been so helpful, so fulfilling, so grounding.” -Bellamy Young
“I've been studying, recently, some of the science around behavior change. You wisely intuited a very important thing, which is you've got to know yourself. If you're not a morning person, don't do it in the morning. If you're not a night person, don't do it in the night. Experiment, find the time that works for you, be willing to fail, and start again. That's how we make abiding habits.” -Dan Harris
“Our answers, what we seek is always within us. So we have the answers. We're asking the questions because the answers exist and want to get out of us, right? So just get calm and listen and you'll know what you need.” -Bellamy Young
“You learn not to identify with the thoughts… Fundamentally, you have the thought, but you know that you are not those thoughts, so you have the option to disengage. You have the objectivity to forgive yourself, right? … Really those thoughts are something that are happening to you that you can just love and release.” -Bellamy Young
“What I've always thought was one of the coolest things about being an actor is you get to live like a thousand lifetimes in one lifetime.” -Bellamy Young
“Your body, when you're acting, has no idea you're acting. You're going through something. You're going through it. It just doesn't know the difference. ... My body doesn't know I'm lying, so you really have to have a way to process and have a way to learn and move forward.” -Bellamy Young
“I love trying to find another person’s soul, center, whatever. Be handed a bunch of lines and try and really find the human behind them is my favorite crossword puzzle ever.” - Bellamy Young
Other Content Mentioned:
How to learn more about Bellamy:
Introduction from Dan:
Dan: A little bit of housekeeping as we start this new podcast. You may remember Sebene Selassie from episode 43, really, really interesting teacher who has also had some harrowing health experiences. She has just posted some free guided meditations on the 10% Happier app, including a five-minute one called "Working With Anxiety," and a one-minute meditation called, "For an Anxious Moment." This is a woman who knows a little bit about anxiety, and these meditations are great. And again, they're free on the 10% Happier App.
All right, now down to business. This week we have Bellamy Young, who is one of the stars of a show called Scandal, which happens to air on a network called ABC, which is where I also work. Let this one unfurl. I was really ... I didn't know much about Bellamy and I learn over the course of this interview, and she became ... She started interesting, and just got increasingly so as the thing progressed, and there were a lot of little surprises along the way. So really just let this one unfurl and enjoy it. Here we go, Bellamy Young.
Conversation with Bellamy & Dan:
Dan: How, when, where, why did you start meditating?
Bellamy: It has been many years. My mom has buried four husbands and it was after the third, who was a very lovely, lovely man named Barry, that I really went through a time of finding myself, finding my roots, finding my anchor in this life. I didn't want to feel so upended and untethered. At the time a friend was studying TM in L.A., and although I'm not a subscriber to a particular branch of meditation, I really saw transformation in her life, and was so very interested in the experience of it and started to read a little bit. I'm a science geek, started to read a little bit about how it changes your brain and finding my way for myself with it.
For me, I can't ... I'm a very lucid dreamer and I never want to take the day into my dreams. I feel like that's a time to get higher knowledge, to receive other information, messages, whatever ... guidance.
I like to give the day away right as I'm getting into bed. It's a simpler process for me, maybe than some. I start on my breath, I breathe in on three words, "Yes," and out on, "Yes," and in on, "Love," and out on, "Love," and in on, "Thank you," and out on, "Thank you." Then I literally, you know, we all suffer with the thoughts that come and go and associate with the space between or a higher self or whatever. For me, it's more molecular. I focus on just getting a little space at first between my atoms. Then a little more space between my atoms, and a little more, and eventually I just dissolve into everything, and I'm reminded that that's our actual natural state. And I stay there, thoughtless and suspended and complete, for as long as I can.
Dan: So this is a pre-bedtime ritual?
Bellamy: Yeah. Yeah, and then I find I can go to sleep clear, you know? I don't ... this nattering mind, because gosh do I have one, it doesn't go into whatever that state of consciousness is that allows us to rest, rebuild, renew, receive.
Dan: So did you just make this up on your own? Because if you did, that's great!
Dan: Where did you get it from? Because your friend was studying transcendental meditation. You didn't want to go down that road? You just made up your own thing?
Bellamy: For me, and it's such a personal path.
Dan: Yes, absolutely.
Bellamy: And there's no wrong or right ... For me, that journey seemed so personal, and it seemed like you would intuit what you needed. That's just where I wound up. I started in a lot of different ways because you must. I started with the breath. I tried with a candle. I tried so many different things. It really came back to a visceral experience of oneness, for me. It's been so helpful, so fulfilling, so grounding. I really ... there's some reason, you know, press days like this week, anything like that that I think I don't have time, there's never a time that I don't time because if I don't have time, I really lose the rest of my weekday life. It really is destabilizing.
Dan: But it sounds like the way you've structured it, doing it right before you go to sleep, you don't have to find time for it during the day, you just have to make sure that you do it before you go to bed.
Dan: That's smart.
Bellamy: Well, I don't know, because I'm a night person. Some people are morning people and they'll do better to meditate in the morning.
Dan: Yes, yes.
Bellamy: I'm definitely a night person. It's right for me.
Dan: I've been studying, recently, some of the science around behavior change. You wisely intuited a very important thing, which is you've got to know yourself. If you're not a morning person, don't do it in the morning. If you're not a night person, don't do it in the night. Experiment, find the time that works for you, be willing to fail, and start again. That's how we make abiding habits.
Bellamy: Yeah, and our answers, what we seek is always within us. So we have the answers. We're asking the questions because the answers exist and want to get out of us, right? So just get calm and listen and you'll know what you need.
Dan: You mentioned this is a press week. We should say that I am interviewing you on the morning after Scandal's big season finale.
Bellamy: Yeah, season six finale! If I sound little ... wreck, we've had such a beautiful week. They announced this week, also, that next year is our final season. So it's been such a bittersweet week, to share this ... My cast is such a family. Cast, crew, writers, all of us. There's so very much love, it's an unbelievably heart-based endeavor. This is the last week we'll share in New York, together, seeing plays, doing press, being the Scandal family. It was all just very, very rich yesterday.
Dan: I have a million Scandal questions.
Bellamy: Come on, Dan, bring it.
Dan: Before I bring it, I just want to stay on meditation for a second.
Dan: When did you institute this nightly ritual? How many years ago? What did it do for you?
Bellamy: It was probably, like, 2003 or '04?
Dan: That's a while ago! Okay, yeah.
Bellamy: Yeah, a minute ago.
Dan: So back in 2003 or '04, okay.
Dan: So this is a good long run.
Bellamy: Yeah. Well, you know, you know it's life changing, and then it becomes like breathing.
Dan: Yes. Of course.
Bellamy: You're like, "Why would I not breathe? That would be crazy." Yeah, it's been so helpful.
Dan: Do you feel like, you talked about your nattering mind ... Do you feel like you have some distance from some of the unhelpful things that the mind is offering up? What is the impact in your daily life?
Bellamy: Definitely my sleep improved. I had much unrest in my sleep because I would just take all of the thoughts in there with me and wrestle them all night long. That makes your life better immediately. Also, I, as you do, you learn not to identify with the thoughts. So even when they come during the day, those old tapes, or self-doubt, or obsessing about things that are out of your control. You know, fundamentally, you have the thought, but you know that you are not those thoughts, so you have the option to disengage. You have the objectivity to forgive yourself, right? Your mind is not driving this little horse and buggy. Really those thoughts are something that is happening to you that you can just love and release.
Dan: (laugh) That's great.
Bellamy: You know? And if you don't, then you're choosing, right? Then you're choosing. And I make that choice as often as other people do. I get something on my mind, and I'm like, "You know, you could let this go." And I'm like, "No, I have to see it through." I feel like we're always learning, life is a journey, but once you know that you're making choices and that life isn't running you, this is such a gift, this time on the planet, and that you get to go through it in the way that seems right for your heart, your soul, your spirit. Even the moments that you might deem failure are lessons, and just to embrace it all and really be gentle with yourself.
Dan: I've interviewed a bunch of actors on this podcast, and I've found that this practice is really useful, I don't want to say especially, but it's very useful for actors because you have so much insecurity baked into what you do. You don't know what your next job is going to be. You just found out. You're going to the last season of this massive hit show, and what are you going to do after that? And you're subject to the slings and arrows of television critics and random people on Twitter, and people who you might feel like you are competitive within the acting space. There's all of this stuff going on. So I was just wondering if I'm diagnosing correctly the water in which you swim and whether meditation has helped with all of the aforementioned.
Bellamy: Absolutely, yeah. As actors, we live the life or rejection. Rejection and unemployment are our constant companions, then jobs are our blessings. You really have to find something deeper to root to, or it's complete mayhem. If you start identifying with the lack, then you're lost. Because there's such abundance around us all the time. When you can remind yourself that we are one and that we're all connected, and that no one has less or needs more-
Dan: How do you feel like you're one, though, when somebody else is getting a job you want? Don't you feel pretty separate from that person in that moment?
Bellamy: You know, I'm blessed because I was not born competitive. Except with myself. I ride myself hard, so that's why it's really fruitful for me to make friends with my mind, or its workings, understand how it works. I really, for myself and all of the people that I know and I love, you get the hand you're supposed to get. All of our lives, and maybe it's just a little more obvious metaphor when you're an actor ... You get handed the job you're supposed to get. Your soul needs to go through this journey, and there are no mistakes.
So when you don't get a job, it just wasn't your job. There will be a different job, or there won't be. I've never thought, "That should have been mine!" Because clearly, it shouldn't have. I've always wound up so, sort of, breathless with how perfect everything is for the jobs that I've had, be they tiny or just the gift of this, for seven years, to be with these people, to play this unbelievable part. This is the part of a lifetime, and I'm so lucky. But it was always right on time. Like everything else, if your mind and heart and eyes are open, your spirit is open, then you get to have that lesson and move on to the next thing.
What I've always thought was one of the coolest things about being an actor is you get to live like a thousand lifetimes in one lifetime.
Dan: Yeah, that's pretty cool.
Bellamy: It's unbelievable. And your body, when you're acting, has no idea you're acting. You're going through something. You're going through it. It just doesn't know the difference. I do worry for folks that have to do a lot of horror movies or very, very, very dark material. I would not do well with that, and I don't know how they keep their spirit clear and clean and keep themselves safe. Because that, you know, when I lost my son on the show, or even going through the divorce with Tony, whatever ... My body doesn't know I'm lying, so you really have to have a way to process and have a way to learn and move forward.
Dan: I don't think I could do it. I wouldn’t ever be able to convince myself.
Dan: Yeah. The times when I’ve had to act, in any way. I had to play myself on Conviction, that short-lived ABC show.
Bellamy: Yeah, yeah, yeah, totally.
Dan: Just was doing an interview with the lead actress.
Dan: I was terrible. I cannot act.
Bellamy: What were you terrible? Like, what do you think?
Dan: I just, I got all in my head, self-conscious, and I don’t like pretending. I don’t mind just being myself because that’s all I really know. But if you ask me to even be a slightly different version of me, or recite lines, pretend like I know that I mean it, I can’t do it.
Bellamy: I love trying to find another person’s soul, center, whatever. Be handed a bunch of lines and try and really find the human behind them is my favorite crossword puzzle ever.
Dan: But isn’t it a little schizophrenic?
Bellamy: Sure, whatever. You know, potato, po-tah-to, Dan. Do you live a super honest life? Do you ever lie? Are you a good liar?
Dan: I’m not a good liar, no.
Bellamy: Yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah.
Dan: I’m a terrible person in many, many ways, but I’m not really into lying.
Bellamy: Yeah. (laugh) A terrible person! (laugh)
Dan: I don’t want to hold myself up as some avatar of morality, but even my wife, both of us are pretty open about my flaws, not so much hers … That’s not true. We’re open about both of our flaws. But one of the things that even she will concede is that she can trust that if she asks me a question, I’ll tell her the truth, even if she doesn’t want to hear it.
Bellamy: That’s cool.
Dan: Yeah. So I guess that also feeds into me being a terrible actor.
Bellamy: Yeah, yeah.
Dan: Can you lie?
Dan: You can probably lie really well!
Bellamy: I mean, I lie for a living, right?
Bellamy: I just don’t make a practice of it in my life, because there was a time that I did. There was a time in my twenties where my self-esteem was so low that it wasn’t even, like, lying to get ahead, because like I said, I want everybody very kumbaya. I just would lie because I thought my life was so shameful. So I’d lie and make up a better life.
And lying is exhausting because you have to remember everything.
Dan: Yes, yes.
Bellamy: While I’ve got killer short-term memory, boy that long-term memory does not support a life of duplicity. Really, it’s not cool. I can’t hang w it anymore.
Dan: What was wrong with your life? You were an aspiring actor and just weren’t getting roles?
Bellamy: Yeah, you know, I mean, what’s wrong with any of our lives? Nothing, they’re perfect. But I just had no self-esteem, so I just thought the life I was living was shameful. I just thought I would tell people better stories than that. Yeah.
It hurts my heart to even think about. I just want to hug my young self, and anybody that’s out there, I want to hug them too, because we’re all, wherever we are, we’re perfect, and the more honest you are with people, the more connection you can make. Lying only keeps the separation. It keeps such a gulf between you, a chasm between you and connection and humans and remembering the oneness.
But yeah, no, I lived there forever.
Dan: Yeah, but what a victory that you can look back and say, “That’s not me anymore.”
Bellamy: Thank heavens.
Dan: I’ve got to ask about your mother. Four husbands?
Bellamy: God bless her, yes. My sweet mom, if you’re listening, I love you.
Dan: Is she onto number five?
Bellamy: She has a lovely boyfriend named Bill.
Dan: Okay, well, you can’t bring her down.
Bellamy: No! It’s the best, it’s a talent I don’t have. I respect it.
Dan: It’s not four divorces, it’s four deaths.
Bellamy: No, they passed. Yeah, Dan, no, they passed. Yeah, my first step died when I was 15. She married the guy who had been her boyfriend in seventh and eighth grade. His wife had died the year before, both of cancer.
Dan: So your dad died of cancer?
Bellamy: He did.
Dan: I’m very sorry. 15, that’s a really hard age to lose a parent.
Bellamy: It was. Yeah, it was a confusing time. You don’t know at the time, but it was.
Dan: Just to set the scene, this was in North Carolina.
Bellamy: Asheville, North Carolina.
Dan: Asheville, yeah, beautiful town.
Bellamy: That’s exactly right when I was in high school. Then Bob was her second husband and he passed away. Then she was alone for a little while and went on match.com like ten years later and met the best guy in the world, named Barry. He was from Brockton.
Dan: Brockton, Massachusetts.
Dan: Did he retire to Asheville?
Bellamy: His wife had gotten sick and he’d moved south to Columbia. Columbia? Is that right? South Carolina? He had brought her there for her convalescence, and she had passed. My mom is also not … geographically confined. She was living in Asheville, but Barry was in South Carolina, and she was all good with it.
Same thing now. Bill is in Tennessee sometimes, it’s all, you know …
Dan: Do you think she’s going to get married for her fifth time?
Bellamy: I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s her journey. We’ll see what happens. And then there was Bobby Lee, and he passed away of liver cancer last year … two years ago.
Bellamy: I know!
Dan: The resilience! The romantic resilience of your mom, who I have never met-
Bellamy: Yeah, amen.
Dan: But still.
Bellamy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Definitely, definitely.
Dan: Do you have clear memories of your dad?
Bellamy: Spotty. Yeah, yeah. It was a disorienting time. That was a very disorienting time. He was very sick and we kept him at home. Bless him, he’d been an alcoholic before that, so it wasn’t so white picket fence before that. So my memories are … But you know, I can remember him teaching me accuracy throw for field day. We had this old Lincoln Continental with the suicide doors and he’d drive me around, I was a little pageant child and he’d drive me around in little parades in that. Just different things. He wore a toupee and I loved to put on his toupee and use a cane and pretend to be the entertainer or something.
Dan: He wore a toupee and was open about it like you could get it off him-
Bellamy: Oh yeah, he didn’t care, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. (laugh)
Dan: So you were a pageant child?
Bellamy: Yeah, Dan. Were you?
Dan: I was the opposite of a pageant. Problem child? Yeah.
Bellamy: No, really? Were you a problem child?
Dan: I was a horrible kid.
Bellamy: Tell us the worse thing you ever did.
Dan: My mother will tell you lots of bad stories.
Bellamy: Tell us one now.
Dan: Okay, just randomly.
Dan: My first time I got arrested-
Dan: Was when I was 14. My friends and I were vandalizing a T station in suburban Boston, a train.
Bellamy: Oh! (laugh)
Dan: MBTA, Metro Boston Transportation Authority-
Bellamy: Copy that.
Dan: We were throwing rocks at stuff. I actually think the cops just brought me home that night. It was the first time I was in a cop car.
Dan: Yeah, they didn’t arrest us. But that was number one.
Bellamy: Who, why, why with the stones?
Dan: I was 14.
Bellamy: We weren’t up to spray paint yet, right?
Dan: Oh, I did that too. I had a robust graffiti career.
Dan: My tag was, “Ace.” Yeah. I was brilliant at that.
Bellamy: Amazing! I’m going to make you draw it for me later.
Dan: Actually, my tag, I still do it when I’m doodling-
Bellamy: Yeah you do!
Dan: I’m better at it now than I was when I was a kid.
Bellamy: Of course you are.
Dan: And all of my friends say the same thing.
Bellamy: (laugh) I love it!
Dan: I was really into this. Because when I was in … I’m 45, so when I was in junior high, rap really broke. I was obsessed with Run DMC, the first concert I ever went to was the Beastie Boys.
Dan: Or actually the second concert, the first was Whitney Houston.
Bellamy: Wow! Okay.
Dan: So we were really into it.
Dan: Everybody was beat boxing and-
Bellamy: I’m going to make you do that later, in a minute, too.
Dan: I couldn’t break dance.
Bellamy: Could you beatbox? Because we have a microphone.
Dan: Not really. I’ll do it with my son a little bit.
Dan: But I was into the graffiti, I was into it. So I used to spray paint at the train stations too, but on this particular night we were mostly destroying, rather than creating.
Dan: Yeah. So I was a bad boy.
Dan: Anyway, but you were a pageant child.
Bellamy: I was a pageant child. Well, I was a singer. I’m adopted and we didn’t, of course, have any information about my birth parents, but we had a page, it had a paragraph on my mom and like two lines on my dad, birth parents, and part of the paragraph said that she loved us so and was a singer and all of this sort of stuff. So my mom tried to give me opportunities that she thought were genetically within my-
Dan: Oh, that’s cool
Bellamy: Yeah. I’ve come to meet them since love them so much.
Dan: Oh, you have?
Bellamy: I have, and that’s wonderful.
Dan: Oh wow.
Bellamy: All of that information is wrong. When they met me they were like, “So, your parents are doctors.” And I was like, “No.” And I was like, “So you sing?” And she’s like, “No.” We were like, “Whoa.” Because I spent six weeks in foster care, so I think we all just … I think the papers got shuffled.
Dan: As an infant?
Bellamy: Yeah. And so I sit here a product of erroneous information living a life that I love so deeply I can’t even imagine … I can’t imagine what I’d be doing if it weren’t this. I’m so grateful for my life. But yeah, it was all a product of a bad tip.
Dan: Biological parents, your biological parents, you’ve actually connected with them?
Bellamy: I have. I don’t really talk about them too much because I keep them private, out of respect.
Bellamy: Not everybody knows their story. They didn’t tell everybody and they didn’t ask for this.
Dan: They didn’t ask for this, yeah.
Bellamy: But I will say they’re the best people in the world.
Dan: Oh, wow, wow.
Bellamy: Yeah. And meeting them was so … cellularly transformative. It was just very grounding and orienting in life and space and heart. They’re terrific.
Dan: You don’t get this … the rich pageant of your life does not come through on your Wikipedia page.
Bellamy: (laugh) I’ll have to see to that, Dan.
Dan: You need to write a memoir!
Bellamy: Do I?
Dan: You’ve got … Yeah! These are pretty colorful biographical details.
Bellamy: Well I give them freely. Yeah, so my mom tried to find something, somewhere, anywhere that I could sing. So we did church choir and we did little things at school, and I did Summer Stock up at Parkway Playhouse in North Carolina. And it’s the South, so pageants, you know? I did them for a minute, and then, as I said, I am the least competitive human alive, so I was not down with the competition of it. But my mom, we had friends, we were ensconced. And so I would go and I would M.C.
So I would be like, “Scarlett is wearing an islet dress with a fuchsia cummerbund and she will be singing, ‘Climb Every Mountain.’” (laugh)
Dan: (laugh) And so you went off on the acting route.
Bellamy: I did. I went to Yale, I went from North Carolina. My dad had died and I knew I’d need a really solid reason to leave the state and leave my mom like that.
Dan: Yeah. But Yale has a legendary acting program, right?
Bellamy: They do, graduate level. When I was there the undergraduate was a bit underdeveloped.
Dan: I see.
Bellamy: I went for Physics though. I went to Yale because I knew I could sing. They have-
Dan: Hence all the references to atoms.
Bellamy: Yeah. Well, yeah. I mean I’m a failed Physics major. I was pretty good in North Carolina, but not on the world stage. So I wound up with a double major in English and Theater. But, you know, Physics was my dream, dream, dream.
But I knew I could sing. I was in an a cappella singing group. So I knew I could get a great education and I could sing and my mom would understand that I wanted to … You know, it was Yale, I want to go to Yale. And I got the chance!
Dan, I got to do the coolest thing this year. When I graduated college because I was scholarship kid because my dad was dead and my mom was a high school teacher. I just assumed there was a big sea of money somewhere and I was getting two-quarters of it. But I graduated and they said, “So, here’s the name of the person who has been paying for your education. Maybe you want to write him a Thank You note.”
Dan: Oh wow.
Bellamy: His name was Dr. Richard Light. The first thing I did out of school was a national tour of Meet Me in St. Louis. We went through, it was not a fancy tour, we went through Kalamazoo, where he lived, and I got to meet him and thank him. He was one of those Renaissance men that had been a surgeon and a pilot and a cartographer, just everything. He was incredible. He was 93 when I met him with his little 60-year-old wife. They were the most inspiring people.
Dan: Wait, 93 with a 60-year-old wife?
Bellamy: You know how it works.
Dan: He’s a player!
Bellamy: Playaaaaaa. Yeah. Then I thought, how must that feel, to put people through college? To give people college. And I got to endow a scholarship this year.
Dan: Oh, wow! Good for you. Paying it forward.
Bellamy: Yeah, paying it forward.
Dan: That’s great! Good for you!
Bellamy: It’s the thing I’m proudest of in my life.
Dan: That’s amazing. Congratulations.
Dan: So, Scandal.
Bellamy: Scandal. What do you want to know? What do you want to know? What do you want to know? (laugh)
Dan: You’re going to kill me.
Dan: Because I work for ABC, and I’ve never watched the show.
Bellamy: Life is short, you’re allowed!
Dan: My wife is a big fan.
Bellamy: You work a lot. Alright, so your wife is smarter than you are. That’s okay.
Dan: Yes, yes.
Bellamy: We can get that out. It’s not a problem.
Dan: So I hit up my Twitter folks this morning and I asked for questions.
Bellamy: Yeah. I Retweeted you. Did anybody give you stuff?
Dan: Yes, a lot of people got back to me.
Bellamy: Look, we have the best fans in the world, Dan. That’s what you have to understand is that our gladiators are ride or die.
Dan: You call the gladiators?
Bellamy: Yeah. And they’re incredible. It’s just big hearted and they are just in this ride with us. And they’re the only reason we have these jobs. They’re who got us the second season. We were a bubble show, but Kerry figured out we should live tweet.
Dan: Oh wow. Bubble show, meaning on the bubble, like you might not make it.
Bellamy: On the bubble, yeah. But Kerry had figured out social media was the next how the world was going to work.
Dan: Kerry Washington.
Bellamy: Yeah. So we were the first show to live tweet, and instead of, you know, TV had sort of become a thing you DVR and do at 2:00 a.m., and we brought back appointment television. Our gladiators were so ferocious and wonderful and lion-hearted that that’s what got us a second season, and then it just built from there.
Dan: I really hope Ben Sherwood is not listening to this podcast. I love you Ben, but I’m sorry I didn’t watch the show.
Bellamy: I’ll spank him.
Dan: It’s okay. First question, from @MelissaMermaid: Well definitely ask Bellamy Young who she uses for inspiration as Mellie. With a little smiley face and a wink.
Bellamy: (laugh) Melissa, I like your winky. Gosh, the honest truth is it comes to me on the page. I literally just have to honor the script. I did a lot of research. Our history has a white male perspective, a patriarchal perspective, so you learn about presidents in school, but you don’t learn about the women behind them or beside them, or sometimes ahead of them. So I did a lot of research when I got the job. I know, if you could see me in the studio it’s like I’m thinking about you, Melissa, as I’m answering now. We’ll look back at you, Dan.
Dan: It’s okay.
Bellamy: I did a lot of research when I got the job, learning about my first ladies. Mellie’s place in that lineage. Then our writers pulled a lot of stories, like Julia Grant or Dolly Madison. There were a lot of homage storylines. But Mellie is her own beast. I really just have to honor what’s brought to me. Sometimes it’s brought to me at rehearsal, so sometimes my reaction is very immediate and honest. It really … she’s built herself, Mellie, yeah.
Dan: Very cool. Alright, Kerry Freeman, @comicsdaughter: Has a meditation practice influenced your acting in any way? Do the benefits interfere or help with performing a highly dramatic scene?
Bellamy: Oh, Kerry, it’s so helpful. Because once you know how to quiet your mind, much less your body, relaxation is essential for acting. If you are at all seized up, either in your mind or in your body, you just can’t … it doesn’t flow through you. So your only job … Of course your job is to prepare, know your lines, and have thought about story arc and have ideas about character, but your job is to go in there, relax, open your mind, live in the other person’s eyes, and just react to what’s happening in the moment. That’s what a meditation practice can bring you. That sort of utter calm and utter presence. You’re not in the future and you’re not in the past. You’re just living this moment. And in acting you’re living it with someone. With meditation you’re living it with all eternity, you know? You’re just in the oneness.
It’s been transformative, at least for me, in my acting.
Dan: What is the physics argument for one-ness? Is there one? Or is that just an intuition you have?
Bellamy: Yeah, that’s always just been my experience of things, you know, in an E equals MC squared way, I don’t know why you would end and I would begin. It’s sort of just arbitrary. I very, very, very much believe the energy is shared. This table, this microphone, you and I, the thoughts, anyone listening, time being a construct, all of it is simple oneness, not discretion, not discrete little packets. I think that’s what I’m always aiming for, is to have that sacred communion.
That’s always what I loved about physics. It felt like looking at the face of God, asking the big questions.
Dan: Physics is, quite literally, mind-blowing. This one, maybe not a long answer: If you were asked to be hired to sing at a fan’s wedding, would she do it?
Bellamy: (laugh) What do you want to hear?
Bellamy: You want Guns ‘n Roses? Is that it? Because I’m your girl!
Dan: How does it feel to finally be president?
Bellamy: It feels really good. I don’t ever get invested in storylines, because-
Dan: That was, by the way, from Eleen.
Bellamy: Eleen, lovely, beautiful.
Dan: You don’t get invested in storylines-
Bellamy: Yeah, because that’s not my job, and I don’t write. It’s not a gift I have. And Shonda is like a once in a generation storyteller. Our writers, our Scandal staff writers, are incredible. They bring things so surprising and relevant and galvanizing every week. I sit like a gladiator and I just wait to see what’s going to happen.
But, that being said, Mellie, all her life, that’s been her dream. It’s just been her dream. Even in this finale episode, she was like, “I don’t know, people always say women dream about weddings. I dreamed about this!” It’s always been her dream.
At some point during the campaign, it just seeped deep into my marrow, and all I wanted was for Mellie to be president. I think last summer … This was a bifurcated season. We did five episodes in the summer. Kerry had to have a baby, so we took some time off and then we came back in January. The world changed while we were away. This season, what they had intended for this season got completely thrown in the garbage. Everything went a different way.
Shonda’s gone on record as saying they thought the season was going to arc out with one of the bad guys all of the sudden speaking Russian and “Oh, the Russians hacked the election.” But the Russian’s hacked the election! So they had to trash it all. I just don’t think Mellie was going to win, and so I think that’s different. Shonda has not gone on record with that, so that’s speculative. But I can tell you there was a scene in the finale with Mellie just quietly sitting in her Oval, and it meant the world to me. I know it meant the world to Mellie, but it also meant the world to me.
I seldom allow myself to get that … I just seldom have a dog in the hunt. I honor what the story is and I want to tell the story in the best way possible. But gosh, that moment felt good.
Dan: This is from Vicky Dummer: What would she want to focus on as president during her first 100 days?
Bellamy: Vicky, good question. And I don’t know. I don’t even know that we’re going to come back and move forward in time. I don’t take anything for granted on this job. I wouldn’t even know what to say. She’s been very … historically, Mellie’s agenda has been very children and family and education. I think she would keep to that, but I don’t know. I would never…
Dan: Yeah, but what if you were president?
Bellamy: Oh, me?
Bellamy: Oh my goodness. Well, arts and education would be big for me, animal right would be big for me. Maybe you don’t … I probably would be a terrible president because all of my issues would be, like, I just want everyone to feel loved and included.
Dan: Do you have pets?
Bellamy: I do, I have three cats and a dog.
Dan: Nice. We have three cats.
Bellamy: Oh yeah?
Dan: Yeah, no dog, but a two year old.
Bellamy: That’s alright, there’s room for that … Oh, that’s okay, that counts.
Dan: Yeah. He poops more than a dog.
Bellamy: (laugh) Well, congratulations.
Dan: Thank you, yeah, he’s a prodigious pooper.
Bellamy: Well done.
Bellamy: What’s his name?
Dan: His name is Alexander. He’s now going through a phase where he won’t let us wipe him, so I have to give him a bath every time he makes number two.
Bellamy: Oh, Dan, that’s hard. What do you think his thinking is there?
Dan: I think that he’s his own man.
Dan: I don’t want to scare that out of him.
Bellamy: Was that a phase you went through?
Dan: Not that particular phase. He’s also going through a phase that apparently I did not go through when I was a kid, where he’s incredibly flirtatious with women.
Bellamy: Really?! Wow!
Dan: Yes. Just, if a female walks into the room, he will drop me like a hot potato. He just loves women.
Dan: And then if another woman walks in after the one he’s flirting with right now, he will drop that one.
Bellamy: Wow! They come out their own little people, man.
Dan: Yeah, that’s how he rolls. Yeah, he’s like the 93 year old who funded your education. Alexander’s a player.
Dan: Yeah, yes, yes.
Dan: Okay, so your first 100 days would be animal rights, which I strongly support.
Bellamy: Animal rights, arts and education, LGBTQ, everything that’s, you know, people right now are being, not even slowly, but definitively disenfranchised. If the next 100 days were mine, it would be to build all of that back. We were going in such a beautiful direction. I just never thought, in my lifetime, and obviously I am of a Democratic bent, I naively assumed progress was ever marching forward. I didn’t think I’d see us go backwards in our lifetime. It hurts me every day. It makes my chest tight to even think about it. So, it would be all about the people.
Dan: Here’s the final one, from Bellamy Young Web, @BYoungWeb: Even though we have yet to experience it in America, how proud was she to portray a character becoming the first female president?
Bellamy: Aw, Anna, thanks for asking. It was really important to Shonda and all of the people that I work with. I think they really … America is behind the rest of the world in this regard. We just have not had our fair share of woman leadership. To work in a matriarchy, as I do now, I know how different it can be, and how wonderful. It’s also a fact that Mellie was also a incredibly qualified candidate. So it happens to be that she’s a woman, but if you take people on their merit, she’s also very much earned it.
I loved, in the season finale, that she really went through a period where it just really had to burn away all her frivolity, there’s been a long (Dan doesn’t watch, so I’ll tell him), there’s been a long thing about Mellie being ornamental, not functional, even though she’s been behind the scenes running a lot of it, and has a mind that’s expertly capable. But she, you know, when you get told something all your life, you tend to take it on. So in the season finale, really burned that away. It was a life and death situation, whether or not she should have the inauguration, because someone was trying to assassinate her. I think she had to surrender that this dream that she had had was no longer just hers, and that, as holding public office should be, that it was a service and that America needed to see this, and if she had to give her life so that America could witness a female someone being inaugurated, that that was a good enough reason to have been alive. I hope she carries that courage and humility and nobility into her time, her tenure as President.
Dan: What a fun guest you’ve been.
Bellamy: Dan, it’s really been great to be here with you. Thanks for telling me some T on you too.
Dan: (laugh) I learned “T,” by the way, recently. Ru Paul was a previous guest.
Bellamy: Oh, delicious!
Dan: That guy is amazing.
Dan: He’s an avid meditator, really interesting guy.
Bellamy: I didn’t know that!
Dan: That’s where I learned the term, “T,” from him.
Bellamy: Everybody, I’m going to make Dan sign his tag, and I will tweet it.
Dan: Okay. Actually, that’s fine. That’s fine. I’m an open book. Just finally, if people want to learn more about you, where do they go?
Bellamy: Oh my goodness. Well, I mean, I’m on Twitter, @BellamyYoung, also Instagram, the same. And Facebook, and they can get my album, “Far Away, So Close,” because my whole heart is in there. You know, I’ve got a website. Just all the normal places.
Dan: Okay, cool. Thank you, appreciate it.
Bellamy: Thanks so much, Dan.
Dan: Absolute pleasure.
Bellamy: Thanks for what you do. You’ve found a beautiful way to inspire people to go on their own journey, so thanks for that.
Dan: Now I gotta watch Scandal.