The James Patterson Industrial Complex is huge and constantly growing. The author of Kiss the girls, there came a spider, and your mother’s favorite book has evolved into audio thrillers in recent years. These Audible Originals are less like audiobooks and more like old-fashioned radio plays with sound design and multiple actors like John Lithgow, Aaron Paul, Zachary Quinto, Bryce Dallas Howard, Krysten Ritter and others.
Now Mary Louise Parker can be added to this fine squad of James Patterson’s Audible Original Players (ironically, she played “Janey Patterson” in the Mr Mercedes Series). Parker stars in the new thriller Murder in Bermuda, where she plays Beth Heller, an arrogant lawyer with a family of crime who spends her time in a hotel in Bermuda. The Audible Original was co-written by Aaron Tracy (The coldest case) and Thaddeus McCants (2020 BET Project Crea8 Writing Contest Winner).
When Beth is somehow blackmailed into helping the hotel owner’s daughter, she teams up with a local prosecutor named Tony to prove a person’s innocence, sparking even more cases on the North Atlantic island. Parker spoke to MovieWeb about the Audible Original and the difference between radio and television.
Murder in Bermuda
Parker seems like the perfect choice for the role of Beth Heller, considering her ability to balance charm with biting wit, and sometimes balancing biting sarcasm with outright hostility. We saw her perfect that in the Showtime dramedy weedbut it is also on display in The West Wing, Redand other titles. There’s a fine line between a witty cynic and a general idiot, and the line is even thinner Murder in Bermudawhere Beth starts the Audible thriller like a thrashing wounded animal, charging in every sentence.
“From the way I’ve seen her, she’s pretty deep in self-loathing, you know, I think she’s given up on herself,” Parker said of her character’s makeup. “And so I think a lot of that grandeur is actually just a shield, because I don’t think she feels particularly good about herself and the choices she’s made. And the beauty of the show is that you can’t follow just the story, but her reawakening self, that she kind of changed her life and took a chance she didn’t really need to take — which she probably told you about could have said she didn’t want that. She continued:
But I think she can be quite an idiot, but like most idiots, they don’t usually feel good about themselves. I feel like when I’m an idiot, it’s mostly because I feel bad. That’s just my kind of dimestore explanation for it anyway.
Parker would change everything
Interestingly, it’s Beth’s aforementioned emotional arc (from an “idiot” mired in self-loathing to someone with a little more compassion and responsibility) that caused Parker to reconsider her performance. Parker is wonderfully honest when she talks about the difference between radio, television and theater and how she sees her performance in something like that Murder in Bermuda. As she said:
I would change everything I’ve ever done.
“I think the interesting thing about these audiobooks sometimes is that at the end, once you figure out your character, you can’t start all over again,” Parker explained. “I think that’s sort of the bane of the way I work, but you can also be a pro in a way. I do a lot of theater and I’ve performed three times, two times and multiple plays each time. I’ve been worried – what if I can’t connect to what I was connected to before? But I always, always discover that something just gets bigger and richer.”
That’s the complication: you learn more about the character the longer you embody him, and you also learn more about everything the more you engage with it. For Parker, good acting means understanding a larger story, not just one’s role in it:
“I think if you’re not overly aware of the story and know where you fit into the story, [it’s an issue], because basically the actor or the voice is a means for the author to tell the story. I think it’s always important to stay connected and know how to serve the story. Sometimes there is just a lot to think about and you lose track. And then when you see it in its entirety – because especially with an audio series, it’s completed in such a short period of time – you’re like, ‘Oh right. That’s why it happened.’”
“So yeah, I’d love to redo everything I’ve ever done,” Parker concluded with a smile.
Making radio versus television and film
While podcasts have been booming for a while (although the craze has waned somewhat in recent years), old-fashioned radio never really got off to a great start after video killed the radio star. Before the popularity of television, radio plays entertained people with impressive sound design, music, and multiple actors bringing different genres and styles to life.
The medium still enjoys some popularity on national radio stations in the UK and a little on National Public Radio in America, but nothing quite compares to podcasts. However, Audible is trying to change that with a range of interesting originals, such as Alan Resnick’s brilliant reverse gear. Her Audible Thrillers by James Patterson add to the mix.
“It’s just a different kind of exercise,” Parker said of appearing on radio rather than television or film. She wasn’t even in the same room as her co-stars Ronald Peet and Kimberley Aria Peterson. “I was in a studio with the directors, a married couple, and they are just wonderful. They had a new baby so we talked a lot about babies and Max.” [Pozdorovkin] is a big poetry fan. So we talked a lot about poetry and Whitney [White]I just felt right away that there was no pretense with them. They were just really smart, humble and cool.
Ultimately, it’s always better for me to have someone to work with. I think that’s why my voice gets tired doing it, because you’re not constantly getting renewed energy from someone else and what they’re doing. So normally I would prefer to collaborate with other people, but I like podcasts. I listen to more podcasts than I watch TV.
“I love Audible too,” Parker continued. “I did something for her that was called strong ending, and it was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done anywhere. It was about veterans and dealing with PTSD through stand-up comedy, and that’s why they’ve always been very nice to me. And I wrote for Esquire, and Lisa Entelman, one of the greats at Audible, was at Esquire when I was writing there, and whenever she asked me to do something, I was always happy to say yes.”
Mary Louise-Parker reinvents herself
While Parker loves Audible and radio, she’s not convinced that quality radio plays appeal to her Murder in Bermuda will soon make a huge comeback. “I don’t know it. People really like TV. And now there are about 150 channels, right? It’s hard to say,” Parker said. “It’s just, I feel like Audible has put a lot of thought into what they want to release and there’s a lot of that, especially on TV, that’s just … I don’t know who came up with that.” “
Murder in Bermuda feels uniquely listenable but could probably be televised fairly well, sort of like the less risqué British detective series Inspector Morse or Midsomer Murders. Parker agrees, but in a surprising way.
I think it could be. I think I would probably recast my role if it were on TV. I do that often anyway. But yeah, I think it would do really well on TV. I’m not crazy about a lot of violence and death. I’m kind of the worst in that regard.
“But I love a crime thriller that kind of comes to an end,” Parker continued. “I am in love poker face. It’s probably the only show I’ve seen all year. My son and I saw it and it’s so great to get into. I’m really addicted to this one podcast and every time there’s a new one I get so excited. And that’s how I felt poker face. And I don’t feel like that very often with TV, because I think it’s probably one of those things that when you work in a restaurant, it might be difficult to eat out. That’s how I feel when I watch TV and movies.
Happily, Murder in Bermuda is a festival. You can take a look Audible original here.