Actress Betty Buckley wants to ‘make America happy again’

LOS ANGELES — There’s busy. And then there’s Betty Buckley busy.

The veteran singer and actress began the month with four nights of concerts in New York celebrating the release of her new live album, “Hope.”

Buckley appeared earlier this week on the season finale of The CW’s “Supergirl,” and will be back on television screens Sunday as the creepy, complicated grandmother of star Dominic Cooper’s title character “Preacher” on AMC.

Buckley has another major gig ahead — the lead role in a national tour of “Hello, Dolly!”

The versatile Buckley, 70, is famous for a number of roles, in the 2016 film “Split,” TV’s “Eight is Enough” and Broadway’s “Cats,” for which she won a Tony Award.

Her album is an eclectic array of classic standards, jazz, rock, pop and Americana. Without naming U.S. President Donald Trump, Buckley said the album is, in part, a response to the widening divides between people worldwide since the 2016 election.

“Our mission is to heal hearts,” Buckley said.

The frenzy of opportunities emerged after a spate of bad luck for Buckley.

“I was sitting at my ranch in early January, nursing an extended case of bronchitis, and everything started falling apart at the seams,” Buckley recalled, noting she’d been sick throughout the holiday season, and, worse yet, her well, tractor and heating and cooling system had all just bitten the dust.

Instead of being overwhelmed, Buckley tempted the fates. “I was like, ‘You know what? Bring it on, universe!’”

And then the phone rang.

It was an offer for a role as a regular on a TV series that Buckley said she already loved, the supernatural drama “Preacher.” The character, gleaned from the original comic book series, is the twisted Marie “Gran’ma” L’Angelle, the grandmother who Cooper’s character had abandoned long ago because of her ruthlessness.

“But he needs me to bring Tulip (his girlfriend, portrayed by actress Ruth Negga) back to life,” Buckley explained. “And I have those skills, as a Cajun sorceress. And so that’s where we open up in season three, and we go from crazy to crazier, and wild to wilder. It’s so much fun.”

Just weeks after getting the offer to do “Preacher,” Buckley’s phone rang again. She was offered the national tour of “Hello, Dolly!”

The Jerry Herman musical spins around Dolly Gallagher Levi, a turn-of-the-century New York matchmaker who meddles in the lives of her clients. Carol Channing played the character in the 1964 original Broadway cast. Bette Midler won the Tony Award and broke box-office records with the 2017 Broadway revival.

“When I saw Bette Midler do it on Broadway, I was just enchanted,” Buckley said. “It thought it was just one of the best things I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Buckley said that she normally immediately has an idea of how she’s going to approach a role, but not yet with Dolly, as she’s seen so many other actresses take it on in different ways successfully.

And while Buckley’s done musical comedy, the bossy, buoyant Levi is a far cry from the darker, more complicated characters for whom she is best known.

“This is like an incredible antidote,” she said. “To play Dolly … is a gift. My catchphrase for the tour is, ‘We’re going to make America happy again.’”

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