Lots of people talk to God, just not many get an answer from the big guy. But in the new NBC comedy, “Save Me,” Beth Harper (Anne Heche), who chokes on a hero sandwich one night and undergoes a near-death experience, wakes up the next morning and tells her husband Tom (Michael Landes) and teenage daughter Emily (Madison Davenport) that she can now talk to God.
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“I think we all get messages,” Heche tells XfinityTV during a conference call for the series’ premiere. “I think sometimes we’re more in tune to it than others. And like Beth in my show, I probably misinterpret messages often.”
The interesting thing about Beth is that prior to her “awakening,” her life was pretty much a mess. Her husband cheated on her, she really had no relationship to speak of with Emily, and she was so obnoxious that her women friends would hide when they saw her coming.
“I believe that we get second chances in life,” Heche says. “Beth’s a housewife and she hasn’t done it very well. She’s not a great mom, she’s not a great wife, she drinks too much, she plays too hard, and she hasn’t really been responsible. Then she gets a second chance to do it again. I love that because I’ve been so blessed with many chances in my life.”
It isn’t until Beth starts revealing everyone’s secrets that they start to believe that something is different about her. She knows about her husband’s affair, her teenage daughter’s crush on the boy next door, and she even gives a sex tip to a former friend to help the woman spice up her marriage. They may not be convinced that Beth is getting messages from the Almighty, especially because new Beth can be just as outrageous as old Beth, but they do know that something about her has changed.
“What’s really funny is that she’s been saved, except she has no idea what to do with the information that God is giving her, so she becomes an absolute fool,” Heche says. “Her enthusiasm and her trust in God makes her an utter fool, equal to the amount that Bad Beth was, so she confuses people the same in her present life as she did in her past.”
As a result, Heche gets to perform some great physical comedy — and she loves it. Fans who go back remember that Heche launched her career playing twins on “Another World,” and followed that up with more drama. It is just more recently that she has been taking on comedic parts, like “Men in Trees” and “Hung” — and now “Save Me.”
“I am more of a dope than I ever have imagined,” she admits. “I like making people laugh. People say to me on the set, ‘Man, you will do anything.'”
One such anything that Heche does in an upcoming episode is to eat dirt off the ground. “It was so disgusting,” she recalls. “Actually, my son was there watching because I knew that he just loves when I make a fool out of myself. So he was there just barfing. He’s like, ‘Oh, no, you did not do that.’ I’ve learned that I will eat mud if it’s funny.”
In order to get ready for the role, Heche tied on a pair of running shoes and hit the streets in Hancock Park, which is the area of Los Angeles in which she lives. And like her character, she put on ear phones and took off running. Unlike her character, she did not vomit into her neighbor’s trash bin.
“I started acting,” she says. “I started feeling what it would feel like. Like, ‘What would it feel like if all of a sudden I was just filled with God?’ So I started running down the street and I was doing jumping jacks, shaking my leg and doing all of this goofy stuff. I looked over and there were two dogs and two people with their heads tilted like, ‘What is in that girl?’ And I realized that I had figured it out, that this character needs to be filled in her body all the time.”
On the more serious side, Heche is hoping that in addition to making people laugh, “Save Me” will help people find hope in their day.
“God is something that I have confronted, questioned, dealt with, looked at, experienced, rejected, and embraced my whole life,” she says. “I think everybody tries to figure God out. I think we all would love to have a helping hand. I think we would all like to trust that we’re being taken care of, that life means something… If you can find God in a friend, if you can find God in a smile of a stranger, it’s here. We’re here to help each other out. And I hope people feel that from the show, even if it’s to make people laugh, you know? Who’s to say that laughter isn’t God?”
“Save Me” premieres Thursday, May 23 with back-to-back episodes at 8 and 8: 30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.