Betsy Russell

The actress opens up about her on-screen love affair with the notorious Jigsaw killer

Adolf Hitler had Eva Braun, Darth Vader had Padme Amidala, and Jason Voorhees had his mother. Behind every great man stands an even greater woman. And the same could be said about the notorious Jigsaw killer. With the upcoming Saw V, we get to delve a little deeper into the loving relationship between husband and estranged wife John and Jill Kramer.

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With John dead, a number of incriminating items have suddenly surfaced. Will his wife pick up where he left off? Will Jill put all the gruesome gore behind her? Or will she find herself locked in one of Jigsaw's infamous traps? These questions may or may not get answered this Halloween, when Saw V is released like a pack of angry pit bulls on the public at large. We went straight to the source of Jill and John's strong relationship to find out where Jill stands amidst this horrifying drama.

Betsy Russell made her first appearance as Jill Kramer in Saw III. She is now reprising the role for a third time in Saw V. We recently caught up with the actress to talk with her about the latest film in this hugely popular horror franchise. Here is our conversation:

You were at the premier the other night. How did you like the finished film?

Besty Russell: I loved it. I thought it was one of the best. Really.

What is it about this franchise that keeps you coming back, and what do you think it is about Saw that keeps the audience coming back year after year?

Besty Russell: I come back because, why not? It is a great group to be involved with. And they keep making really great movies. The audience is getting what they want. It is deeper and more intense. There is more of a backstory. It is really incredible that they are able to keep it going like this.

biold|Its always hard to talk about these films, because there is so little that you can actually give away. But with Saw V, your devotion to Jigsaw is really left up in the air. We don't know if you are good or evil. That aspect is left a little bit ambiguous. Have you already discussed with the producers what sort of story arc your character will be taking in the future? Do you know which road she will travel down in Parts VI and VII?

Besty Russell: From your mouth to God's ears about the VI and VII part. Yeah, let's just say that we have talked about it. They have a great treatment for VI and it is going in a really great direction for me. I am very excited about that.

Did you guys actually shoot the original ending of Part V, or is that something that is being saved for Part VI? David Hackl said that there is some stuff with your character that got left out of this one.

Besty Russell: That is true. They did shoot a different ending than what you see now. I think this new ending works a lot better.

Is what got cut out going to actually happen in Part VI? It sounded like they had decided to save the scenes as opposed to cutting them out of the entire storyline.

Besty Russell: I think they wanted to go a different way. They checked it out, and saw that this was the better way to go. That is a good way to put it. They decided to save some of that stuff for next time. They wanted to go in a different direction. They are smart enough to say, "Okay, we shot it this way but it would be better if we used these scenes later." You want to keep the audience coming back for more.

There is one scene where you give this off-handed smile. And it kills the audience, because now they have to wait another year to see the intent behind that smile. Is she evil? Is she good? They want to know now!

Besty Russell: That's why you buy the ticket, right? That stuff has to happen. People need a reason to keep coming back.

You are given a box in the film. Can you talk at all about that box and its contents? Or is that off limits as well?

Besty Russell: I don't think we should be specific about it. I can say that I am given a box. And you will find out what is in that box soon enough. I know what's in it now. And I am excited about it.

So, you do know what's in it!

Besty Russell: Mmm-hmm. I do know what's in it. But we can't talk about it. Are you kidding? No. Of course not.

Do you know where your character is headed in advance of shooting the future episodes? Do you have an understanding of your own ambiguous looks? Like, do you now where that wicked smile is headed? Or are you not even sure when you are shooting it?

Besty Russell: I kind of know what I am doing. I know my backstory, and why I am doing certain things. I know the intent behind those looks. But they can always change that, and cut it. The director can say, "Please try this, that, and the other." Because they want the audience to think this, or know that, or not know anything at all. It is a joint effort. We shoot it a few different ways. I have my ideas, they have theirs. Then they can always shoot around it and change it, much like they always have. It just works.

I thought the flashbacks were really well done in this particular outing. Do you enjoy getting to do those flashbacks with Tobin?

Besty Russell: We didn't have any in this one. I don't think. Did we? I love watching how Tobin's character became who he is, and who has been involved with him. I think it is amazing how they go back to things that set up the previous movies. It is done so well. And the style is so great. And I think David Hackl has continued on in making a great movie. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised. And not disappointed. One of the Saw fanatics, this kid of about 18, who saw the movie, said, "I'm in shock. I can't even talk about it until I see it again." That, of course, is what we love to hear. It really makes you think.

This is certainly one of the best films of the series thus far, especially in terms of the story being told. Are you ever disappointed that you don't get intimately involed with some of these traps? Or is that something that might come later for you?

Besty Russell: I thought you were going to say, "With the actors." (Laughs) Get it? Intimately involved with the actors. I'm sure that my day will come. I am kind of nervous about it. But I am kind of excited about it, too.

But again, the audience doesn't know if you are going to be stuck in one of those traps or the next person building one of those traps.

Besty Russell: Exactly. That is why the writers are up at nights.

They are trying to figure this madness out.

Besty Russell: Exactly, we've got to get into one of these smart fan's heads. We need to figure out exactly what they are thinking. And what they want. Its not like these writers throw it out there and say, "Okay, we're done." They started working on Saw VI when Saw V wrapped. And they are still getting the treatment together. They are working twenty-four hours a day to get the story just right. It is incredible.

When you are working with David Hackl, and he is the director now, and he is the guy that has been with this from the get go, building all of the Saw traps, are you ever able to express your own ideas for a trap? Does he like it when you come up to him and say, "Hey, you guys should do this!"

Besty Russell: That's not really my thing. I am not really into torture. I leave that up to the professionals. And their kids. From what I hear, Hackl's son came up with one of the ideas. I don't remember which movie it was, but he had it all drawn out. I try not to worry about it. I know its in great hands.

How did the set differ after Darren Lynn Bousman left and handed the reigns over to David Hackl?

Besty Russell: Their styles are just so completely different. Darren is out there. He is screaming, and laughing, and he is telling jokes. He has his dog on set. He has people coming in and scaring me, just to get the reaction that he wants. He allows improv, and Scott Patterson would just go off on these tangents. I would be so upset with everything. Of course, that was in IV, where I had a great more to do. Hackl is very calm and relaxed. He allows us to bring what we want. But both styles work, they're just completely different.

You bring up a very interesting fact about Darren Lynn Bousman bringing his dog on set. I talked with him at the last Comic Con, and he said he wanted to make Saw: Animals. Yet, no one would be able to sit through that. I'm wondering what your take on that is?

Besty Russell: He wanted to do it with animals? Wow.

Yeah, he wanted to get dogs and cats into the traps. But people wouldn't be able to sit through it. They would rather see people die. They can't stand to watch animals die.

Besty Russell: I think you have to draw the line somewhere.

He said he was going to do a short film, but he got told no.

Besty Russell: That's smart that he didn't do it. I saw some very funny cartoons that had these bunny rabbits sawing each other. I think its called Saw Bunnies. It was hysterical. I don't know where it came from, but it is the funniest thing I have ever seen.

And that's okay because it's a cartoon.

Besty Russell: Yeah, it's a cartoon. Exactly. I wouldn't want to watch anything about torturing animals as a joke, to tell you the truth. People, on the other hand, deserve it.

Every year, I see Dick Van Patten at these Saw Premiers. And it's so funny, because I grew up with him as the dad on Eight is Enough. Seeing him sitting there, enjoying these Saw films is so odd.

Besty Russell: He is my kids' grandfather. He is very supportive. He wasn't there this year, because he couldn't make it. He is supportive of his friends and family. I'm sure that he hates watching it. And all the gore. But for the past couple of years, he has come out and supported the films. Which is great.

I saw him there last year, and he seemed to really be enjoying the film. I thought it was funny, because I'm used to seeing him as this happy father on a sitcom. Not some gore hound. It was so odd.

Besty Russell: He is a great guy. He is nothing like his character in Eight is Enough. At all. He is a gambler. He is at the racetrack every single day. He has his gritty side. That is for sure.

I also saw Luis from Sesame Street there this year. It is so funny to see him, laughing, watching Saw.

Besty Russell: Well, sometimes they have friends that are in the movie. And sometimes they are fans. You never know what is going on behind the scenes. You can look at someone in one way, and they are completely different. Especially after they sit through the Saw movies.

Its interesting to see the wide appeal of these films. I know people that hate horror movies yet they love the Saw films.

Besty Russell: That is because they are not your typical Halloween horror fare. They are thrillers. If you take out all of the blood and the guts, you still have a movie. You could show the bare minimum, and people would still go see it. It wouldn't be the same movie without the gore, but it is still a thriller. It is still exciting and you are still trying to figure things out. It's a mystery, basically.

Do you still wince through some of the more horrifying scenes while watching the film? Even though you know what is coming? Or are you not affected by it at all?

Besty Russell: Nope, I am covering my eyes like you can't believe. When it becomes too much, I turn and look at the audience. I want to see what they are doing. It's interesting to see who is covering their eyes, and who is watching the film with their eyes wide open. Some people have their heads down, others are covering their face. I just can't watch it. Even though it is fake, it is done so well. It just seems real to me. Isn't that strange? I can't watch a lot of it.

I almost couldn't watch that opening scene, where the guy is sticking his hands in the machine.

Besty Russell: My God! It is done so well, its freaky.

They compare it to a carnival ride, but its almost worse than that sometimes. You don't get those gut reactions in a carnival ride.

Besty Russell: Mmm-mmm. But if you watch open heart surgery, I can't even watch that. I know its not torture, but I can't watch them cutting into the people. I don't know why. I was able to watch the morgue scene, where they cut open Jigsaw's body. For some reason I could watch that, after I saw the movie so many times. But with Saw V, I just saw it for the first time the other night. So it will be a while before I can keep my eyes open through the whole thing.

Are you part of this group that goes out on the Friday of release to watch these films with a real audience?

Besty Russell: Yeah. Uh-huh. I sure am. I will be there tomorrow. I will be in the theater looking for the same kids, hoping to find out what they thought of it.

How much fun is it to sit and watch this with a real audience, and experience it through their eyes?

Besty Russell: It's a blast. These guys have been waiting a year to see it. A lot of them are in groups. They are so excited. When they see us standing out there, they usually come up to Marc Burg, our producer, and they say, "How do you do it? What were you thinking." The writers are with us, so they are picking their brains. They are just so excited when they run into us. I'm sure we will see a lot of those kids this year.

Can you hint at one scene that you are really excited for them to see?

Besty Russell: There is that one scene. I can't hint at it. But I think you know the one I am talking about. It is definitely going to stay in peoples minds after they see the movie. I am excited about that. Hopefully, they will be thinking about me!

Saw V opens Tomorrow, Friday, October 24th!