The actress and onscreen ex-wife of the horror genre villain Jigsaw talks Saw VI, which is now available on DVD and Blu-ray
Actress Betsy Russell will forever be known as Jill, the onscreen ex-wife of the horror genre villain Jigsaw in the extremely popular Saw films. Jigsaw may have died in Saw III but his lessons of redemption have been able to continue on because of a box containing instructions that he left to Jill before he died and that box plays a pivotal role in Saw VI, which is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. The film also deals with real world issues like the current health care debate, which has been completely dominating the news in recent months. We had an opportunity to speak with Betsy Russell about Saw VI, her character's motivation in the film, the movie's underlying subject matter and the legacy of Jigsaw. Here is what she had to say:
To start off with, you had semi-retired from acting when you first took the role of Jigsaw's wife in "Saw III," so what was it about the first two films that impressed you and made you want to step out of retirement and play such a integral part of the series?
Betsy Russell: Well, I just think it was because they made such a great movie that was really an ingenious idea. When you think about it it's like a thriller and the message is "appreciate your life," also it's shot really well. It's a crazy situation. All these people that are basically, I won't say they're bad people cause I don't think that anybody is inherently bad, they're probably deep down great people that do bad things in their life so those are the people that Jigsaw really hones in on. So to be involved with a franchise that really awakens people's senses, if you're that type of person that gets excited when you see horror movies, but yet has a good message and is shot beautifully and is really great.
It looks a lot more expensive than it is. I mean they did the first one for so cheap and it was really a smart and great movie. That's why it's done so well at the box office, I think. People can say what they want but they're still pretty darn good if you really studied them. My son who is sixteen years old told me that his cousin who is in College at USC is studying in film school Saw and what it took to make this franchise work. So I mean that's pretty incredible to go down in history as being involved with one of the biggest horror film franchises of all-time. My great, great Grandkids could be watching me after I'm gone and I think that's pretty cool. I feel like my character and I love my character. I still love my character, you know? So I just said yes cause why not?
When you shot the scene in "Saw V," when John leaves you the box, did you have any idea that it and your character would play such a pivotal role in the continuation of the franchise? Was the significance of that scene and the role it would play going forward discussed at all on the set while you were shooting it?
Betsy Russell: No, no they didn't say anything. I don't think they knew for sure. It always seems like they see the movie, it comes out, they see how people react to it and what they kind of hang on to. Because there were so many people saying, "What's in the box?" I think suddenly that became ... I mean I was shocked when people were coming out of the theater saying, "What's in the box? What's in the box? What's in the box?" I was like, "Wow these people really care about what's in the box!" I just had no idea that it was that important. No, I mean I had to question, what's in the box? And I sort of had an answer in my head and they told me certain things but it didn't seem like that big of a deal. When I heard that people were really, you know, hooking into that I got really excited. That just seemed to be a great direction for them to go in I thought. I have to say these writers and producers know what they are doing. They really have some sort of insight I think, you know? Even if you didn't like this one, or you didn't like that one or whatever there are always a gazillion people who did. Certain people say they like one through three, other people say they like six the best or they like one the best and everybody's got a different opinion. Everyone's got there own ideas so you can't please everybody all the time but I think we're doing a good job of getting people interested, right?
Do you think that in a way Jill feels like she needs to fulfill John's legacy because she owes it to him? Is that her motivation in "Saw VI?"
Betsy Russell: Yeah my character's motivation is definitely carrying out his legacy and kind of coming to a place of closure. He's gone and in my mind I really want to move on past this entire killing thing and all this horrible stuff but I can't do it with Hoffman still alive. I mean he's going to ... well crazy things are happening. So I feel that I want to get on with my life, have closure and I want to carry out what he asked me to do. I'm still in love with him in my mind.
"Saw VI" really deals with a current political hot-topic, the health-care issue, can you talk about how the film deals with that subject in a serious yet entertaining way for its fans?
Betsy Russell: Yeah, I thought that was just ingenious. I've asked so many times, who thought of that idea? Because not only is it current and brilliant but it goes along with Jigsaw's cancer and my character working in a health care clinic. It just makes so much sense when you think about it, right? Wasn't that scene with Tobin and the piranha just so brilliant? It hit home, I'm hoping, for a lot of people that actually work in that profession and do things that aren't as fair as they could be. You know this is such a big thing right now. Yeah so I don't now who thought of it but I just think its ingenuous and it just tied everything together so beautifully. In my mind it was just really brilliant.
Was that aspect of the story something that Tobin really gravitated to as well, do you think it helped him emotionally with his back-story?
Betsy Russell: I think Tobin is in his own little world for what motivates him, drives him and makes him great. You'd have to ask him, I don't know how it worked for him? All I know is that he always comes out with incredible results.
You have a lengthy body of work but now after being a part of this franchise you really will always be known to fans as the ex-wife of Jigsaw, how do you feel about that ultimately being your on-screen legacy?
Betsy Russell: If I'm known by anybody I'm jumping up and down. Because that means, hopefully that I'll get more work and keep working and getting to do what I love, which is acting, being on sets and making people feel things. That's what I love to do and I love the character. I love Jill. I think she is the woman behind the man. Yes he is a little bit ... untraditional in the way he works and the way he does things, he does have some crazy stuff going on but she stands by her man, which I think is admirable. People are going to read this and be like, "Oh my God she's standing behind a killer" but she's standing behind what she believes in, you know? When you watch all the movies, he's really convinced me that he rehabilitates people and I've decided okay, I'm going to stand behind him and I do till the end. So I think she is a great woman, a great character and a deep, thoughtful person who takes care of other people and sometimes I wish I could be more like her. So I think a lot of people in a way will look up to me I hope and I hope I play more characters that are similar to this one in the future.
Do you think that is why audiences have connected with this character and the franchise? Because he's not a bad person, just a person doing bad things for good yet misguided reasons?
Betsy Russell: Yeah, kind of like the Dexter character. I like to think that people really are connecting with this movie because it's not just killing for the sake of killing. Its getting to watch the gore that allows you to get excited but like I've said so many times it has meaning behind it and there is a reason to his madness. I think the message, not the way he's carried it out but I really believe that the message is, "appreciate what you've got and appreciate every single day." The more people that can connect with that on whatever level is amazing because if we stop concentrating on the negative in our life, what we don't have, no money or no job and what isn't right in our mind, but we really focus on what we do have even if its health, or just beautiful healthy children but focus on whatever you possibly can that is good in your life then things will be better. Be grateful, positive and have a smile on your face even if you're sad. Try to find the happy moments. That's what I'm all about. If people connect with that part of the movie, the gratitude and appreciation then that's a good thing.
Finally, in the long-run how do you think Jigsaw as a horror film villain and Tobin Bell's performance will hold up against other horror icons and performances from the genre?
Betsy Russell: I think he's the top of the top in everyway. I think he does his killing for a good purpose in his mind and that's a great thing. I think he's a brilliant actor and a brilliant man in the movies so that's something to look up to. Look how smart he is. He's an engineer and not some dim-witted loser guy. Look at his wife! He must be great he got me. So I think he's a great character and this role has made him famous and I think he deserves it.
Saw VI is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray.