Do you have one of those teenagers who’s watched Glee all the way through about five times? We sure do, so we were thrilled when we got the opportunity to interview actor Dot-Marie Jones—who played Coach Shannon Beiste on the show—her spouse, Bridgett, and their 15-year-old daughter, Savannah.
Interview with Glee’s Dot-Marie Jones
Q: What has it been like blending your two families?
Dot Marie Jones: It’s been amazing. I went from having two cats and an apartment to having two cats, two pigs, three daughters, a wife, and a house.
Our oldest is now in college and she’s a dean’s list kid. She’s doing fantastic. Savannah is with us full time, and she’s 15 and probably the funniest kid I’ve met in my life. We also have a 12-year-old.
Q: What’s worked for you as you’ve parented your teens?
Bridgett Castene: All children are different. You can’t parent one the way you parent the other. My oldest has always been very independent. Savannah, who I call my mini-me, is more like I was as a teenager. We try to keep an open conversation in our home. About everything. We don’t sit down and say, “Here’s what happens when someone offers you alcohol or drugs.” We’re having a constant conversation.
Dot: What I love is that Red—I call Savannah Red and she calls me Curls —asks questions. She’s not afraid to ask questions about anything.
Q: Dot, you’ll be speaking at a high school in southern Illinois later this month. Tell us about that.
Dot: One of my first friends in Los Angeles recently moved back to Southern Illinois where she’s from. She asked if I would come speak to the kids about bullying. Glee has opened up a lot of avenues to talk to people, whether it’s about bullying or domestic violence. It’s amazing that I get to do it, but also unfortunate that I have to do it.
Q: You’ve had such an interesting career. Actor, a champion shot-putter, and a world-champion arm wrestler. What’s it like?
Dot: I always used to get picked on because I was so big. I went from 5’6” to 6’1” in the 8th grade. I grew like seven inches in six months. In fact, I grew so fast that I fractured my back. When I was doing the show Lizzy Maguire, I’d go around and speak to kids and I’d say, “You know what, I was given this body for a reason. We all are. And it’s up to us to figure out what to do with it.” People can say what they want, but if it wasn’t for how I was built, I wouldn’t have won 15 arm wrestling championships. I would not have gone to the Olympic trials in 1988 and 1992 for shot put. And I certainly would not have been Coach Beiste.
Q: You must have many teenagers come up to you to talk about Glee.
Dot: Yes, but not just kids. Recently, a 90-year-old usher at a baseball game came up to me and told me he loved what I was doing. I’ve had grand-
parents tell me they watch it with their grandkids. I’m very proud to be a part of the show. It’s made such a difference.
Q: Where’d you grow up?
Dot: Hilmar, California. Now it’s about 5,000 people, but when I grew up it was 1,500 people. You’d drive to the grocery store and leave your keys in the car. I got bullied by the kids who thought they were cool.
It can be hard for teenagers growing up in small towns, when they stand out because they are different in some way.
Bridgett: Well, take Savannah. We’re from small-town Georgia. And now we’re living in Los Angeles, and she has seen a different world. I love that. We have all kinds of friends. Our friends are very diverse, and I’m glad her world has been opened up to that.
Q: Savannah, what do you like about where you’re growing up?
Savannah: I love it. I’m taking theater classes, which weren’t offered at my old school in Georgia. I get to do plays and my moms are really supportive of that.
Q: Bridgett, you sent a beautiful tweet the other day: “That feeling of the wind being knocked out of you. Yeah, I’ve got that.” What was that referring to?
Bridgett: That was about my oldest daughter, who is going to Amsterdam. I’m so proud of her, but at the same time, I’m sad because she doesn’t need me. Well, she’ll always need me, but she doesn’t need me, need me right now, if you know what I mean. She’s the kind of child who makes her decision and then she tells you her decision. I’m happy she’s independent, but it’s so far away. You just worry as a parent.
Q: I have to ask about the pigs.
Savannah: I would look at pictures of those little bitty pigs—like the teacups—online. I always thought they were so cute. For years, I thought they were cute and so one day I said, “Hey Curls, can I get a pig?” And a day later, I had a pig.
Bridgett: They’re adorable, but it’s like having a toddler all over again.