Patricia Wettig: Great-Grandma Inspired ’19th Wife’ Performance

Patricia Wettig

Patricia Wettig certainly didn’t need to take on Lifetime’s Sept. 13 movie, “The 19th Wife.”  After all, she’s plenty busy enough with her role on “Brothers & Sisters.” She’s also completed writing a new play, “F TO M,” that was unveiled this summer at New York Stage and Film’s Readings Festival.  But Wettig tells us she found her role in the telefilm irresistibly compelling – for personal reasons.  Her portrayal turned out to be a tribute of sorts to one of the women she loved most in her life.

She explains, “When I grew up, my closest relationship, until I was nine, was to my great grandma.  She was married to a Methodist minister.  She was a very strict, very stern, very religious person – except with me.  She just adored me.  I had a special connection with her.  On the outside, she could be so tough.  But she really was so warm.  I honestly loved her more than anyone in the world. 

“When I read this character, she had that tough religious exterior, but such a softness with her son.  She holds on to all this stuff so tight, yet there’s a soulfulness underneath, only seen in the connection with her son.” 

“The 19th Wife” is drawn from David Ebershoff’s best-selling mystery thriller that takes place inside a rogue Mormon sect that still promotes marriage to multiple wives. Wettig plays the woman accused of killing her husband in the movie that also stars Chyler Leigh.  Matt Czuchry plays her son.

Wettig from 'The 19th Wife'

Wettig’s character, complete with bonnet and ankle-length dress, couldn’t be further from her series part.  “I think people are going to think, ‘What’s going on here?’  It is fun as an actress to play something so different,” she says.  “I wondered, ‘Am I going to be able to relate to this speech pattern?’  But when I started to speak the words, I was almost surprised by how easily it came to me.  It didn’t feel like hard work.”

As for her appearance?  “Oh, the hair!” she laments.  “I look like my great grandma.”

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