Saturday, August 30, 2014

How Kristen Connolly found her inner Bess

Yahoo TV has a terrific Q&A interview with Kristen Connolly who plays Bess in HISTORY's Houdini miniseries. When asked how she researched the role, Kristen gave a nice shout-out to our good friend Tom Interval and explained how he helped her unlock Bess:

Q. Did you jump into research on Bess Houdini when you signed on to the movie?

"I did. I'm really, really lucky, because what I started doing was just ordering these biographies, and they're like 600 pages long each. I was sort of slogging through slowly. But I have a dear friend, Michael Mitnick, who is a writer and a huge Houdini fan. He knows an incredible amount about the Houdinis. I've learned that there are a lot of people who are sort of obsessed with the Houdinis and know a lot about them.

Michael put me in touch with a man named Tom Interval, who is a magician based in California, and he is a Houdini expert. He put together this packet of information: all the most important things that you could find, extracted from all of these different sources. I can't even tell you how helpful it was. It was like 30 or 40 pages of material about Bess as a person: how she grew up, anecdotes that people told about her, her relationship with Harry, all kinds of things that were just unbelievably useful to me. I certainly could not have done all of that work in the time that I had without him."

Tom also taught her some magic, as she told

"I learned how to do something cool with cards. Tom Interval gave me all the information on that. He taught me one cool way to shuffle cards that looks fancy on film. I don't even know if it made it into the movie… Adrien really carried the bulk of the magic."

Kristen Connolly with Tom Interval and myself at The Magic Castle.

Kristen has also been extremely generous in mentioning me and our little home here in a few interviews, including a very good interview on Collider in which she states:

"One of the sources was John Cox, who has a blog called “Wild About Harry” that I hope people will go to and check out, after they see the movie. If anyone is interested in learning anything about Houdini, it’s a wealth of information that you won’t find in a book."

And in an Examiner interview she says:

"There's much less written about Bess than there is about Harry. But if you are so inclined, you can really dig and find it. I learned an enormous amount from [John]. He was able to tell me what was really substantiated, what was a bit controversial, what some people said but it's probably not true."

A very big thank you to Kristen for the kind words, and congrats to Tom for helping her find her inner Bess.

Houdini premieres Monday at 9/8c on HISTORY.


  1. John, you and Tom look sharp in your suit and ties! Kristen looks nice and she's pretty lucky to have you guys backing her up on all things Bess.

    Did you guys mention that Bess liked the bottle and maybe weed?

    1. We talked about Bess' drinking of course (the extent of which in Houdini's lifetime we really don't know), but I'm not onboard with the weed thing. That's another Kalush/Sloman "discovery" and it comes from a letter she wrote in the '30s saying she spent a night with "no drink and no weed." But it's more likely she's talking about cigarettes as "weed" was slang for tobacco and she did smoke. How they didn't take this into consideration I'll never know.

  2. John, thanks for posting this. What a great night that was. That was really considerate of her to mention us, and I'm happy she gave kudos to your site as well. I'm very much looking forward to your review of the miniseries.

    1. She's awesome to do this. Made us both look and feel like heroes. :)

      Still working away on my review.

  3. Since this is about Bess, I have a question about her mother. On page 112 of Doug Henning's Houdini His Legend and His Magic, there is a photo of Houdini and Bess at her mother's grave. I thought Bess' mother lived into the 1930s. Is that photo caption right?

    1. Yeah, that can't be correct. Her mother did indeed live into the '30s (I actually have a photo of her from this time that John Hinson shared).

      It's probably her grandmother's grave. Wild if maybe it's her father. We know nothing about her father.