‘Ted 2’ star Jessica Barth on the hardest part of romancing a bear

“Ted 2” offers a lot of the profane, rambunctious, sporadically gross humor that audiences loved in the CGI teddy bear's first cinematic outing, but it gives a lot more screentime to Jessica Barth, who plays Ted's human bride Tami-Lynn McCafferty. Barth's moxie is often the movie's most endearing quality, and thus it's a pleasure to see the actress explore Tami-Lynn's more emotional side in what's sure to be a blockbuster sequel.

We caught up with Barth, a Philadelphia native, to discuss how she got the part of Tami-Lynn, how she learned that Boston accent, and why screaming at a teddy bear can be rewarding.

In the first scene of the movie, you're fighting with Ted and screaming at him. What's it like getting that worked up over an imaginary character?

Yeah, that can provide a challenge. Obviously there's nothing there. You know, I'm so in the moment, but it is really hard. During the fight, I had to hit a certain place on the wall with a frying pan over and over and over again. We had to do that quite a bit. At one point I was so in the moment that I hit the camera with a frying pan. Sometimes I get too involved in the scene. My throw was not as accurate as it could've been. 

Later in the movie you're going through a counseling session with Ted and crying. Are emotional scenes with Ted difficult?

It's definitely the more emotional scenes that were tougher. I was excited to explore that part of Tami-Lynn. Now she's married and dealing with this and that; it's just more fun for me to do as an actor. You're usually reacting at somebody else looking at you or acting with you, so when I needed to get to a point where I cried without someone there, it was really challenging. The scenes aren't that long either, so you don't have much time to build up to that. 

What kinds of tricks did you use to make yourself upset in such a short amount of time?

I did so much preparation for her, and you really have to just trust yourself. I built in a lot of triggers for her character that got her there emotionally. There were a couple times we did takes and I said, “No. I can get further with her.” Seth was open to that. He said, “Take as much time as you need.” There were definitely takes where I thought, “I can do more!” 

Between the filming of the first and second movie, did you have to re-learn Tami-Lynn's thick Boston accent? Or can you just pick it up again at a moment's notice?

I can. I didn't have to re-learn it, I just had to re-expose myself to it. I hung out with the same girl Cassie who helped me with the first one. She lives in Quincy. We met quite a bit and went over the script together. We hung out and I'd record us just talking. That really helped. I would spend time in the bars in Boston and just kind of overhear. I would practice there too, just to see if anyone would believe me. So it was a matter of re-exposing myself to it rather than re-learning it. I knew the phonetics of it. I just needed to make sure it was still in me. There's a set of mannerisms that comes with it as well. A lot of people from Boston gave me compliments on the dialect, so I felt a responsibility! I really wanted to do as well as I could.

Did you get away with fooling Boston folks? Did anybody question your accent? 

When I was in that bar, the only thing that threw them was when I said I was from Quincy. One guy said, “You don't look like you're from Quincy!” So I don't know what that means or what people from Quincy usually look like — the girl who helped me is beautiful — but that was the only thing that threw them a little bit. I guess I was believable enough otherwise. 

It sounds like you've always had a connection with the role of Tami-Lynn, even before you got the part. How did you know you'd be a good fit for her?

Yeah. As soon as I read the first “Ted,” I said I wanted to play that role. She's such a fun and unique character you don't see often in TV or film. I knew I could pull it off and bring something to her that wasn't a caricature. That's the trap you can fall into with a character who's written so outlandishly. I wanted to bring heart to her. Initially I wasn't being thought of as Tami-Lynn at all. I was called in for one of Mila Kunis' costars. What I did was put myself on tape for Tami-Lynn when I initially auditioned. I went in, did a two-line reading for this other part, and I said, “I read this script and I really like Tami-Lynn. I put myself on tape for it.” So the casting director said, “Oh! That's really great.” Then she watched it and put me on hold for a long time. And then I got it!

Wow. Just out of nowhere you said, “Actually, I see myself as this other character”? Pretty awesome.

Thank you! It was kind of ballsy of me. I just had a feeling about the character. When the second film was being written, Seth called me and said, “You know, be on your A-game because you have a lot more to do in this film.” Then I read it and gasped and realized I had so much more to do with Tami-Lynn this time.

Lastly, how has your rapport with Seth MacFarlane evolved since the first movie? 

First of all, I think he trusts me a lot now. I felt that in this one. I could feel his trust in my acting abilities. The way that we communicated felt easier. I knew exactly what he wanted even before he said it. If we're doing a scene and he comes over to me, I almost always know what he's going to say. It's that kind of a thing. It's comfortable and fun to work with him creatively. 

“Ted 2” hits theaters June 26.