Interview: Daisy Betts on ‘Unsung Hero’ and Playing Director Joel Smallbone’s Real Mom

"I stepped away from L.A. and moved back to Australia when I was pregnant with my fourth child, so there were a few parallels with Helen Smallbone's story," Betts said.

Based on a true story, Unsung Hero follows David Smallbone (KING & COUNTRY’s Joel Smallbone) as he moves his family from Australia to the United States, after his music company goes out of business. With his pregnant wife Helen (Daisy Betts), they find themselves in Nashville looking for a brighter future for their seven kids.

I talked to Betts (Last Resort, Chicago Fire) about her role in the film and what it was like playing the real life mom of her co-star and director, Joel Smallbone. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Did you know of this family’s story before you took the part?

Daisy Betts: I didn’t. Everything that you see on the screen is exactly what I read in the script, and it’s such a powerful story and it’s quite the journey. There’s a lot of ups and downs and at multiple points in the film, you think that they’re overcome and then there’s another setback. Just the way that they really band together and how they hold on to love and hope and family, I think that that is such a great message.

I think you have the hardest part in the film. Not only are you the lead and all the pressures that come with that, but you’re acting opposite Joel Smallbone, the co-writer and co-director, who happens to be the son of the woman you’re playing.

Daisy Betts: It’s so weird, I know. It’s hard to wrap your head around sometimes. And I think that was very in the head of Joel Smallbone at the time too. I think for me it wasn’t difficult, it was a really great time.

I stepped away from L.A. and moved back to Australia when I was pregnant with my fourth child, so there were a few parallels with mine and Helen Smallbone’s story. And the fact that, I know what that’s like, traveling with kids and being pregnant and trying to keep it all together. I’ve experienced that. And when you’re in those hard times, it’s really important to just pull together. You have to just rely on your family and keeping it fun and adventurous, which is what she was able to do for the kids.

And with working with Joel, I was able to come back into acting through this role, which felt like the right role for me at this time. And with the knowledge that I actually have a lot of experience in this industry at this point, I was able to just ground down into that whenever they needed me to be of use. I was there with the information; it was so collaborative and I loved that about this film.

The cast of ‘Unsung Hero’

There were no egos whatsoever. It was just like the nicest people trying to do the best job that they could. If Joel asked for my opinion, I would give it. I was there for him, gave everything a 100% in the performance.

I mean, we had these kids to wrangle and you can’t help but take on a parenting role in that moment. I’m also a mom in real life, so it wasn’t that big of a stretch for me. And if I were to put myself in the shoes of Helen in those moments, hopefully I would act the same because she did an incredible job.

What’s that famous quote? Don’t ever act with kids and animals?

Daisy Betts: They were all so great and had so much fun. Sometimes we just had to bring them back into line, make sure we got the job done because child actors have very short days and sometimes, you’re under pressure to get things done. But we all had fun.

With roles like yours, some films treat those characters like saints. You do have moments where you explode and cry, but there’s also moments where you’re just keeping everything bottled up inside and we can see it on screen. Like, it’s this balloon that just wants to pop.

Daisy Betts: Yeah. I loved that too. There were a lot of big moments, there’s disagreements and breakdowns and giving birth, which are all quite exhausting days for me as an actor. But a lot of the moments were very subtle, and you just had to be in the moment and react.

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