Jonathan Storm: Advice on how not to be one broke girl

Beth Behrs of "2 Broke Girls" at a Q&A at Wharton this week. A recruit- er and other CBSers were there too.
Beth Behrs of "2 Broke Girls" at a Q&A at Wharton this week. A recruit- er and other CBSers were there too. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 24, 2011

CBS recruiter Bryn Berglund had some internship advice for the 100-or-so eager Penn undergrads in the Wharton School auditorium: "You need to work hard, and you need to be nice."

Jobs may be Job 1 at Wharton, where the event took place Wednesday evening, but students had also come to see a new TV show and its star. She was living proof that the recruiter's advice was solid.

"Be a fighter. Don't take no for an answer," Beth Behrs told the students. "You have to work it." She didn't have to confirm the nice advice. She sat before them, Miss Marin County (Calif.) 2006, all sunny and blond, and just smiled and smiled and smiled.

Behrs, 25, plays the recently impoverished daughter of a Bernie Madoff type in the delightful new sitcom 2 Broke Girls, which airs Mondays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS. Her character, Caroline, herself a Wharton grad, teams up with a waitress who has been struggling all her life.

Behrs auditioned seven times for the job.

After graduating from UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television in 2008, she told the students, "I sent out e-mails every day" to people she thought could help her. Eventually, she landed a role in the straight-to-video American Pie Presents: The Book of Love, released in December 2009, and then some TV guest shots and indie film roles, and now she's a star.

The program, part of something called Wonderful Wednesdays at Wharton, was aimed primarily at business school students interested in marketing. CBS seemed pretty interested in them. It has established a separate e-mail account, where students can submit resum├ęs, just for Wharton, and it sent Berglund and a whole convoy of CBS people, from local newscaster Erika von Tiehl through junior marketing and publicity people, all the way up to a couple of vice presidents.

But it wasn't all business. Students got to view the show's pilot, in which Caroline journeys to Brooklyn from the Upper East Side to take a waitress job and meets the cynical Max, played by Bryn Mawr's Kat Dennings. Behrs was born in Lancaster, but soon moved to Virginia and then to California, as her father and mother, both educators, changed jobs.

A theater major asked Behrs for advice. "Make your own content," she said. "Write something for yourself, and if you can't write, get somebody else to do it. . . . Know who you are, because that's how you will be cast at first. Then you can be Meryl Streep further down the road."

Streep is one of her idols, but she makes much more mention of Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, and the entire cast of Will & Grace, her favorite sitcom - smart thinking for a baby in the business where most of her cohorts are getting to know her in comedy.

She told the students she understood the difficulty that young job-seekers have: "2 Broke Girls really is trying to portray the struggle for what it is." The character played by Dennings, whom Behrs described as an instant great friend, has two jobs. "In today's world, most people are working side jobs while waiting to do what they really want to do."

Not until CBS picked up the series did Behrs give up her gig as a nanny in Los Angeles.

Her whirlwind trip from there to Philadelphia - out Tuesday, back Thursday - may have helped promote the show, she said in an interview, but she was glad to do it for another reason, the way it could improve her work.

"To be around the students is wonderful for me. It contributes to helping me understand Caroline's background. It informs the character. That's for sure."

And there's a lesson not just for students, but for all us couch potatoes who love good television. Among all the gorgeous fellas and gals clamoring to get our attention, most of the ones who succeed, at the start of their careers at least, work hard and are nice.


Jonathan Storm:

2 Broke Girls

8:30 p.m. Monday on CBS3.


Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or jstorm@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http:// go.philly.com/jonathanstorm.

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