With nearly thirty years in the business, actress Margo Martindale has managed to turn a seemingly ordinary career as a character actor into an extraordinary career that’s garnered her two Emmys and two Critics Choice TV Awards.
In John Krasinski’s new comedy The Hollars, Martindale plays his mother Sally, who gets her son to return home from New York after she’s diagnosed with a brain tumor. It’s a lovely movie mainly for the significance of Martindale’s role in it and the great scenes she has with Krasinski (who also directed the film).
Even with her regular film credits, Martindale has been a TV mainstay in recent years from appearing on CBS’ The Good Wife and the short-lived sitcom The Millers, to a recurring role on FX’s The Americans. Her latest project is the Amazon Studios show Sneaky Pete with Bryan Cranston and Giovanni Ribisi, which will air on Amazon in 2017.
LRM sat down with Ms. Martindale in New York City where we had a joyfully quick-paced chat about her role in the movie as well as everything else she’s been working on recently.
LRM: I saw you talking on a morning show and heard that you worked with John before in a commercial. That must have been a while ago.
Margo Martindale: 2000.
LRM: So had you been in touch since then?
Martindale: He had come to see me on Broadway in 2003 or 2004, and I’d seen him on the street right after he got “The Office” — that was the last time I had seen him. Right before he had done the pilot of “The Office.”
LRM: And I’m sure at the time, it was like most pilots where no one knows if it would be come a series.
Martindale: I think that’s what it was, yeah. Good luck!
LRM: Did you see the other movie he directed?
Martindale: I did not see the movie he directed, but I love him, so Will Arnett got us in touch with each other, and I was very happy to reunite with him.
LRM: This is such a nice, juicy role. I was telling John that if I had an actress as my mother, I’d want you… after my real mother, I mean.
Martindale: (laughs) Thank you!
LRM: But often times, the mother role in a movie like this isn’t much, and this is a really substantial part in the movie.
Martindale: It’s a really nice, really good part, and I really love this movie, so it’s all good.
LRM: I have to imagine that Sally was pretty well laid out from the script. What was your impression of her as far as her motives to want to fight this tumor. Obviously, her family is important to her.
Martindale: That’s really all there is to it, that you play the movie about life, about living, and about being there for your family and trying to get them all in line.
LRM: I can’t imagine fighting something like that but still being so focused on her family, rather than herself and what she needs to do to heal herself. And yet, she stays very positive.
Martindale: I would like to think that I would be like that, but I’m not certain that I would, but I’d like to think that I would.
LRM: I’m sure you’ve been asked a lot about shaving your head. Was that something you might ever have done for real.
Martindale: It just wasn’t possible. I had about two weeks and I had to get back to work. I literally had to get home and get in a car and drive to Los Angeles.
LRM: It was just two weeks filming this movie?
Martindale: My part. They did it all together for me, so that I could get back to work.
LRM: A lot of it takes place in your hospital room, so was John at least able to do your sections in order?
Martindale: I don’t know if we were in order completely but everything in the hospital happened at the same time.
LRM: What did you think of the other actors cast as your family?
Martindale: I just thought they were terrible. (laughs) I think that it’s a perfectly cast movie.
LRM: Whatever magic came together to get this cast together…
Martindale: It was a magical little spell that was cast. I think it works in a beautifully honest and surprising way.
LRM: John did cast a few ringers like you and Richard Jenkins, and if you have Charlie Day, he’s going to be funny no matter what he says or does, whether he intends to be or not.
Martindale: He’s very, very funny.
LRM: You’ve been so busy and active in recent years, sometimes with two or three shows happening at once, so with all the attention you’ve been getting…
Martindale: Is it fun?
LRM: Well, not so much whether it’s fun, but do you tend to like to work that much?
Martindale: No, I love to work, but I do need a break. (laughs) I was offered three movies and a TV show for October, and I can’t. I have to have some time with my family.
LRM: Because you do a lot of TV, I haven’t had a chance to talk to you for movies, so it’s great that this movie has a big enough role that you’re doing interviews.
Martindale: I love this role, I love this movie.
LRM: What’s next for you?
Martindale: Sneaky Pete, we finish at the end of September, and then I start The Americans two weeks later. Then I have a break from The Americans until after the New Year.
LRM: With “The Americans” are you able to do most of your stuff within a short period of time or do you have to keep returning to do your scenes?
Martindale: Not this coming year, I won’t. I’ll be out for a few and then back in.
LRM: What’s the general gist of “Sneaky Pete”?
Martindale: It’s about con artists, and my grandson came and spent all his summers at our house with my other grandchildren, and we haven’t seen him, and then we become estranged from our daughter, who’s his mother, and then he goes… and we don’t know where he’s been since we haven’t seen him since he was 10 or 11. I haven’t seen him for 20 years and he’s been in prison. In prison, all he does is talk to his cellmate about his idyllic childhood at our farm, so his cellmate gets out and comes to our farm and says, “Grandma, Grandpa, I’m home.” And we take him in, thinking he’s our grandson.
LRM: That’s something that’s really happened. I’ve heard stories about that.
Martindale: Yes, that happened in Texas I think. This is set in Connecticut, it’s outside of Bridgeport.
LRM: Have you been shooting there, too?
Martindale: No, we did the pilot in Warwick, New York, and we shoot in Yonkers and Mount Vernon and Brooklyn.
LRM: There was another movie you had at Sundance called “Sophie and the Rising Sun” which I haven’t heard anything about since then. Have you heard anything?
Martindale: I think there’s a possibility we will see it.
LRM: It wasn’t the most “Sundancey” movie I’ve seen… more like something you might see at Toronto.
Martindale: It was more of a Merchant Ivory. Yes, it’s more Toronto. I have hopes for it, I haven’t given up home on it. I do think she’s thinking about cutting a nice chunk out of it, which I think it needed.
LRM: I love Juliette Nicholson, so having the two of you in a movie was really nice.
Martindale: She’s wonderful, she’s just terrific. I suggested her for that part.
The Hollars will open in New York and L.A. on Friday, August 26, and probably will expand to other places in September.