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Margo Martindale and 'The Millers' Riding High
October 17, 2013  | By Donna J. Plesh  | 1 comment

[Editor's Note: TVWW contributor Donna J. Plesh died April 2, 2015, from ovarian cancer. She was 71. Donna covered television since the early 1980s, initially for the Orange County Register and its TV magazine. She also was a member of the Television Critics Association. Donna was always a cheerful spirit within the TVWW network and often gave readers a kind, up-close viewpoint in her interviews with a wide variety of television stars. She will be missed.]

Life is good these days for Margo Martindale. She’s one of the stars of CBS’ new Thursday night comedy The Millers, which was rated 11th in this week’s Nielsen ratings—better this week than any new network comedy, or drama for that matter.

Life will likely get even better for the veteran actress when the film version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway stage hit, August Osage County opens in theaters on Christmas Day. In that film, already generating Oscar buzz, she is part of an all-star cast that includes Meryl Streep (she plays Streep’s sister), Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney and Benedict Cumberbatch. 

Martindale is on a roll.  Last season she played the handler of a pair of Russian spies posing as Americans in the FX Cold War-era drama series The Americans and her 10-episode run earned her a 2012 guest actress Emmy nomination. 

The year before, Martindale won a 2011 Best Supporting Actress Emmy for her role as crime family matriarch Mags Bennett on the FX series Justified.

With all the drama roles recently, why a comedy series? “I always wanted to do a comedy,” she says. “The appeal is that you are on your toes and it really challenges the fastness at how one can work. It’s not easy. It’s all about being facile and fast. so I think this is the right time to do it.

“It [comedy] just seems natural,” she continues. Martindale’s career started on the stage and included sketch comedy roles at a New York club, and she liked the way it felt.  “From the very moment I started doing comedy on stage...I always wanted to be on a sitcom.”

Instead of that, she says, “I just started killing people [in TV roles and in films] along the way. And so, finally, I’m getting to do some comedy. I’m very happy.”

On the sitcom, Martindale plays the mother of a recently-divorced TV newsman (Will Arnett). He’s looking forward to living on his own and getting back into the dating game.  But things don’t go exactly as he had planned because his mother and father (Beau Bridges) separate after years of marriage.  Mom moves in with her son,  and dad moves in with his sister (Jayma Mays) and her husband (Nelson Franklin).   

Martindale’s character immediately inserts herself into her son’s life. In the first episode, she literally became the life of the party when she and Arnett re-enacted the memorable dance scene from the film “Dirty Dancing.”

“That scene took a lot of practice and a lot of work. Will and I would work with the music and try to get the steps out and try not to screw up,” Martindale recalls.

Airing at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays, The Millers has, arguably, the best timeslot on television following television’s hghest-rated comedy The Big Bang Theory. How does she feel about having her show in that coveted timeslot? “Well what do you say?” she says, with a laugh. “I sure hope we don’t screw up.”

Not so far. The series seems to be on solid footing, but she says she’d be interested in finding time to return to The Americans, too. Her character, Claudia, was not killed off.  “I hope we work it out so I can go there.”

At 62, Martindale’s career seems to be in fast-forward.  She’s got a high-profile network series, a film opening that’s causing some early Oscar buzz, an Emmy nomination, and an Emmy trophy already at home.

“Well, I get to turn down jobs now, which is really something that didn’t happen before,” she says.  “Things are great. It’s not like I’m an overnight [sensation]… I’ve been working all along. You just didn’t notice me.”

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Also loved her as the neighbor in "The Riches" with Eddie Izzard.
Oct 18, 2013   |  Reply
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