In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
Margo Martindale’s work on the stage and small screen has earned her multiple Emmys, a Tony nomination, and—perhaps the most prestigious honor—having virtually every reference to her name preceded or followed by “beloved character actress.” On everything from Justified to The Americans, Martindale is a consummate and affable professional, holding sway over families and Russian agents with a soft smile and drawl that belie her gritty resolve.
Now the August: Osage County star has set up bail-bonds shop on Amazon’s Sneaky Pete. The Graham Yost-produced drama is now in its second season, which sees her character, Audrey, reckoning with a cover-up, among other shady dealings, opposite Giovanni Ribisi as Pete/Marius. Ahead of the March 9 season premiere, The A.V. Club spoke with Martindale about the Beach Boys, The Hollars, and possibly teaming up with Rob Lowe and his sons to investigate the supernatural.
1. What makes you optimistic about the future?
Margo Martindale: Waking up every morning.
The A.V. Club: That’s actually a great answer, but did you want to expand on that at all?
MM: I am just so grateful for every single day, and if I could just not think past today I would be living the life that I think God meant me to live.
2. Which single work of yours do you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved?
MM: The movie I loved that I did that didn’t get the attention—well, I think it got attention, but I don’t know—was The Hollars, John Krasinski’s movie.
AVC: That was from a couple years ago, right? I remember John Krasinski and Anna Kendrick and, oh gosh, I’m forgetting who played your husband.
MM: Richard Jenkins. But he’s not very good though, is he? [Laughs.] I love Richard Jenkins, love him.
That and, oh, I don’t know. I think that there was a movie I did with Paul Newman years ago called Twilight that I thought was wonderful. [It was] a Robert Benton movie, with Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon, Reese Witherspoon, Liev Schreiber, me, Giancarlo Esposito, Stockard Channing, and James Garner.
3. What’s the first album you bought with your own money?
MM: I think it was probably Beach Boys’ Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) or the early Beatles, which had “P.S. I Love You” and those on it.
4. Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?
MM: Yes. I think my husband asked me this recently, actually. I think he said, “You don’t really believe in ghosts, do you?” I said, “Well, I think so.” I’m not really sure I believe in ghosts, but my best friend bought a house in Nyack. They had put money down on their house in Nyack, and as she was getting people to come work on the house, the workers would say to her, “You mean the ghost house?” And she’d go, “The ghost house, what do you mean?” And they’d say, “Oh, we’re not going to come there to work.” The ghost house, the ghost house. [Laughs.]
Come to find out there were two ghosts in the house and people wouldn’t work on it. It became a famous case that they bought a house that had a lore with it, and now in real estate you have to put in writing if there’s a lore that comes with a house, because of those two ghosts. Isn’t that crazy? She could feel them, she was scared. They didn’t buy the house, they got their money back.
AVC: So, was it that person’s experience that swayed your own opinion?
MM: Oh no, I’ve always thought I saw ghosts. Or imagined ghosts and aliens, but okay.
AVC: Well, Rob Lowe does have his own paranormal investigation show, where he searches for wood apes and aliens with his sons, so you’re definitely not alone.
MM: Well, I’d like to be on that.
5. If you were only allowed one condiment for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?
MM: Hands down, mayonnaise. Just Hellmann’s mayonnaise, hands down. We don’t need to discuss anything else.
AVC: Is there anything particularly unusual you put that on?
MM: Peanut butter. Peanut butter and mayonnaise, delicious.
AVC: In a sandwich?
AVC: I’ve definitely heard of peanut butter and, what’s the marshmallow stuff—Fluffernutter?
MM: That’s sweet, blah. That’s no good. Peanut butter and mayonnaise. Give it a try. But Hellmann’s, it needs to be Hellmann’s, though. It can’t be salad dressing or Miracle Whip or something like that.
6. In what type of social situation are you the most uncomfortable?
MM: When you’re with a bunch of loud 20-year-olds, if you’re on a movie and everybody is a lot younger than you and they want you to go to a club. I’m not very comfortable in that situation. I’ve been on movies when everybody goes out to some loud place. I don’t know, I’m not comfortable. And also I’m not really comfortable around a bunch of political conversations.
7. What was your dream job when you were a kid?
MM: Research scientist. Well, I guess not as a “kid”—I’m talking about as I got older. I mean, I just loved biology and math. That’s where my aptitude was. I just happened to audition for a play in the middle of all that, and it screwed everything up.
AVC: It looks like it all worked out for the best though.
MM: [Laughs.] Yes.
8. What do you watch when you’re in a hotel room?
MM: I love Steve Harvey on Family Feud. I love Antiques Roadshow and Fixer Upper. Anything that’s mind-numbing. Mostly I don’t turn on the TV, I read.
AVC: You’re a better person than I am.
MM: I honestly never turn on the television, if I’m alone.
9. Do you think that art should be separated from the artist?
MM: I think your art is an extension of you. Though if you’re playing a part that is different from you, yeah… you know, when I call acting an art, it’s a little obnoxious, too. I’m not sure.
I don’t know how to answer that question. Let’s just say yes, or no. You can choose. Yes and no, how’s that? Yes and no. And I won’t elaborate.
10. What’s the most difficult professional decision you’ve ever had to make?
MM: “Do I take this play or do I do this movie? Do I do this movie or do I do this television series? Or do I… ?” That’s kind of really it. I do remember while doing regional theater—I was committed to a summer of doing One Thousand And One Arabian Nights at Actors Theatre [in] Louisville. I was wearing a white uniform with all the cast, no set. And John Jory—my mentor who was just brilliant—I told him, “They want to cast me in a Broadway show replacing in Crimes Of The Heart.” He said, “Miss Martindale, if you don’t fulfill your requirement here with One Thousand And One Arabian Nights, you will never work in regional theater again.”
So, guess what I did? I stayed with One Thousand And One Arabian Nights and John Jory, and that was a really smart move.
11. If you could stay one age forever, what would it be and why?
MM: I would stay, I don’t know. This age is great: 66. But I don’t want to die at 66. I want to continue living at 66 until I’m 96.
AVC: What do you like best about being this age?
MM: It’s just, you know, I’m smart, my mind’s good and I’m losing some weight, I feel real good about that. I love my husband more than anything, and I love my daughter more than anything. I’m just blessed with lots of wonderful work and great friends. What more do you want? Yeah, it’s pretty good, pretty good.
12. From Karen Kilgariff: What’s the most effective piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? (“Not the best conceptually,” but the most useful.)
MM: Take the job. Take the job. Take the job.
AVC: Do you recall who gave you that advice?
MM: I think it was Josh Mostel, Zero Mostel’s son.
AVC: And finally, what would you like to ask the next interviewee, without knowing who they are?
MM: What advice would you give a young kid coming up to you on the street and asking, “How do you get into show business?”
AVC: Have you ever had to answer that question?
MM: Mm-hmm. I always say, “Why do you want to be in show business, to be famous?” They go, “Yes.” I say, “Well, then you shouldn’t be in show business.” You should be in show business because you want to be an actor. I don’t even know what “show business” is. I’m in show business now, I guess. But do you think that’s what I sought out to be in, show business? No, I just took the job, took the job, took the job.