Margo Martindale on Her 'Americans' Beat-down, Elvis at the 'New Girl' Set
Joining the Fox comedy as Nick's mourning mother, the Emmy winner tells THR about her work on the two series and her lingering love for "The Riches."
Margo Martindale seems to be a little busy. Since playing Mags Bennett on Justified earned her an Emmy in 2011, the film, TV and stage veteran has popped up on more than a half-dozen series -- and currently counts herself as a regular on FX's The Americans.
"I'm a little too busy, honesty," Martindale tells The Hollywood Reporter, pausing a moment to laugh and knock on the nearest piece of wood. "I never thought I'd be able to say that."
Still finishing up the freshman season of the renewed Cold War drama, Martindale recently took a week off to fly out to L.A. and play Jake Johnson's mother on New Girl. She'd previously worked with ep and episode director Jake Kasdan on Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
"I said, 'Well, is it funny?,'"she says, recalling the ambiguous offer. "He said, 'Of course it’s funny!' And only when I got there did he tell me I needed to do a Chicago accent. So I did my phony-bologna Chicago accent as best as possible."
Martindale makes for a convincing Mrs. Miller, who turns to her comparatively competent son to plan her late husband's (Dennis Farina) funeral. The actress also got the early heads-up that her character would not mesh well with Zooey Deschanel's Jess. Martindale gives an aggressive cold shoulder throughout the episode but has only the most-glowing things to say for her co-star.
"She's a hilarious Elvis, isn't she?" Martindale says of Deschanel, who goes in drag as the King during the episode's funeral. "She is so much like the icon that I had when I was in high school, watching Marlo Thomas as That Girl or Sally Field in Gidget. She’s that for people now -- and not just because everyone wants her hair."
But it was one of Martindale's fellow guest stars, 94-year-old Ellen Albertini Dow (The Wedding Singer), who seemed to give everyone the most entertainment while she was on set.
"Oh man, she has some stories," says Martindale. "At one point she got out of a van and asked for a flashlight. When someone offered to help her instead, she said, 'I don’t need any help, I just need a flashlight. I thought this show was supposed to be a hit.'"
Martindale, who was recently cast to play Will Arnett's mother in one of Greg Garcia's CBS comedy pilots, says she anticipates any future TV plans should accommodate a return to The Americans for the already green-lit sophomore run. She says it's been a pleasure, aside from brawling with Keri Russell in her first episode.
"She beat the shit out of me," says Martindale, laughing again. "It was freezing cold on the river, in the dead of night, in a warehouse with no heat -- but it was fine because the stunt double took most of the pain. It looks so good that I hate to say that, but I mostly just stuck my hair in water and fell backwards."
She also admits that she's quite at home on FX, where she is still a bit nostalgic for her role as the endearing neighbor to Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver's undercover gypsies on The Riches.
"Of all of the parts that I have played, that is the closest to me," she tells THR. "I could be me, without the smoking dope and being married to a drag queen. I had a lot of freedom in that."
Martindale goes to "Chicago" during Tuesday's New Girl, which airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.