EXCLUSIVE: Margo Martindale Has Done Enough Dying for One Day

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“I’ve done enough dying for one day,” Margo Martindale tells
ET. The beloved character actress, known for her Emmy-winning work on Justified and The Americans as well as supporting roles in August: Osage County and Million
Dollar Baby
, has her limits -- at least when it comes to certain roles that
now come her way. “There are parts about people gaining and having things go

Her most recent film role in The Hollars, available now on DVD/Blu-Ray and digital HD, sees her
playing Sally, a dying matriarch to a dysfunctional family who has a brain
tumor. The story may be a familiar one, but it’s elevated by its ensemble cast,
including John Krasinski, who also co-wrote and directed, Charlie Day, Richard
Jenkins, Anna Kendrick and, of course, Martindale, who has earned considerable
praise for the part.

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Spending a large part of the film in a hospital bed,
Martindale says “was very interesting to me because the movie sort of happened
to me.” She likens it to watching a home movie. “Something unusual happened to
me during this movie and it felt completely real,” she continues.

Adding to the reality, for Martindale at least, was the fact
that she spent those hospital scenes hooked up to a real blood pressure
machine. “I was hooked up to the monitor the whole time, so I could keep tabs
on how I was doing,” she says, adding: “And I did really well!” 

Sony Pictures

While the hospital provided a certain stark reality to the
film, it was the moment Sally was forced to shave her head before surgery that
delivered a real gut punch. “It was an extremely vulnerable thing to have done
to you because it felt as if I was really having my head shaved,” Martindale
says of the scene that sees her onscreen son, played by Krasinski, running the
clippers through her hair. The prosthetic wig, she jokes, “cost more than they
paid me… And I knew that we only had one shot doing it.”

Martindale didn’t prepare for the scene in the same way she
didn’t believe Sally would have prepared to see her hair go. “I still had to
stay in the space of being strong,” she says, adding that it’s the moment of
reality for her character, who is forced to hide her terror from her kids.

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“It’s a very close thing for somebody my age,” Martindale
says of playing Sally, who eventually dies in the hospital. “The fear of death
is something I’ve fought since I was a little girl.”

And with that in mind, Martindale is happy to sit the next
onscreen death out. Though she was offered a death in another movie before The Hollars (“It was a wonderful
script”), the 65-year-old actress is not ready to revisit that
headspace any time soon. “It’s just that now, I don’t know if I want to do it,” she says.
“I’m certain I’ll do it again. Just not next week!”