Margo Martindale: 'Steel'ing Hearts 25 Years Later
Most people learned to love Margo Martindale thanks to her powerful and Emmy-winning turn as Mags Bennett on the second season of FX's Justified.
But the beloved actress first began winning over audiences with the first staging of Steel Magnolias in 1987 when she originated the role of Truvy. Now, she's returning to The Lucille Lortel Theater for a 25th Anniversary reading of Robert Harling classic play (benefiting The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) on December 3 -- although this time, she's tackling the role of Ouiser!
ETonline caught up with Martindale to talk about the 25th Anniversary, what it means to be re-staging this play and what happened when Steel the play met Steel the film and she met Julia Roberts!
ETonline: Is it crazy to you that it's the 25th Anniversary of Steel Magnolias? Margo Martindale: Well, I must say, I didn't think much of it when they first asked me to do it since I'm not playing my own part. But I read over the script yesterday and sobbed the whole way through. My husband asked, "Why are you crying so much?" And I said "Because this was so much a part of our lives." My daughter was conceived during my last time on stage in New York and she is almost 25.
ETonline: You are playing Ouiser for the first time. How does that compare to playing Truvy? Martindale: Honestly, it's not radically different. It's just the flip side. Truvy is so big-hearted and just so funny but sweet. And Ouiser is not. And I think I'm more like Ouiser now than I was like Truvy. So it's kind of perfect.
ETonline: What do you think it is about these women that has kept audiences under their spell for 25 years? Martindale: I think that originally with the play we didn't know what we had. We played that first show so seriously. It was a serious play and it was all about business. We had no idea it was so funny. When we put it in front of an audience, they just loved it. I think people love it because we were real people, with real feelings and real hearts. That's what people saw in the play and, in turn, I think that's how the movie was made.
ETonline: What did you think of the movie? Martindale: I was actually doing the national tour of the play when the movie came out. You kind of want to criticize. It was vastly different from the play in that it's so open. The thing that I missed in the movie, which you can't do in a movie,is that in the play, everything takes place in one room. All the emotions were so huge in that room and you couldn't escape it, so you had to confront the pain of the loss of Shelby. I believe that all happened in the cemetery scene, which actually worked beautifully but it was very very different. For anybody who wasn't part of the play or hadn't seen the play first, I think the movie was perfectly beautiful.
ETonline: You've now tackled two roles, is there anyone in Steel you wouldn't want to play? Martindale: I don't think I'd want to play Shelby or Annelle. I'm soooo not right for it. But all the others I can play I think.
ETonline: You're currently expericning the other side of the coin, working on the cinematic adaptation of August: Osage County. How much of that play has been "movie'd up?" Martindale: It's beautiful. So beautiful. I think it really retains the spirit of the film. Tracy Letts (who wrote the play) wrote the screenplay so he kept it really close to the play. He's opened up some of it, but most everything takes place in the house. I absolutely loved working with Chris Cooper, Meryl [Streep], Benedict [Cumberbatch], Julia [Roberts]; everybody was wonderful.
ETonline: Did you and Julia ever talk about your shared Steel connection? Martindale: We talked about it. She was just so sweet about that. She said "Steel Magnolias gave me everything. I owed it to the people that kept the play going for the movie to be made."
ETonline: I've been a fan of yours for so long, but I'm curious, do you have a role like that? One you feel like "gave you everything?" Martindale: It was only two years ago, but I do think Justified really changed my career. It made everybody a little more aware of me and what I could do. It also brought me to the public eye and made people more aware of how long I been doing this.
ETonline: You've worked on a lot of shows and played a lot of supporting characters in big films. Is there any character you'd love to revisit in a bigger capacity? Martindale: Well, I loved Paris, Je T'aime. It's like my top two favorite things I've ever done and I think it was a beautiful. I think it was a perfect seven minute movie, or whatever it was. I don't know how that would work in a bigger movie, but she was an interesting character I would have loved to have been with longer.
For more on The 25th Anniversary reading of Steel Magnolias to benefit The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, click here!