Tonight, Raising Hope (Fox, 9:30 p.m.) begins its two-part season 2 finale, which finds the family’s history with Hope’s mother, the Boyfriend Killer, chronicled on Inside Probe, a TV program hosted by guest star Nancy Grace. At the end of the first half hour, there’s a bombshell that sends the family to court in the April 17 episode to retain custody of Jimmy’s daughter. “It’s an old-fashioned ‘To be continued…’ cliffhanger, which I love,” Martha Plimpton says of Part 1. “They always did that kind of stuff on all the shows I grew up watching. I love that [Raising Hope creator Greg Garcia] was willing to go there and make fun of the whole trope.”
Part 2’s courtroom scenes feature the return of guest stars including Jason Lee, Jaime Pressly, Ethan Suplee, and David Krumholtz, who take the witness stand. But it’s Plimpton, wearing the suit Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman) bought to be buried in (“I don’t think she expected to be living past the ’80s,” Virginia says), who’s the scene-stealer. “There’s one moment in particular where Virginia is being questioned and she panics and goes all Miss America. I thought that was hilarious,” Plimpton teases.
Let’s see how she handles being grilled with an EW Pop Culture Personality Test.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Name the first TV cliffhanger episode from your childhood that comes to mind.
MARTHA PLIMTPON: Well, obviously there’s the Brady Bunch in Hawaii cliffhanger. They found a weird little Hawaiian bad luck charm, and Greg got knocked off his surfboard, and they all thought he had drowned. “To be continued.”
When do you yell at the TV?
When I watch my political shows. I don’t watch very many of them, actually. The only one I really watch with any regularity is Rachel Maddow, because I feel like she’s the only one who’s actually interested in reporting news. She’s not just pontificating. When she’s reporting on something that’s infuriating, I will scream. Not scream, but I’ll swear a lot… And then what else… If something is so stupid. See, I don’t watch reality television anymore. I watched a little bit of it for awhile, but I found it turned my soul into a black sludge, and I just did not find it healthy or good for me at all, because I would watch it and be disgusted, disgusted. So now I avoid things that make me respond that way. [Laughs] I watch things that are fun, or funny, or interesting.
What’s the worst-case scenario of a show your DVR could forget to tape?
Downton Abbey. Obsessed. The first season, I had to marathon the first six episodes on a flight, and I was like, “Ohmygod, more. I need more.” It’s like crack. It’s a soap opera with fancy clothes and British people. It’s so ridiculous, but I love it. I love it so much. And I can’t believe what’s going on with Bates. [Puts her head on the table.] Here’s the thing: My favorite characters on that show are the two bad guys, Thomas and O’Brien. They’re two of the best-written characters on television, and the actors who play them kill me dead. They’re so good, because I actually care about them.
It’s hard to do, to be that evil and have people still care about you.
It’s really hard. O’Brien, to me, is just an utterly fascinating character. I would read a book about her. And Thomas, when he was hiding the dog, and then he was looking for the dog in the woods and he was panicking. I was like, “F—, Thomas!” That’s something I would yell at the television. “Jesus, Thomas! What have you done?! You’re in trouble now! You’re in so much trouble!” But he never gets caught! He always gets away with it. It’s amazing. I love him. And I love that actor, too. I think he’s really cute.
What show are you planning to marathon next?
I think I’m gonna try to marathon some Mad Men. [Whispers] I haven’t watched it since the first season. I gave up. Everybody’s like, “Ohmygod, you have to watch. It’s so good.” And then I have to marathon Justified. I have never seen one episode. And then I also have the entire series of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman on DVD that I got for Christmas that I still haven’t watched. So I have to spend my hiatus watching that because I love Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and remember it from when I was a kid and I haven’t seen it in years. I love Louise Lasser with a raging passion. I want to verse myself in some more of those subversive sitcoms from that period. I think Raising Hope owes a lot to those shows, so I want to spend more time watching shows like that.
Did you write a fan letter to anyone when you were young?
Yes, and I can’t tell you anything about it because it’s humiliating.
Then you must.
It’s so humiliating. I don’t have the words for how humiliating it is. No. If it ever comes out, my life will be ruined.
Is it someone you’re friends with now?
No. No. And I hope never to be. I hope they don’t remember. And I hope they never tell anyone. And I hope that I never see them anywhere. If this person has any recollection at all, and somehow tells anybody, I will be devastated and destroyed and I will never show my face in public again. I will have to move to Papua New Guinea to, like, teach elementary math to the children who live in the trees. Because I won’t be able to show my face.
It hurts me, but I will move on.
You have to move on.
What is your most-prized pop-culture possession?
I have a Lewis Black bobble head doll, and I have a small miniature bust of Lincoln. I make myself sound 80,000 years old. I’m very proud of both and they sit beside one another on my bookshelf because I feel Lewis Black and Abraham Lincoln have a lot in common. What else do I have? I’ll tell you what I used to have, that I’m going to ask you to publicize because I want it returned to me: Back in the ’80s, remember we used to make VHS copies of things. Somehow, I had gotten my hand on a VHS copy of Todd Haynes’ first movie Superstar. This was the story of Karen Carpenter told with Barbie dolls. It was his film school thesis project. It is a straightforward biopic. It is sheer genius. I loaned it to a friend. I don’t remember which one, and of course, they never returned it. And, it is priceless because there are no copies available for sale anywhere because there was a lawsuit brought by Richard Carpenter, forbidding the distribution of this film because it’s a hard-hitting biopic, okay. It doesn’t pull any punches. I want my copy back. Whoever has it better mail it back to me, or bring it to me. They know where I live — I live in the same apartment I was then. They need to bring me my copy back, no questions asked, and I’ll be happy. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night angry that I don’t have that videotape. [Watch it here, until it’s taken down.]
Name a movie you have to watch every time you spot it on cable.
There are a few. Jaws, Close Encounters, and The Godfather movies. They’re not my favorite movies of all time. They’re just the ones that I won’t change the channel, no matter where it is in the movie. But my three favorite movies are rarely on cable, and something needs to be done about it. Cassavetes’ Gloria, with Gena Rowlands, is my No. 1 favorite movie of all time, and it’s never on cable and we need to do something about it. The Black Stallion is my other favorite of all time, and that’s not on cable nearly enough. I think that movie’s extraordinary, a work of art. And Chungking Express, but that’s not on cable very much because it’s in Chinese. So, it’s kinda understand that it’s not on that often.
Name an R-rated movie you saw too young.
Saturday Night Fever. In fact, Saturday Night Fever was the first movie I saw in the movie theater without my mother that wasn’t a cartoon. My babysitter took me to see it with her friends, and it was the one that wasn’t cut. They released two versions: They released an R-rated version originally, then they released a PG version. She took me to the R-rated version, the one where Donna Pescow gets banged in the backseat of the car. Highly traumatic. That was probably inappropriate for me to see at that age. I was six or seven. But I loved the movie, and I fell in love with John Travolta. It didn’t destroy me. I grew up in New York in the ’70s, you know what I mean. I was used to seeing all kinds of weird stuff.
Last question: As an active tweeter, what have you learned about people on Twitter?
[Laughs] I don’t know if I’ve learned anything about people, but I’ve learned about Twitter. To me, Twitter is a very useful tool for telling people what’s going on with the show and hearing back from fans, and maybe keeping people up-to-date on what’s going on in the country when they might not be paying attention. It’s a nice way to pop information out there and hope it sticks…. People seem to think that you should be willing to speak to them whether they’re jerks or not. I like the funny people, the smart people, the interesting people, the nice people who love the show. I don’t have a need to debate with people. I don’t know why people want to do that. My friend Sarah Thyre, an actress and writer, says “My Twitter feed is not a democracy.” [Laughs] I am very free with my block button. I love that block button. I use it all the time.