Margo Martindale on getting into character for her Emmy-nominated Mrs. America role
Savvy film and TV viewers know that character actress Margo Martindale brings commitment and gravitas to any role she plays (even a fiery version of herself on Netflix's BoJack Horseman). But playing the real-life Women's Movement activist Bella Abzug on Mrs. America was challenging even for an actress of Martindale's caliber.
Mrs. America follows a sprawling cast of characters centered around the movement to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, and the efforts by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly (played by Cate Blanchett) to stop it. Asked how she prepared for the role of Abzug on PeopleTV's Couch Surfing, Martindale replied, "Lots of video clips, lots of books, lots and lots of dialect [training]. Two months of dialect," to pull off Abzug's distinctive New York accent and cadence.
"She thinks as fast as she talks," the actress added. "You could catch me going, 'Uhhh...' Not Bella. Smart as a whip."
Of course, the costumes, including Abzug's signature hats, helped as well — but there was a bit of a sticking point in that department. "The first hat I wore was red, and I had on a baby blue outfit. And I said, 'I look like Little Bo Peep. Could you please let me wear a different hat?'" Martindale said, laughing.
The work paid off; Martindale's performance earned her an Emmy nomination — her sixth — for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. Of course, she's still unsure, as are all of us, of how exactly the Emmys ceremony is going to work this year. "I wonder, do you just get dressed from the neck up?" she wondered. "It'll be what it is. I hope it's a fun thing to watch, that's all."
You can watch the full clip above.