Margo Martindale, actress of “Scalene”
Margo Martindale has attracted new fans, and more attention, to her impressive film and TV career (“Lonesome Dove,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Secretariat,” “A Gifted Man”), with her recent Emmy-award winning appearance as Mags Bennett on the hot TV series “Justified.” In “Scalene,” an indie film arriving on DVD and Blu-Ray July 31, 2012, Martindale brings her considerable talents to the lead role as a mother caring for her brain-injured son. “Scalene” is billed as a “perceptual thriller,” a movie told from three points of view, offering a challenge for the actress and the opportunity to work with the young and upcoming director Zack Parker.
Martindale talked recently with Indiana-based mystery and Western novelist Larry D. Sweazy, on special assignment to The Film Yap, about the impending release of “Scalene,” the role of Janice Trimble, and life post-”Justified.”
Larry: What about this role (Janice Trimble) appealed to you? It was pretty complex.
Margo: That’s what appealed to me.
Larry: That’s not fair. I gave you the answer. (Laughs)
Margo: I like a thriller. I’m really drawn to murder. (Laughs) That’s all I read, thrillers and murder mysteries.
Larry: This movie presents some real challenges for an actor. It’s almost like you play three characters. How did you approach the role of Janice Trimble?
Margo: It was complicated, and I had to keep asking Zack (director Zack Parker), “Who am I now? Whose point of view is this? Is it Jakob’s (Adam Scarimbolo), Paige’s (Hannah Hall) or mine?” It was fun in that way to make the adjustment to the more sinister Janice in Hannah Hall’s point of view. I really enjoyed it. I think Zack has great vision and I think he has a really good future.
Larry: This was my first introduction to Zack’s work, and I agree: It looks like he has a promising future.
Margo: I really think he does. I love the Hitchcock element to his style, and he did it on a dime, too. I really believe in him.
Larry: You’ve done work in indie films like this, and you’ve done a lot of work in major studio films. What are the advantages of each one?
Margo: The advantage of big, huge films are money and luxury and time. I would say mostly time. You have a lot more time because you have a lot more money. This film was fun because there were people who don’t get the opportunity to make a movie like this. The DP (director of photography) was fantastic. All the camera people were incredible. They really had a great crew, and everybody was working basically for nothing. It was an opportunity for people who haven’t had that bit of luck. [Indie films] are a great platform for an artist, I think.
Larry: Movies don’t get made in Indiana very often.
Margo: Well, I loved Richmond, I really did. I had a great, great time, stayed in a beautiful place and they treated me like I was doing a major motion picture.
Larry: I think it’s great that you’ll work in TV, major films and indie films. It’s amazing that you’ve had the opportunity to do that.
Margo: I think I’ve had a really wonderful career. It just gets better and better, which is great to say at 61. Wednesday (July 18) was my birthday.
Larry: Congratulations! Happy birthday.
Margo: Thank you. I’m really blessed. It’s been wonderful.
Larry: Do you worry about being typecast?
Margo: No. I’ve done a world of different roles. But I think recently, people really want to see more of Mags Bennett. I love her. I’d love Graham Yost (producer of “Justified”) to write a spinoff for Mags. It’d have to be Mags Bennett, the early years. I’d have to play her younger, but whatever. (Chuckles) I just think lately people want to see a tough negotiator. There’s a hint of Mags Bennett in “Million Dollar Baby,” but I think Mags Bennett was really smart and Earline was really dumb. There’s two different sides of that person.
Larry: I really enjoyed Mags.
Margo: Thank you.
Larry: When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
Margo: Oh, I think around 16. I was a cheerleader in high school (in Jacksonville, Texas), and the choir director came to me and asked if I wanted to audition for the musical. At the beginning of it, I was hooked. I had probably really been doing it since I was about 5 in my backyard. I didn’t really know that that was what acting was, spending time in my playhouse pretending to be other people.
Larry: It’s a long way from Texas to Hollywood.
Margo: It’s a long from Texas to Hollywood. It really is. It’s a long way from Texas to New York, too. I went to the University of Michigan and I got a job at Harvard in the theater program and met people there, and then went from Harvard to New York. I didn’t have a plan. That’s the way it happens.
Larry: It’s best that way. You just move from one thing to the next with no major blueprint. Is that pretty much how you’ve navigated your career?
Margo: It really has been. Exactly. I always believed in myself, that’s the one thing that I can tell you. Even when times were tough. There’s easier things that you can do, but perseverance has really paid off.
Larry: That’s key isn’t it, in any art, perseverance?
Margo: Yes, yes, absolutely.
Larry: I think you work really well with child actors and younger actors, and I was thinking of Hannah and Adam in “Scalene,” and they seemed to hold their own in this film.
Margo: Both of them are extremely confident. I thought they were both terrific, I really did. Adam did a lot of studying and research on the anoxic brain injury that Jakob suffered from. And Hannah just does terrific. She’s right there, available, really confident, and we were all on the exact same level.
Larry: It seemed that way. I wondered, though, with you, it seemed like in every scene you were overwhelmed or angry, just right to the edge of extreme emotions. Did you go home at the end of the day exhausted?
Margo: No, not at all. Acting is fun. It was fun. Some people say it’s a hard job. It’s so not a hard job.
Larry: Digging ditches is a hard job.
Margo: Exactly. Acting is just a joy for me, truly. Working in a factory, that’s a hard job. I worked in a plastics factory for a brief period of time, for a summer, before I went off to Michigan. It was hard — a hard job.
Larry: I’m sure everybody comes up to you and wants some apple pie (the poisonous drink in “Justified”) or key lime pie (from “Dexter”).
Margo: How strange is that? (Laughs) Two kinds of pie.
Larry: One you eat and one you drink. It’s a little different.
Margo: Different, but very weird that there’s always pie.
Larry: I imagine it’s funny how things work out like that.
Margo: It is. “Justified” came out of the blue. I was out for the premiere of “Secretariat” and went to an audition for that because I loved the part. I got it,and was doing it that afternoon. So out of the blue…
Larry: What came first, “Scalene” or “Justified”?
Margo: “Scalene” came before “Justified.” The year before, after “Secretariat.” It came the spring after “Secretariat,” and then the fall was “Justified.”
Larry: That was a busy year.
Margo: A very busy year.
Larry: Busy years are good.
Margo: Busy years are what we long for in this business.
Larry: I have to admit I had to look up the word “scalene.” I’m a writer, not a mathematician.
Margo: I have a passion for math, so I did know that. [Scalene is a triangle in which all three sides are different lengths.]
Larry: The only passion for math I have is my wife is an accountant.
Margo: (Laughs) That’s good.
Larry: What are you working on now?
Margo: I’m negotiating a really beautiful movie right now. I can’t really say much about it.
Larry: OK. What did you just finish up?
Margo: I just finished up a whole year, a season of a CBS series, “A Gifted Man.” I finished it in the end of February and then it was cancelled at the end of June. I did a pilot that didn’t make it. I did “Suits,” and then I did something else. But I’ve been busy. And ABC called, but that [project] got aborted because somebody broke her ankle.
Larry: Is there anything about “Scalene” that we haven’t discussed that you want to say?
Margo: It’s going to be a fun movie to watch, to buy or get on-demand, or on Netflix. It would be a movie that I would watch. I’d read what it’s about and I’d watch it because it’s a psychological thriller. I watch a lot of thrillers. Watch it. It’s fun.
Larry D. Sweazy (www.larrydsweazy.com) is the author of the award-winning Josiah Wolfe, Texas Ranger novels (Berkley) and a stand-alone thriller, The Devil’s Bones (Five Star). He lives in Indiana with his wife, two dogs and a mean old black cat.
“Scalene” will be available on DVD and Blu-ray July 31, 2012