Mary-Louise Parker tells us about work, life and the future
Given the subject matter of this hugely successful US drama, we’re surprised and simultaneously stoked that OSN is showing the latest series of Weeds completely uncut. It is, of course, a show about a mother who deals in certain illicit substances, and the latest season promises to take us on another hilarious journey through this less-than-orthodox lifestyle. Mary-Louise Parker, 46, a Golden Globe nominee for her role in the show, plays Nancy Botwin – we met her for a carefully crafted chat about everything except those little green weeds.
We hear you’ve done a fair bit of writing during your career. Are you ever tempted to write for Weeds? I write for the US edition of Esquire, but I’m never moved to write drama. I write better in prose form.
You’re a jack of all trades, doing film, TV and theatre. Which is your favourite? I like theatre best, but I have two kids and you can’t put kids through private school with theatre. I actually like TV a lot, but theatre is rough. When I was 28 or something, doing a play was very different than it is now. My whole day was focused around going to the theatre. I would always get there super-early and everything was about that. I can’t really do that now.
You’ve said you were attracted to your Weeds character, Nancy, for her flaws, and you seem to be drawn to darker material. Do you prefer flawed characters? No, but I feel that often people seem to think of me, ‘she’ll do it!’ In college, my teachers were usually critical of me going after comedy too much, leaning too much in that direction. Just when I got out of school, I seemed to get hired for a lot of dramatic things and people tend to remember you as they saw you the first time.
You’re rumoured to have turned down the role of Susan Mayer [played by Teri Hatcher] in Desperate Housewives so you could do Weeds. Is it true? Well, yeah, I’d never admit it, because I think that’s kind of rude to the actress who did, except that it came out a couple of times, so I feel like it’s alright for me to admit it. I felt as though somebody else could probably do it a lot better. I felt as though I was more suited to a different kind of world, and I hadn’t read Weeds yet when I read Desperate Housewives – I wasn’t choosing between two things. But I think it might not have worked as well with me as with [Teri Hatcher]; she’s totally suited to it, and she does a great job. It just didn’t feel like I was going to serve it as well as someone else might.
When Weeds debuted, you said you didn’t think people would like it, or they’d be offended by it. What made you think that? I guess I feel like a mother doing illegal stuff – I didn’t think people were really gonna go for it. In our country, people are really, really intense about stuff like that. [Laughs] Certainly as they should be, but I don’t know.
Was it mostly that angle that you thought would turn people off? Yeah, but also because it was a mother. People generally don’t take to mothers when they’re not represented in an idealised way.
Which takes you longer to get comfortable: stage or film work? Truthfully, it depends on the project and the people. On Weeds, I feel like we all know each other really well. We just are pretty comfortable with each other; there’s no weird infighting or anything. Everybody really likes each other.
How would you like to see Weeds develop in future? I like it when they take it to really extreme places, really high drama mixed in with the crazy humour. The two best moments I’ve seen this season is when I throw the banana bread and Justin says, ‘You ruin everything you touch!’ That was so funny – I think about that and I still laugh. And Celia [played by Elizabeth Perkins], when she says, ‘Oh honey, you can’t buy a beach house for US$100,000.’ Elizabeth is just so amazing. I watch her and I think there’s no way I could do what she does. She’s just really something.
Have you thought much about what you’d like to do next? I’ve been happy doing the series, because it’s really good for my kids if I can do concentrated work, so the rest of the year I can be with them. I like having regular hours. I’m kind of blue-collar in that sense. I don’t like to sit around much because I start to get really spacey. I like to work a lot, keep working and keep doing stuff. If I’m inert for too long, I wilt.
Weeds season six airs on OSN Comedy on Fridays at 10.30pm.