Mary Louise Parker - Misdeeds with Ms. Weeds

Posted on 18. Aug, 2010 by Administrator in Film/TV, hCovers, Profiles

by Mark Cartier

Mary Louise Parker

Picture 1 of 7

Shirt by Twenty Cluny

photos by Robert Todd Williamson
styled by Albert Medonca
hair by Gio Campora
make up by Torsten Witte

It is seven o’clock in the morning. The worst hour of any day. Somewhere between hair and make-up, costuming, and shooting another scene, Mary-Louise Parker, who has been at work for a while now, chats me up. I say “chats me up,” because my assignment, an in depth interview, alive with humor, charm, and relevance (my wife in fact thinks of me as the Mexican Jon Stewart), quickly detoured into my own misadventure. Why? Of course —and I blame the hour of day here— I had problems from the get-go.

Problema numero uno: I was not able to record our conversation, and thus was forced to frantically type what was being said as it was happening. Since I am completely incapable of multitasking I was not able to engage Ms. Parker as nimbly and as full of bravado as I would have liked.

Perhaps here I should make a confession… My intention with this interview was simple: I bring myself to the brink of journalistic fame by cracking through the barriers of the most wholesome drug dealer to grace the small screen. My mission — dethrone the Green Queen, Mary-Louise Parker. But typing away like a lowly court reporter, my powers of manipulation were dulled. My attempts to skewer her were foiled. Happily, a terrific side effect of the situation presented itself instantly after the “interview” ended. As I went through my notes, trying to figure out how I would nail Parker with nothing but a shorthand mess of notes on a computer, it dawned on me… None of my quotes were accurate! I could misquote her into oblivion! That would put this celebrity in her place!

This was now where problema numero dos reared its ugly head: I love my mother. Plus my father always said to be good to your mother (and vicariously to other mothers). Added to all of this, my mom once said to never lie about someone else, unless you’re trying to get away from the cops, or to get out of work for something more fun. No, I could not lie about Mary-Louise.

Since she is a real-life mommy, and since I have a soft spot for the mommas, I’ll cut her some slack and not misquote her. I’m sure her evil plots will reveal themselves.

The truth: Mary-Louise has started another season as television-mother and marijuana baroness, Nancy Botwin, in Showtime’s hit series Weeds. The show, in which Parker plays a lovable widowed soccer mom who once sat atop a suburban pot empire, charges into its sixth season. Consequentially, Mary-Louise has a lot of long days ahead. But that’s okay for this single mother. She claims to love her job (I think her exact words were: “I love my job!”), and, more importantly, her two kids have a playroom on set. And a lemonade stand, which I have been led to understand is quite popular.

“My son was eight months old when we shot the pilot for Weeds. For six years, everyone here has been watching him grow up. We’re family,” Parker continues as a member of the costume department offered to help her get her shoes on. They had just painted her nails and she needed to do a costume change soon.

As the conversation goes on, in fact, there is a growing sense that others are becoming concerned she won’t be ready in time for the scene an entire crew is working hard to set up. But Parker, like a good mommy, is never frazzled; gracious to anyone who approaches her. She has already said the crew was like family, and now here she is, acting like it. What is she trying to cover up by doing crap like this?

“I like to work, I like to be at work. I don’t understand when actors complain about [this or that]-you’re getting paid to act. How many people get to do that?” Parker particularly likes working in television, noting “there’s something about the regularity of working [on a show], getting to improve on it.” She claims to have made lots of mistakes during the run of Weeds as she worked to bring Nancy to life, saying that too much of herself would bleed through on occasions.

I suppose she’s made an interesting point. The following I am making up, and I may be completely wrong about it, but I would venture to guess that those mistakes are bound to happen more often in television, whereas in the theater, an actor works the same dialogue for months honing that perfect performance. A feat, by the way, for which Parker has received much critical acclaim, including winning a Tony Award for her performance in “Proof”. With television however, you get to set at five in the morning, grab a bagel, rehearse, costume, then shoot and move on. It’s fast-paced. The character is bound to become a
reflection of the performer.

Perhaps this was it! The point I could use to expose Ms. Parker for the celebrity nightmare she must be: How much of Mary-Louise comes through in Nancy, the equivocating mother whose very actions seem to contradict her stated desire to take care of her family?

So I asked.

“How much of you is in Nancy, or comes out in Nancy?”

“[Nancy’s] an extremist. She lives in a grayer area than I do. She’s always trying to achieve harmony, so she’s often not honest with herself. I don’t feel a kinship with her intellectually, she’s not a wildly self-examined person and doesn’t suffer from a lot of guilt…which I suppose might be nice,” says Parker, adding, “I’ve been able to fix moments that I was unhappy with by getting to re-shoot things, scenes. Everyone here is very supportive, the writers are great. Everyone wants the best.”

Touché, Parker. Tou. Ché.

Her supposed enjoyment of both the acting process and her Weeds family shows in how she treats others, saying at one point, “That I get to do what I love is amazing. I truly feel lucky that I get to do this. I don’t lose sight of that.” I still think it’s a ruse—she must be power hungry, being a good mother notwithstanding.

At a certain point, looking at the clock and getting a sense of people waiting (plus, I’m still searching for an equivocating evil celebrity that must lurking under her well-constructed front-—and my own powers of mental superiority are being taxed by my frantic typing), I offer to say ‘thanks’ and get out of her hair. To which she warmly says, “Tell you what, I’ll do this costume change so I’m ready, go shoot this shot, and get right back to you.”

Right! Sure, sure. You do that! That’s the oldest trick in the book! Oh, Ms. Parker, you just gave me the card I needed to prove to the world you’re insincere and self-centered! Your TV show job is obviously more important than a lowly Mexican writer and new father trying to make it in the world and to support his young family. (To be clear, I am speaking of myself.)

Check. Mate.

But she did! She returned! F! Okay, so, she’s not a flake. There must be some horrible reason she’s doing this and though it wasn’t particularly clear, in hindsight, the opportunity allowed me to over-caffeinate. Which, of course, made me very paranoid that the interview was going horribly, that I was the worst interviewer of all time, I was failing, and my brain started to misfire as I desperately tried to focus and seem cool and super-smart. Was this her strategy
the whole time?

Interestingly, the TV star was not allowed to watch television as a kid. Perhaps this is why she so desperately seeks fame and celebrity power! We shall see.

“I wanted to watch Sonny & Cher, but it was on really late. So I would sneak from my bed into the hallway and watch it,” says Parker, who adds that her favorite childhood show was probably Lidsville, a crazy Saturday morning children’s show from the early ‘70s, in which a boy falls into a magical hat and ends up in Lidsville, a world populated by giant living (and uber-characaturized) hat-people. I mention here what the show was about because Mary-Louise joked that I am too young to know what she was talking about. I guess I showed her!

“I love Flight Of The Conchords. But I wasn’t introduced to it until it was over, it’s really good,” she says, adding “I don’t really watch TV now. I know that sounds like a cliche, an actor saying they don’t watch TV, but it’s true. We never really have the TV on in the house, not as background noise during the day.”

A Southern girl, Mary-Louise is ever polite, if not a bit reserved, or outright shy. In this may lie her secrets, so I press. Reflecting a bit on growing up, she says “I’ve always been a darker person, a little Wednesday Addams girl. I wanted to be a pom-pom girl, but I could never pull it off. I think I was embarrassed by it.” Here we go! Fresh off the sofa from which I marathoned five seasons of Weeds in one sitting (this is actually something I recommend to anybody who likes television-buy a frozen pizza, turn off your phone and enjoy the ride), I have seen the dark side Nancy tries to cover up or suppress. Parker taught her that! I’ve seen her photo shoots and read her interviews. She has never come across as shy. In fact when I ask her about this she says,“I’m not self-conscious in front of the camera— I look on it
as a performance.”

“I was not a good communicator, this is the way I communicate. I was shy, [acting] is how I can express myself.” Well, Ms. Parker, is the shyness the act, or the acting the act? I’ll get to the bottom of this.

Mary-Louise would have us believe that somewhere in

the shyness a wonderful humility lives. That it is probably this shyness which has created her confidence by channeling her expressiveness and talents through performance. That her success is the unexpected result of hard work and solid values, and a commitment to providing for her beloved children. I say, perhaps. It might be looking like that, but I’m not done yet.

A few bios on Mary-Louise floating out there state that she prefers quality to quantity. To which she says, “I was never really career-driven. I still don’t have specific goals and never expected fame. Some actors just have an appealing vibe and that seduces the world. But I wanted to hide behind other people, to step into someone else’s brain and heart and psyche. I wanted a break from being me,” then quoting something that had stuck with her,“I never worried about going out of style, because I never felt as if I were in style.”

Hoping to blow her out of the water with her own words, I press her on one of the first films responsible for the respect people have for her craft. The movie is Longtime Companion, in which Parker plays a woman who experiences through her homosexual friends the destruction caused by the outbreak of AIDS in the 1980s, as directed by Norman Rene and written by Craig Lucas. “Can you talk about it?” I ask. “Yeah!” she says, with obvious fervor. “The guy who directed it was my mentor. I can’t watch it without crying.” Here I learn that the director has since passed away and it’s obvious how much this impacts Ms. Parker. I am now slightly embarrassed by what is looking more and more like a ridiculous effort to find fault in this performer. Is she actually genuine?

“I accepted that job (Longtime Companion) without even reading the script,” she says. “I worked with the writer, Craig, and Norman, the director, before. We had done a play together (“Prelude to a Kiss”). They called me and said, ‘We have a project with a role for you, we’d like to send you the script,’ and I said you can send it to me,
but I’ll do it anyway.”

Parker did another film with the same writer/director duo a few years later called Reckless. Both films are terrific.

Parker has two new films coming out. Howl, a film about the poet Allen Ginsberg’s obscenity trial, which also stars James Franco, Jeff Daniels, and David Strathairn to name a few; and RED (an acronym for Retired and Extremely Dangerous), a very fun looking action/comedy about retired CIA agents getting the ‘ol gang back together for funsies. The latter carries an additionally heavy-hitting cast, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Karl Urban, and Richard Dreyfuss.

It’s time for a subject change. “What have you learned from doing Weeds? How has it affected your life?” I ask Ms. Parker. “Wow,” she says. Then, after a moment, “that you can make marijuana into cupcakes and lollipops!” She laughs. I also laugh. She’s obviously wearing me down. “I think to work [so many hours] and to have kids is hard to negotiate. My instinct is to want to be home with [my kids]. It’s tricky,” she continues. Again with the good mom stuff. Could I have been way wrong about Mary-Louise Parker?

I don’t imagine anybody out there believes that fame makes being a parent easier in any way. How much time Parker connects success and concern and work and play with her children makes very clear what her priorities are. She is a mother—from the sound of it, a damn good one. She

is grateful for the career that allows her to provide, but nonetheless, I was curious if she would enjoy living a life off the grid. Could she say goodbye to the career and go far away to live a private life? Surely this question would expose her true desires: to maintain her celebrity status.“Yes, for sure!” she says very enthusiastically, hardly skipping a beat. “I would go to Calgary. Calgary has a weird vibe, I really like it. I
don’t really know why.”


But Parker is a New Yorker. “It would be tough to lose New York. I would lose a lot if I had to leave New York,” she adds. I suppose I can understand this sentiment. New Yorkers have an
amazing town. Kudos.

There was a lot to be said about the various reasons she readily entertains the idea of falling off the grid, finding a private life. Her willingness to share some very personal feelings on celebrity and the romanticization of that kind of life was rather unexpected and incredibly honest. “There is a perception about celebrities. It has just gotten more and more mean spirited and voyeuristic,” she reveals.  “It’s interesting to look at people’s willingness to humiliate themselves publicly, like on reality TV, you can see how people are seduced by public exposure and it seems to be something a lot of people want. I think there are a lot of people who think it’s so desirable, they will do anything to achieve some level of fame or notoriety that there is a bizarre resentment that people have to celebrity. Joe Walsh’s song, ‘Life’s Been Good’ is a great song. But people really do treat you differently. And it’s usually the people you thought you knew best.”

I hate to let you down, dear readers, but I am not famous. I have met a lot of famous people, am even friends with some of them. I have lived in Hollywood for nearly a decade. This part of the conversation is personally the most honest anyone who understands that life and the stresses on such a life has ever been with me. Mary-Louise engaged me from our introduction and did not treat me like a vulture hoping to further my career by latching myself somehow to her (which, sadly, happens to be the case; I’m a latcher). In fact, when I let her know my wife and I had recently had our first son, she turned the tables on me, started asking me questions. When my son grows up, I can tell him, “You see that actress there? She said you had a powerful name! Nice, eh?”

After our interview, I reflected on the experience. There seemed to be none of the front or pretense that I had desperately hoped to expose for my own purposes. This brings me to…

Problema Numero Tres: I was completely wrong about Ms. Parker. She’s cool. In fact, one word comes to mind when I think now of Mary-Louise Parker: Genuine. Ms. Parker is Genuine.

Oh, crap! I almost forgot! Mary-Louise told me that we’ll be seeing the legendary Richard Dreyfuss in the upcoming season of Weeds. “It’s such an honor to work with him, he’s awesome! I saw Postcards From The Edge a month ago, he’s so good in it. He’s so good.” I told her I caught Mr. Holland’s Opus recently on cable. She had not seen it, but is going to rush it onto her Netflix lineup. I suggested she buy the soundtrack and blast the “Opus” theme at his trailer.

She laughed half-heartedly, but after a moment it seemed as if she didn’t understand what I was saying. I got embarrassed and dropped it. Our conversation came to an end. Mary-Louise Parker had won without even knowing she was in a fight. Hot.

I was fortunate to get the first episode of Weeds, season six- and it was awesome! Stay tuned for the premiere; August 16 on Showtime.

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2 Responses to “Mary Louise Parker - Misdeeds with Ms. Weeds”

  1. Administrator

    18. Aug, 2010

    awesome photos!

    Reply to this comment


  1. MLP Source // The Ultimate Resource For Mary Louise Parker News // Images & Multimedia & So Much More... - 19. Aug, 2010

    [...] H Monthly Magazine has just published a new article/interview with MLP in their latest issue and amazing photoshoot photographed by the famed photographer Robert Todd Williamson. - Enjoy! [...]

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