Slotting in with the stars
Mary-Louise parker tells Chris Wasser she was delighted to work with big names such as helen mirren in red
She's a bit self-conscious, she tells me; a dark and somewhat kooky character from South Carolina whose interest in the creative nature of a project often leads to a more interesting role. Such as bored office worker Sarah Ross, whose innocent telephone romance with a faceless pensioner leads to a whole lot of trouble in the DC Comics mini-series turned action-comedy movie RED (which, incidentally, stands for 'retired, extremely dangerous').
It's an enjoyable watch, complete with a stellar cast that includes Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich, all of whom turn in some great performances as a gang of former secret intelligence agents on the run from the CIA. Must have been a lot of research involved, so.
"Not really," laughs Parker, who plays Willis' hostage love interest in the film. "I felt like it was more the vibe of their relationship that I wanted to work on and just figuring out where she came from and just how boring her life was, to invest her with a certain kind of, like . . . sparkle's a stupid word, but positive energy, you know?"
And did you read the comic beforehand? "I didn't even know there was one," smiles the 46-year-old, adding that she felt no need to seek it out while filming, either. She's not a comic book fan, she says. However, when reading up on the Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress, I happened to come across a website where fanboys expressed their interest in Parker playing Lois Lane in the next Superman movie. That's quite the compliment, right?
"Oh my God, that's so nice!" she replies. "Somebody mentioned that to me last night -- something about Lois Lane. I was like, 'I think I'm too old to play Lois Lane, but thank you!'"
But how does a single mother of two find time to juggle a busy career in TV and film? After all, Weeds is now in its sixth season and the movies (including a cameo in the upcoming Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl) just keep on coming.
"What's hard is to do that and just really take care of my kids," she says. "So all the decisions that I used to make were always creative; they were always like 'this is inspiring to me', or 'this is interesting', and now it has to be logistical as well. I can't pick up and go to Prague for three months. There are a lot of things I can't do. But I just feel so lucky. It sounds corny, but I have so much work that I've been able to do, so I'm certainly not complaining."
Getting back to the movie, Parker has nothing but kind words to say about her experiences with the rest of the cast, especially Oscar-winner Mirren. There may be a couple of decades between them, but both actresses appear to be ageing gracefully, to say the least. And just to clarify -- Parker's never had any plastic surgery or Botox. She likes being able to move her face too much.
"Helen's awesome," she says, "and that's what I want to be. She's totally easy to talk to. You meet her and you feel like you already know her because she's so unpretentious. She's so unaffected, and kind, and sexy, and . . . it sounds like I want to marry her!" she chuckles.
As Parker further explains, becoming a big movie star was never part of the plan; that all she ever wanted to do was work. Not that we haven't seen plenty of her talent along the way (1991's Fried Green Tomatoes, The West Wing, Angels in America). "I'm not the right, like, type of woman for that anyway," she offers, "I mean, I think that takes, like, one of those freakishly beautiful girls who don't have any weirdness in them! I just never would have been one of those girls anyway, so I just thought I'd keep acting until I can't remember my lines any more . . . which could be soon!"
Ever considered stepping behind the camera? "No, not even a little bit. Not even point zero percent. First of all, to have 50 people asking me questions, and having to make all those decisions. I mean, I've done so many things in my life that I swore I would never, ever do, so maybe I'll end up doing it."
We'll see. Time's almost up. Which just about leaves time for one more compliment. "I have to say, the Irish journalists are, like, better than any other," she smiles.
Why, thank you.
"Seriously . . . now some jerk is gonna walk in here and ruin it!"