“It has been a perfect storm for me,” admits three-time Emmy winner Margo Martindale on her new role as a tough as nails matriarch in Amazon’s “Sneaky Pete.” During our recent webcam chat (watch the exclusive video above), Martindale explains that a confluence of events and personnel was why she took on the role. “I was attracted to Audrey honestly because of the people involved. Bryan Cranston and David Shore called me and asked me if I would be interested. I read the script and absolutely loved it,” she says, adding that when Graham Yost, the mastermind behind “Justified,” also came on board, that was the added “bonus” that has made this project so special to her. She won her first Emmy for “Justified” in 2011.
In “Sneaky Pete,” Martindale plays Audrey, the grandmother and formidable matriarch of the Bernhardt clan, who run a family bail bonds business. They encounter their long lost grandson Pete, played by Giovanni Ribisi, who shows up at their doorstep after years away. However, Pete is really Marius, a parolee and con man who assumes the identity of his cell mate Pete to hide from the dangerous men to who are after him for money.
In developing her character, Martindale recounts how she tried to come up with her own backstory. After sharing her thoughts with showrunner Yost, she reveals that the feedback was that her take was “way too psychotic,” she laughs. Martindale explains that Yost revealed that when playing this character, she needed to keep in mind what her motivations were. As Audrey, the actress says, “I have great intuition and have seen some shady stuff in my past, but I am a mother of this family and I will do anything for my family, and things just snowball. I’m kind of an OK person that this all happened to, because I am trying to keep my family together.”
And as the season progressed, Martindale was able to fill in the blanks by drawing from her own personal experience. “It’s great to be old,” the veteran actress smiles. “You have so much to draw from in life. It’s all available to you. That’s what age does for you. It’s the availability of a world of things you’ve been through.”
“Sneaky Pete” also offered Martindale a change of pace, being her first foray into a series on a streaming service. “It does make a difference in how the show is made,” she reveals. “They do have to make it ‘edge of your seat’, you want to watch, you want to come back and see it, and acting in something like this, which I have never done, the thing that makes it so wildly different is that you’re acting in the dark. You see it when everybody else does. I just hope and pray that the way I have arced it just works. It’s incredibly exciting because it is alive. You don’t know where you’re going.”
Martindale will be on the Emmy ballot in the Best Drama Supporting Actress twice, for her role on “Sneaky Pete” and also for her heralded role as KGB handler Claudia on FX’s “The Americans,” for which she has won two consecutive Best Drama Guest Actress Emmys. This season her role expanded to more episodes, which means that she will not be eligible in the guest category this season. Martindale talks at length about her Emmy wins and how she treasures her role opposite Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell on the FX spy drama and the opportunities that it has presented to her. “It’s been a great, wonderful ride.”
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