Andie MacDowell (‘Maid’) on portraying mental illness: ‘She doesn’t want anyone to see that she’s dark and suffering’

“The complexity of who this person was and trying to figure out why she behaves the way she behaves was fascinating as an actor,” explains Andie MacDowell about playing Paula in the Netflix limited series “Maid.” “So the idea of being a participant in this was a dream come true.” Watch our exclusive video interview above (some SPOILERS included).

Inspired by Stephanie Land‘s memoir of the same name, “Maid” tells the story of Alex (Margaret Qualley), who tries to free herself and her young daughter from an abusive relationship. She takes a low-paying job cleaning houses to keep her head above water while navigating a broken support system full of bureaucratic roadblocks and red tape. Paula is her mother, who is bipolar but refuses treatment, making her an inconsistent presence in her daughter and granddaughter’s lives.

Because of her illness, Paula “can be very joyful and the life of the party,” but she can also be “cruel and mean and horrible.” And MacDowell felt even more of a connection to Paula’s story because of mental illness in her own family. “Oddly, I have been doing research on what it means to be a manic depressive or bipolar for at least 20 years because I came from such a difficult background, and I lost my mother when she was 23,” she says. “I really wanted to understand who she was.”

Who Paula is goes beyond the eccentric behavior we see on the surface. “There was a lot of pain in her,” MacDowell points out. “She doesn’t want anyone to see that she’s dark and suffering, so she covers it up with all this personality and all this outward movement and everything that she does.” It was a difficult portrayal because “when you’re making a TV show you don’t just do it once. You do it all day long from different angles. So it took a lot of energy, but at the same time it was a deep joy for me to have an opportunity to play something that was challenging.”

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