Genuine Character: A Few Minutes with Margo Martindale talking about ‘Instant Family’

Posted in Blu-Ray/DVD, Interviews, Movies by - March 11, 2019
Genuine Character: A Few Minutes with Margo Martindale talking about ‘Instant Family’

When you are in this business long enough, finding something that genuinely surprises you is a real rarity.

Instant Family is that kind of movie because on the surface it really feels like your standard family friendly comedy but once you dive into it, it’s the kind of film that has some genuine emotional layers to it along with some honest hilarity and authentic heart.

In advance of its release on DVD/Blu-Ray we got the unique pleasure to sit down with someone else whose honest and full of heart; one Margo Martindale.  We talked about her involvement in the film, her career as “character” actor, looking for material that feels honest and organic as well as the importance of simply doing what you love.

Dave Voigt: Congratulations on Instant Family, I was really caught off guard with the film and while it looks on the surface that it falls into a certain category of film but there’s just so much more to this film when you get into it.  Can you talk a little about how you ultimately came involved with the project?

Margot Martindale: I couldn’t agree with you more.  It’s just a really big family comedy and it’s very authentic which is what ultimately drew me to the project.  It wasn’t comedy that was ‘laid on top’ of the situation, everything in this film really felt organic and authentic.  It came so organically out of the material that it really is a family drama with a fair bit of comedy to it.  They asked me to do it and I thought about it and there was something about it all that just felt so much more genuine and honestly funny then anything that I had read in quite some time.  It was surprisingly funny to me, and I had the time in my schedule so I said “Let’s Do It” and I’m really happy that I did considering how well it all turned out.

When you are looking at material, is that ‘organic’ nature to it something you find yourself drawn to?  Because there’s so many people out there who know you for playing Mags Bennett on Justified; which in a different way is also a really organic character.

Honestly, I don’t even know how to do it any other way, and that’s the truth.  It’s truly what I want to do and it’s what I know I can do.  Granted I did The Americans for six years and that character really didn’t come organically to me, it was one that I had to find, but it also stretched me into some pretty interesting places which I am grateful for, but ultimately I am always looking for material that organically touches me in one way or another.

And it fascinates me because in many circles you are really consider to be the text book ‘character actress’ and while not everyone seems to enjoy those labels it feels like one that you actively lean into.  Is that something you ultimately take pride in because there aren’t always those big juicy parts to dive into?

You know, I’ll tell you something Dave.  I have heard that label before and I’ve always thought…”Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing?” (Laughs)  I thought ALL of it was character acting so to be honest I come at it all from an entirely different angle.  I mean I consider Meryl Streep to be a “character actor” she just also has the ability to carry a movie at the same time.  I think it’s pretty weird when you DON’T want to be called a character actor.  I mean I do a voice for a cartoon (BoJack Horseman) where my character’s name is literally ‘Character Actress Margo Martindale’ (Laughs).  So I’m very happy with that label.

How do you feel that your theatre work has informed your career as a whole, especially to give you the longevity that you’ve had?  Not everyone comes along in that way and again it is something else that actually feels quite organic in your career.

It really comes down to the fact that I just did what I loved, and doing what I loved opened up my world in many ways.  Someone may have seen me in a play, and then I got invite into the movie world.  It really comes down to just doing what you love.

When little girls will say to me; “I want to be an actress!” I ask them why, and without fail they say “I want to be famous” and then my answer always is “Well, you’re talking to the wrong person” (Laughs).  That wasn’t a motivation that even remotely crossed my mind.  I started doing plays when I was 16 and just kept doing them for about the next THOUSAND years! (Laughs)

It’s a beautiful answer really.  But at the same time it’s also not nearly as easy as it might look on the surface to be able to stay true to that ideal as well because doing what you love will ultimately pay off for you.

It will pay off in one way or another absolutely.  I’m sure there are people who it hasn’t paid off for who still do it out of pure love but I just count myself as incredibly fortunate.  I mean when I had trouble getting a job, I would seek out jobs in theatre that had a distinctly “Southern” feel to them or even trade off and offer to play something for free if you give me a shot at something else and that ultimately allowed people to see my real range as an actress.  Ultimately, I just never took no for an answer and always looked for another way to open that door, which is an important less for anyone to learn who wants to do what they love and genuinely follow their passions.

This has always kind of fascinated because you can always be offered a myriad of different roles but is there a dream role or a dream job or even a dream genre that you’d like to work in?  Do you secretly harbour an itch to be in a science fiction film or something like that?

Yes… (Laughs) But I’d love to bite into a role in either horror or science fiction, and I have been offered some roles in horror films before but I’m always a little hesitant to tangle with the devil and it would have to be something I feel a little safer in if you know what I mean. (Laughs)

I do (Laughs) and thanks again for the time today I really appreciate it.

Oh thank you as I am really proud of Instant Family and I hope as many people as possible get to see it.

Instant Family is available now via On Demand, Digital Download, DVD & Blu-Ray from all major retailers and providers.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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