TV is a multi-Margo experience


One of TV's great series, "Justified" peaked when Margo Martindale brilliantly played a marijuana matriarch in the Kentucky hills. The role had rich layers ... and she's almost matched it subsequently, Now Martindale has "The Good Wife," "The Americans," two Sundance films and more. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By MIKE HUGHES

For a couple of
generations, Margo Martindale led the patient life of a supporting
actress.

She did a lot of
plays, some movies, some TV shows. Eventually, she would be Meryl
Streep's sister, Hilary Swank's mother, Miley Cyrus grandmother; she
was Susan Sarandon's colleague (often) and Leonardo DiCaprio's
doctor. People almost sort of recognized her.

And then it all
broke loose. In her 60s, she's won two Emmys and played classic
characters on “Justified,” “The Americans,” “The Good Wife”
and more. “It's just been joyous,” she said.

And now the rush
continues. “The Good Wife” returns to CBS in January ... the same
month that Martindale has two movies at the Sundance Film Festival and is nominated for a Critics Choice Aeard.
“The Americans” returns in March; on the way are more movies and
an Amazon series.

These roles cover a
huge swath ... which Martindale's life has prepared her for. Consider
when she made the leap from small-town Texas to the University of
Michigan.

“I didn't have any
idea what I was getting into,” she said. “We got a U-Haul trailer
and hooked it up to the car and drove north .... My accent was so
strong then.”

She had grown up in
Jacksonville, an East Texas city of 14,000. Her dad had the local
lumber yard and showed dogs; her older brother Billy was an all-state
quarterback and then a noted golf-course designer.

It sounds idyllic,
but the tough part involved wearing a brace. “I had it for six
years,” she said. “It was 24 hours a day for two years.”

When it came off,
she leaped into ... well, everything. She golfed, was a cheerleader,
was named “football sweetheart.” She did theater, including a
high school role as the faded Southern belle in Tennessee Williams'
“The Glass Menagerie”; even at 16, she says, she was playing
60-year-olds.

After starting in a
hometown college, Martindale made the big move to Michigan. People
there shared her passion for football and theater, but didn't always
speak the same language.

“The word for a
soda was 'pop,'” she recalled. “I didn't know that. (In Texas),
we said 'Coke' for everything: 'I want a Coke.' 'What kind?' 'A
Pepsi.'”

She would learn to
adjust her accent and her life; the move to New York City went
smoothly. “I knew everyone on my block,” Martindale said. “We
celebrated together; we mourned together.”

She's been married
to musician William Boals since 1987, has one daughter and often had
the life of many New York actresses – off-Broadway shows, day jobs
(spa consultant, background checks for job applicants) and occasional
roles in movies or TV shows, sometimes alongside big stars.

“I was always shy
around Paul Newman,” she said. “This was the guy from 'Hud'; that
was the most nervous I'd ever been.”

He was shy too, she
said, but a quiet friendship evolved over two movies. In 2004, she
finally got her first Broadway role, in Williams' “Cat on a Hot Tin
Roof”; Newman – who had starred in the movie version, 46 years
earlier – came backstage to praise her.

She got a Tony
nomination and, that same year, drew praise in Clint Eastwood's
“Million Dollar Baby.” More followed, including two series, “The
Riches” and “Mercy”; then came the “Justified” role.

“They wanted a
Kentucky druglord and wanted me to audition,” Martindale said. “I
said, 'Can't you just show them my (acting) reel?' But they really
wanted me to come in. I'm glad I did.”

This became a richly
layered performance, one that Robert Bianco of USA Today called
“smart, chilling, amusing, convincing and unfailingly
entertaining.”

Martindale won a
2011 Emmy (at age 60) for that role, then drew three nominations in
“The Americans,” winning in 2015. Now she adds a Critics Choice nomination for “The Good Wife,”
as a fierce political schemer.

“People keep
saying these women are evil,” she said with a laugh. “They're
just really good at what they do.” And so, of course, is Margo
Martindale.

Margo everywhere

-- “The Good Wife”
returns Jan. 10 on CBS. That episode finds Martindale on a crowded
campaign bus in Iowa with her candidate (Peter) and the guy she
replaced as campaign chief (Eli).

-- Critics Choice Awards are 8 p.m. Sunday on cable channels A&E, Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network.

-- Two of her movies
are at the Sundance Film Festival. “Sophie and the Rising Sun”
and John Krasinski's “The Hollars” will both be there Jan. 29-31;
the latter will also be shown Jan. 22-23.

She's finished two
other independent films.

-- “The Americans”
returns to FX in March; she plays the handler of Russian spies in the
U.S.

-- “Sneaky Pete”
has its pilot film on Amazon Prime, which will launch the series this
year.