Mary McCormack talks about the show.
Mary McCormack has been around the biz for quite awhile, but now she has a brand new role and a brand new series on the USA Network, In Plain Sight, which airs Sunday nights at 10 PM ET. I was recently in on a conference call with McCormack and she talked about many different aspects of the series. Here's what she had to say.
What has been the most challenging part of your role?
Mary McCormack: Well, the role is such a nice fit for me. Honestly, I think the most challenging part of this job was just how much I'm in it. I've never really experienced that kind of workload before. You know it's challenging and fulfilling, it's sort of you know one of those things, be careful what you wish for. It's such a great part and it's - you know you see her at work and you see her at home. The sort of challenge for me was I went to Albuquerque with an eight-week old and was working sort of 13 to 19-hour days and for me that was the most challenging part was just staying afloat.
did you come into the part? Did you audition like normal? And why did you decide that you wanted to do this part?
Mary McCormack:You, know I was looking for a show to do and I was reading just lots of scripts and I just picked it up and it was in a stack of scripts and I read it. I remember just laughing out loud a bunch of times, which I rarely do, even with really funny scripts - just because I don't know when I'm reading you know you almost sort of clock a joke in your head more than you laugh out loud. And this one, I just remember actually sitting in my living room just laughing. And I just called my agent and said I really, really want to go in and meet on this one and who are they after? And do I have a chance? And you know just expressing a bunch of interest. And so then I went and met with Paul and David and they didn't ask me to read actually. I was willing to read, but they didn't ask me to read. We just sat and talked for a long time. And then, yes, they offered it to me after that.
From the pilot, I think you mentioned at one point that Mary was from New Jersey. Do you know much about your character background; how she ended up in New Mexico or was it basically that's where the job was at the time?
Mary McCormack: Yes, that's what we talked about - David and I. The trick of TV, of course, is that you can make a bunch of that stuff up and you know it all might change one day when the writer decides to write something else, you know because with television things get revealed slowly. That's something a lot of actors hate about the medium, but I kind of like it. But you know we just discussed that, yes, with the Marshal Service it's usually a matter of placement and that her relationship to Albuquerque and sort of the southwest is that she went there under protest. And so her energy is so different than the mellow, you know sort of relaxed place she's been put in.
You've done a lot of work in theater, I was just wondering if you could compare and contrast that experience - like the live experience with doing a show like In Plain Sight?
Mary McCormack: Well, you know the acting is the same. I mean acting is always sort of the same - like you want to be - you know you're pretending and you want to make it as real as you can. That's the similarity. The mediums other than that are completely different. I mean you know with camera work you're doing really small detailed work and you know if you do anything too big you've sort of failed. And with stage, especially with the play I'm doing right now, I'm doing a farce, and it's so over the top that you can't actually be too big. So it's just completely different. And it was actually challenging for me to do the play because I've spent the last - I don't think I've done a play in seven or eight years. So for me to remind myself to be enormous and to be brave enough to be big, it was actually a real challenge.
Can you talk a little bit about what's coming up in the show for your character?
Mary McCormack: Well, you know, her relationship with Raphael gets investigated a little bit more, you know where they stand and what they have and all that. And Raphael sort of spends more and more time with my sister, which complicates things. And let's see what else, you know each week there's a different witness story, so you get that every week. In terms of my sister and my mother, they continue sort of down their road of destruction. And, yes, I mean I don't know how much I can tell without giving it away. I don't know what I'm allowed to tell. Brandi has - you know you see her use the drugs, in the pilot you see her sniff some sort of illicit drug and that storyline also continues. So they wreak some havoc, as I think everyone can sort of see is coming. Oh, I think I'm not giving anything away.
Your mother and your sister, the other women in the family, have a much looser concern about law and order than Mary. How do you think that she got involved in law enforcement with a background like that? And what are Lesley Ann and Nikki both like to work with?
Mary McCormack: Well, I love working with both of them. I mean I think it's so interesting. I mean to me, you know I had a mother, my mother was always, and I think I can say this without hurting her feelings, my mother was always late and is often late, and I'm always 15 minutes early to everything. So I think we've all experienced sort of becoming who we are as a reaction to what we come from. And I think Mary Shannon sort of raised herself and had to look after herself from day one and probably is really, really - I think in my mind this is how I explained it - is really, really frustrated and really, really angry about not having a mother who was into the law and into structure and rules and all that. So she went as far as you could go with that and keeps everybody in line, and keeps a to-do-list on her you know dashboard. And all of that is sort of a reaction to what she comes from, I think. As far as working with those two ladies - I love it. They're both great. Lesley Ann is one of my all-time favorite actresses and she's never done a television show, so to get her to do this is really a coup.
Your role of Mary is very witty and smart and your comedic timing, has it always come natural to you or is it something that you worked at?
Mary McCormack: No, I don't know if I have actually good comedic timing. But I don't think I've worked at any timing. I think timing is probably something you can't work at. Well, I don't know. I definitely didn't work at it.
What's your favorite part about working on the show?
Mary McCormack: Well, I think my favorite part about working on the show is I love team sports. I love the crew a lot. I love hanging out with the crew. I mean I usually stay on set. I love the other actors on this show. Fred Weller has become one of my best friends. All of them - Paul Ben-Victor - and they're all great. I just love hanging out with a group of people. So I'm in the right job for that. In terms of this show versus all my other television experience or film experience, I love this part a lot. Like this part to me feels like David wrote it for me. And he didn't, which is just weird. I mean it honestly feels like if I could have dreamt up a role that I would be comfortable in and enjoy doing, this would be it. And it's a nice fit.
I was just wondering - most of the USA shows are like the half season, like a 13-episode format. Is this what In Plain Sight will be?
Mary McCormack: This one we shot - yes, we shot 13 this season. It's already shot. And the first two were combined for the pilot. So we have 11 episodes left to air. And then if we get invited back, which I hope we do, I don't know how many we'll do - probably the same or- sometimes in the second season of cable shows they do a few more. I don't know.
So do you prefer that - the half season format over the full season?
Mary McCormack: I do. I do. I've got two little kids.
What do you think it is about this show that will draw in viewers?
Mary McCormack: Well, I hope it's the writing - you know the sense of humor, the fact that the characters are a little bit off-beat. I mean yes, I think that. I hope it's the writing. I mean when I read the script, I laughed out loud a few times, which is rare. And things that I thought were going to happen didn't happen. I hope it's that. I hope people want to laugh and sort of follow an interesting- I mean also it's interesting that I think each week you get a little bit of both kind of shows. You know you get a procedural because each week you get a new story about a witness and how they ended up hiding in Albuquerque.
What has been your favorite scene to film so far, if you can tell us about it?
Mary McCormack: Let's see - my favorite scene to film maybe was that - I don't know if you guys have seen this episode, but the one with the Trojan horse. Have you seen that one?
We've only seen the pilot.
Mary McCormack: Oh, okay. It's an episode that Fred and I sort of get in a standoff. We end up in an abandoned bar in a sort of gun standoff. And so I shot the scene with Fred where I think he might die and he thinks I might die, and I think it's a really beautifully written scene.
How has the experience of working on this show been different from that of working on the other shows that you've been a regular on?
Mary McCormack: You know I think this one is so different mainly because of the workload. For me, I just have never had this big a part. And I said it before it's a case of be careful what you wish for. You know I was I just want that role that's - and sort of dreamt up this role, and now I have this role and she's cool and it's funny and she gets great lines and you know I get the gun and the car. I've got the best role in the world. And you know what comes with that is really, really, really long days and a lot of pressure. So I think that's been the toughest. That's been the biggest challenge for me. And that's been the difference is that I feel a lot more pressure and I care about it a lot more, too. I care about everything a lot more. I care about the crew a lot more because I feel responsible now. You know I feel like this is on me a little bit, so I want it to be a nice experience for everybody.
I was just going to ask about the whole being a cop thing and if that's just fun as an act.
Mary McCormack: Yes, I've never done it before. It is fun. I mean you know she's kind of a bad ass. She's a bad ass without being a superhero, which I like. Like I don't think David made her- you know like when she has a fight, you'll see in some episodes when she fights, she actually gets hurt. You know I mean I think it's not always pretty. But she still can look after herself and really mess somebody up if she needs to, which I just love. Of course it's great. I mean I'm built for that as well and I feel like I've never really gotten to do it. I mean I look like - you know my body looks like I might be a Marshal and I've never really played a cop. So it's nice. I said recently and I feel this is true that for the first time in my entire career I'm the right size for the role.
What has been your most memorable moment you've had from filming this show?
Mary McCormack: You know when I shot that scene with the Native American in the bathroom where I throw the soap at his groin. I was so sick when we shot that scene that I was throwing up between takes in a bucket. That's memorable. So when I see that - actually I had some sort of stomach bug that I'd gotten from my baby and I was so ill, but we had to shoot it that night because we were losing that location. And I actually would just like say a line, throw up, say a line, throw the soap, throw up. You know it was unbelievable. I was honestly just barely getting through it.
I was wondering if there are any guest stars we should be looking forward to this season?
Mary McCormack: Yes, Dave Foley is great in - I don't know what number it is, but it's called "A Trojan Horse." I think it might be four. Dave Foley is excellent in that. And we pick up Sherry Stringfield - who is really good. And oh, gosh, Wendell Pierce - he is my favorite of the whole season. He was phenomenal. I mean Wendell Pierce is like a brilliant actor and it was a huge coup get him. He had worked with the director of that episode before. So I think he came really for him and he loved the writing and the role. But he's amazing in it. I mean he's just really moving. I don't know what number his is. It's called "Iris Doesn't Live Here Anymore."
The show is filmed in Albuquerque, which is sort of off of the normal New York, LA, Canada radar for most shows. What's it like working there and how do you feel that the city sort of contributes to the flavor of the show?
Mary McCormack: Well, I mean I liked working there. Albuquerque is sort of a great city actually. I mean it's interesting because when people think of New Mexico they would always say oh, you're in New Mexico. Oh, it's gorgeous and Santa Fe is beautiful. And I was like I know, but we're going to Albuquerque. And no one really knows having - people certainly - lots of people know Albuquerque, but it's not what they talk about when they talk about New Mexico. But we actually really enjoyed it. I mean for me I like it more than this other city. It feels more like a city actually. I mean it has a university and so therefore it's more - I don't know - more interesting. You know it's diverse and there's a lot going on culturally. It's bigger and less touristy and it feels like a real place - like people really live there. And I don't know we enjoyed a lot. I think in terms of what it contributes to the show - just New Mexico in general really contributes to our show. There's nothing else on TV like that - you know with the big sky and sort of that landscape, which is really like another planet. There's no one else shooting there right now. So it's really special and it looks like you could get lost there. You know it looks like a place you might go to start over.
What would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of you and your work?
Mary McCormack: Thank you, of course. I mean my goodness you know I'm doing this play right now and after I leave the theater I was saying this to my husband the other night because there are so many people outside who want autographs. They've just seen the play and they get to tell you exactly what they thought and you know they're still laughing. And you get this sort of instant feedback. And it's so much fun for me. Sometimes some of the other actors think like oh, I have to go out there and do that or they don't go out between shows. And I always go out because I just feel like how sweet that people are waiting around to get my autograph. But also I guess because I've done so much film and television, I don't get to talk to people about the work ever. And it's nice to hear that people have enjoyed your work you know. So I would say thank you. I get to do what I love and I get to do it because people you know enjoy it. And that's a treat.
When you're acting, do you ever get to like offer your input or advice or change things and how is the director with doing that?
Mary McCormack: I certainly do. David Maples who created the show is really collaborative, which I love. I'm so grateful for that because not everyone is that way. And yes, if I find like if I think there's something that just feels funny or whatever and I mention it to him, he'll look at it again and either change it or explain what he was thinking. And we just sort of - you know yes, he's very collaborative. So I feel grateful for that. In television the directors are pretty collaborative. It's really the show creator who is the most protective generally and they're - but David is lovely. David has a really wonderful outlook. It's the best idea wins you know, which I think it makes for better product.
In Plain Sight can be seen on Sundays at 10 PM ET on the USA Network.