September 18, 2011


Mary-Louise Parker could not be more ready for BULLETT’s Cosmic issue.

“I’ve been called an alien all my life,” she says warming to the topic. “They can’t get a pulse on me and for some reason I break electronics – like my computer and my cell phone. No-one knows what it is.”

Thankfully, today her negative ions are set to low, so digital pictures remain faithfully on SD cards while her words are recorded for posterity on an iPod.

We’re in Los Angeles, her home-away-from-her-NYC-home for three months a year while she films the hit Showtime series Weeds, chronicling the bad decisions and wild missteps of a mother/widower/dope dealer/gangster’s moll. It’s a role that’s given the 46-year-old both a regular gig, and the opportunity to indulge her love of theatre (she won a Tony for her Broadway role in “Proof“), cherry pick some choice film roles (Red, Solitary Man) and raise her two kids (seven-year-old William with actor Billy Crudup, and adopted daughter Caroline, five.)

She’s a lot on her plate, which could explain her croak of a voice, words propelled mere inches from her mouth by the slightest puff of her lungs before falling almost unheard onto the ground. Almost unheard…

At the end of the last season of Weeds, after years of getting away with it all, Nancy finally got caught.

Yes, she went to jail for three years. This is the first time the show returned after a break with a three-year gap in the story.

Did three years in the big house finally teach her a lesson?

No way. We wouldn’t have a show if it did.

How soon before she starts getting into trouble again?

About 20 minutes. Maybe more like 11.

Have you personally ever had any issues with the decisions she’s made?

No. I’m not like her. She’s really immediate, and I tend to worry more and think about the future and my children and the effect things will have on them, even down to what they eat.

America is still essentially a puritanical society: was it inevitable that she ultimately had to be punished for her crimes?

The writer and creator of the show wasn’t looking for something punitive to appeal to middle America: she’s more along the lines of wanting to shock people. I think she just thought it was good for the story.

Nothing in the name of moral duty?

No – I don’t think there’s much of that on the show.

Showtime has a rep for seriously flawed characters – Nancy, Dexter, Nurse Jackie, Hank Moody, Frank Gallagher – that at the same time seem very likeable. What do you think is the appeal?

I was the first one! I personally think there’s something lovely about watching a slightly more fictionalized ideal, like Leave It To Beaver. I’d rather watch that, but maybe people can’t live up to that, and it feels more subversive and voyeuristic to see something that is closer to real life.

Though however extraordinary her situation, her response is always relatively passive.

That’s because she feels, whatever’s happening, ‘Things will ultimately work out for me’. It’s not even being able to relate to the fact that it might not. That’s a hard attitude for me to relate to.

Has anything been difficult for you to film or deal with?

Honestly, driving was the hardest thing for me because I don’t drive.

So you’ve been beaten, sexually abused, kidnapped, gone to jail, attacked… yet driving has been the most difficult.

I would say so. I’m pretty bad. They had a gag reel one season that had seven takes of me trying to back out of a parking space.

Apart from forcing you into a car, has Nancy influenced you at all?

Just with her taste in jewelry. I worked for a long time to try and find her wardrobe and I really want her jewelry. I don’t dress like her otherwise.

You look pretty badass on the new poster, with your leather pants and chain.

I know – isn’t that silly! My kids saw it from the car – ‘Oh, it’s mummy!’ I think they think everyone’s mummy is on a billboard.

You’ve interviewed and written for Esquire: if you were interviewing yourself what question would you ask?

God… what a good question. I guess… why do you want to keep doing it? The answer? I don’t want to seem melodramatic, but in some ways it feels like this is what I have to be doing. My father just died, so that changes the way I feel about what I do.

Sorry to hear that – do you believe you’ll get to see him again in the afterlife?

I want to so badly. Nobody knows – everything is philosophy as far as I’m concerned. Or hope.

If there is an afterlife, where do you think you’re going and where do you think Nancy’s going?

Nancy’s going to a land full of shoes and jewelry. I’d just like to be somewhere I can see my dad again, and ultimately my mum and my kids.

When you were a kid yourself did you feel you had a purpose?

To keep people around me happy.

That’s a serious responsibility for a child.

It wasn’t in a mammoth way, not like some Dickensian-type thing. I was kind of a disaster socially, so I didn’t have a lot of friends, which in the end brought me all kinds of other things.

Do you believe in fate?

No. I believe in effort. And results. Effort counts, and that’s what I respect in other people. It’s like, ‘Why even bother? I’ll just sit here and let it all happen to me.’

Do you think there’s another version of yourself sitting somewhere in a parallel universe, and if so, what’s she doing?

I don’t, but if there is I wish she’d show up and let me take a nap.

How important to you is order as opposed to chaos?

I have to create order because there’s so much chaos in my head. I can’t have both.

If you had an opportunity to take a glimpse into the future 50 years from now, what would you want to see in it?

I’d have to know first that it’s true; otherwise I wouldn’t want to see it. If someone could say your children are happy and doing well, I might want to peek. But only if I was on my way to die.

How about just a year from now – do you think you’ll still be playing Nancy Botwin?

I didn’t think they’d even pick up the pilot so I didn’t think it would go a year. Now every year I’m like, ‘You’re kidding!’. Certainly I’d do another year after this – I’m happy to have a job.

What would you like to see happen to Nancy in the future?

I like the really extreme scripts, and I wish she’d go back to a suburban setting: I love the dynamic of her trying to fit in with other women that she should be able to fit in with and just can’t. She is one of them but she isn’t.

Do you think there’s a chance that ultimately we’ll see grandma Nancy dealing drugs?

Oh, quite possibly…

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