FX’s hit series JUSTIFIED (Wednesdays at 10 PM) is now in its second season and already renewed for a third. In the show developed by Graham Yost from the writings of Elmore Leonard, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) has come across all sorts of lawbreakers, especially now that he’s returned to his native Kentucky. However, it’s a safe bet he’s never before tangled with anyone quite like Margo Martindale’s Mags Bennett, the folksy, ruthless criminal matriarch who someone described as a cross between Tony Soprano and Paula Deen.
Martindale, who hails from Galveston, Texas, has had a lot of great gigs in her career (including MILLION DOLLAR BABY and SECRETARIAT on the big screen and a recurring role on DEXTER). Even so, the actress cannot contain her joy as she talks about playing the magnificent Mags.
ASSIGNMENT X: How does it feel to be in demand as an actress?
MARGO MARTINDALE: It is so nice [laughs]. Oh, darling, I’ve been waiting for this moment. It’s very, very exciting, it really is.
AX: This is your second FX series …
MARTINDALE: Yes, I did THE RICHES.
AX: How did you wind up on JUSTIFIED?
MARTINDALE: I came out here [to Los Angeles] for the premiere of SECRETARIAT, and my agent said, “They’d like to see you for this [JUSTIFIED].” I said, “A Kentucky woman? Can’t they just look at my reel?” And they said, “They really want to see you do the lines.” And I read the script and I said, “I’ll go anywhere.” It was that great.
AX: Do you have to audition that much these days, as opposed to just being offered roles?
MARTINDALE: I do. I don’t have to all the time, and I’m so happy to [when the opportunity arises]. You know why you like to audition? It’s because you show up and they know what they’re getting. Because if they sometimes hire you and you don’t have to audition, it makes you a little more nervous, like, “Well, this is what I did [before that has already been seen] …” It’s more comfortable to audition.
AX: Had you watched JUSTIFIED before the audition?
MARTINDALE: I knew about it, but I hadn’t watched it. I have now.
AX: Now, you’ve played some characters who are malicious …
MARTINDALE: Just one. Well, MILLION DOLLAR BABY – this was MILLION DOLLAR BABY on steroids [laughs].
AX: Is Mags the most powerful character you’ve played?
MARTINDALE: Absolutely. It is the most delicious, powerful, incredibly insane, fantastic part I’ve ever gotten.
AX: Would you say you more go head to head with Raylan, or do you try to manipulate him?
MARTINDALE: I do both.
AX: And is there any difference playing a person of this kind of power versus somebody who doesn’t have this much kind of power? What is that difference?
MARTINDALE: It’s more fun. And it comes easily to me [laughs].
AX: You’ve always wanted to lead a crime family?
MARTINDALE: For years! [laughs]
AX: Is there any sort of character, maybe a Shakespearean sort of character, you can compare her to? Or an archetypal character? Margaret Thatcher?
MARTINDALE: I can’t think of anything. Except that’s a whole different kind of character. And let me just say, that’s somebody I would like to play.
AX: Is JUSTIFIED made at about the same pace as your previous series THE RICHES? Is it faster, slower …?
MARTINDALE: I’m doing more of these than I did of THE RICHES. I did seven a season of those. This [JUSTIFIED] feels more movie-like. I don’t feel rushed at all. And Tim [Olyphant] is incredible to work with. I mean, my first day, we sat in his trailer and went over stuff and worked it out like we were doing a movie or a play or something. There’s no intimidation. These are the best actors I’ve ever worked with.
AX: Do you have anything else either out recently or coming up that we should know about?
MARTINDALE: I did Tom McCarthy’s movie WIN-WIN, and [the CBS series] CHAOS, and I have an independent movie I did called SCALENE, and a movie with Colin Firth and Orlando Bloom called MAIN STREET that’s been kicking around.
AX: Is there anything else you’d like to say about JUSTIFIED?
MARTINDALE: I’m just having the time of my life doing it.
CLICK HERE for AX’s interview with JUSTIFIED star TIMOTHY OLYPHANT