Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug in MRS. AMERICA - "Houston" | ©2020 FX/Sabrina Lantos

Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug in MRS. AMERICA – “Houston” | ©2020 FX/Sabrina Lantos

MRS. AMERICA is a nine-episode miniseries, streaming on FX on Hulu, about the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment. Created by Dahvi Waller, MRS. AMERICA is set in the 1970s, when what seemed like a simple constitutional amendment – the ERA guaranteed “equal legal rights for all American citizens, regardless of sex” – was turned into a political flashpoint by far-right activist Phyllis Schlafly, played by Cate Blanchett.

Margo Martindale plays real-life Democratic politician Bella Abzug (1920-1998), a U.S. congresswoman for New York who was one of the founders of the National Women’s Political Caucus. Martindale, who was won three Emmys for her work on FX series – one for Supporting Actress as backwoods gangster Mags Bennett on JUSTIFIED and two for Guest Actress for her work as KGB agent Claudia on THE AMERICANS – is originally from Texas, but has spent a great deal of time in New York.

This interview combines comments Martindale made on a Q&A panel and a one-on-one later in the day.

ASSIGNMENT X: What drew you to MRS. AMERICA?

MARGO MARTINDALE: The subject matter, the character, the network, and Cate Blanchett.

AX: Had you worked with Cate Blanchett before?

MARTINDALE: No, but she’s phenomenal, and a great gal. This cast of women was just a joy, and I love them all so much. We were a bonded group.

AX: Is it fun working with a largely female cast?

MARTINDALE: Well, I didn’t know that [before doing MRS. AMERICA], but yes. Extremely fun.

AX: How would you describe Bella Abzug?

MARTINDALE: Well, she’s loud, and smart, and right, and fights for the right causes. I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and I’ve lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for forty-six years. I know I don’t sound like it [vocally]. But I knew Bella, absolutely. She represented the Upper West Side. She ended up representing the Bronx, not happily, I don’t think. Now, I never got to meet her. I probably missed her by seconds at different places. I knew that she was the loud, obnoxious woman in a hat. I knew that she made the news all the time. What I learned about her was just a whole world that I didn’t know. And she was a remarkable person. I think she was voted the third most influential person in the House.

I talked to a lot of people who did know her. Some hated her. Some guy told me that he heard when she was going into Congress, the guy said to her, ‘Nobody wears a hat in Congress.’ And I won’t say what she said. I thought, ‘Okay. I can play that.’

Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug in MRS. AMERICA - "Reagan" | ©2020 FX/Sabrina Lantos

Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug in MRS. AMERICA – “Reagan” | ©2020 FX/Sabrina Lantos

AX: Do people around you have opinions about the project MRS. AMERICA?

MARTINDALE: My daughter has learned more about it. She didn’t know much about it, and she grew up in New York City. I was in a store, shopping on Madison Avenue, and a woman who likes me was talking about some projects I was doing. I’d been doing MRS. AMERICA. And there were two young women of color who were sales ladies, and I said, ‘This is Uzo [Aduba]. She plays Shirley Chisholm. Do you know about Shirley Chisholm?’ They go, ‘Who is Shirley Chisholm?’ And I said, ‘She is the first woman to run for [U.S.] president. She also happens to be a woman of color.’ And [the saleswoman] said, ‘I think I’m going to cry.’ So, wow, that’s something. I think that’s incredible. Hopefully, those kinds of things will come about from people watching this show.

AX: Were you happy with the way THE AMERICANS wrapped up?

MARTINDALE: I thought it was a brilliant ending. I couldn’t imagine a more brilliant ending. For me, it ended like they wrote. It was perfect.

Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug in MRS. AMERICA | ©2020 FX/Pari Dukovic

Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug in MRS. AMERICA | ©2020 FX/Pari Dukovic

AX: Do you have any other projects going on that we should know about?

MARTINDALE: I am working on [the series] YOUR HONOR with Bryan Cranston, and I’m doing four episodes of that, and then I do AMERICAN CRIME STORY: IMPEACHMENT.

AX: And what would you most like people to know about MRS. AMERICA?

MARTINDALE: I would just like them to watch it and take away what they will.

This interview was conducted during FX Networks’ portion of the Winter 2020 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.

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Article: MRS. AMERICA: Margo Martindale on the Hulu miniseries based on as a true story – Exclusive Interview


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