In this new soap from FOX, in which you’re a producer, you play the matriarch of an evangelical dynasty who learns her late husband had a double life and has children from extramarital affairs. What drew you to this role?
“I was very excited to work with Tate [Taylor, creator, of The Help fame]. I think he’s a wonderful filmmaker. He also is great with women. He has a great track record working with women, and I thought we had a lot in common.”
How would you describe Margaret Monreaux? She sounds like quite the soap diva.
“She is a performer, but her performance is based on her beliefs. Her faith is a part of who she is, and she is not going to let that go. I don’t see her as a charlatan. I see her as someone who is selling love and compassion. She started as a household name, as a talk show host, sort of like an Oprah Winfrey but with a different belief system. She has two children and they are in the family business, as well. It’s Shakespearean in that way.”
Is there anyone who inspired you in playing this role?
“I would never tell who has inspired me, but I’ve been reading a lot of biographies since I got the part, about very strong, very smart women who can outmaneuver a lot of men who are sleeping. I was recently talking to a friend about taking bits and pieces from mentors of mine and using them for this character because she’s so multifaceted. She’s also incredibly vulnerable. You get to see her when she prays, not just when she’s center stage, and you get to find out her conscience, how fearful she is and what she wants most of all. It’s an incredible journey that I hope will find an audience.”
What do you like most about Margaret?
“Oh, her boldness. It’s so bold, and what is so extraordinary about filming, especially in New Orleans, is the extras we had come in. I’m on the stage and I am doing my dialogue as Margaret Monreaux, telling these stores, and they were saying, ‘Preach, mother.’ ‘Yes, absolutely sister!’ and the [crew] were saying, ‘Please don’t say anything. We need this to be clear,’ and they wouldn’t stop because they were so involved right from the get-go. You really understand more and more of what the role of religion is in people’s lives. It’s major.”
How do you like filming in New Orleans?
“It’s huge. First of all, the food. That’s another thing Tate and I have in common is we love to eat. It’s local catering. We go to restaurants that he knows and loves. That city knows survival, and they’re still together, very much like this family on the show. I’ve always loved the South. I haven’t spent enough time there. I’ve done a lot of Tennessee Williams’s plays and I always dip down into New Orleans or Baton Rouge and all along there because I want to soak up this atmosphere. I love the culture, and I feel so welcome to join in. I don’t feel like such a Yankee [laughs].”
Margaret obviously knows how to run an empire, but how is she as a mother?
“She needs a little work. She expects a lot from her kids, as most mothers do. I think she’s working on it. She’s working on acceptance. She’s nervous about her son. She feels like he’s making some wrong decisions but at the same time, she realizes, as most mothers do, that at some point, you have to take a step back and let your children live their lives. She’s holding on from the first episode, and I think she’s holding on a little too tight.”
Do you enjoy playing all the soapy elements of the story?
“I do. The one thing that I miss doing is comedy, and mixing that with drama and being ironic and pushing a few buttons, it really does appeal to me. I love doing something new and exciting like this. I think we need characters who are bigger than life to maybe warn us, teach us, inspire us. I think people will take Margaret Monreaux into their hearts because she really wants to do the right thing. She has empathy and she also has courage.”
What would SEX AND THE CITY’s Samantha think of Margaret?
“I hope they’d get along. They do have a couple of things in common. They do what they need to do, no matter what anyone thinks. There is a real strength there, and I want to continue to play strong women who have something to say.”
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