How does one go from being one of television’s most prolific guest stars to a series regular?
Martha Plimpton: Well, it happened sort of organically in the way it usually happens I think for people. I hadn’t been looking particularly for a series regular gig but I also wasn’t not looking for one. I was shooting a movie in Toronto, I got a call that there was this pilot script that would be coming towards me and I should give it a read, they said it was from Greg Garcia and I knew about him for a long time and was a big fan so I thought, “Great.” Then when I read it I just loved it, it was hilarious and it actually made me laugh and I thought, “Well, this never happens, ever, so I better get on this.” I don’t want to sound too mystical, but the character just seemed perfect, I just identified with her right away, I loved her sense of humor and I love the way she was written. I talked to Greg on the phone, he gave me the rundown on what the plan was, I flew out to L.A. to audition and went through the whole process like every other actor would do and luckily it worked out. Every week the scripts just seem to get tighter and funnier and I’m really liking being able to see this character, all of the characters actually, develop and become more themselves. I like working with an ensemble of actors and learning each others rhythms and figuring each other out and that’s really exciting for me.
A lot of fans seem to relate to the sort of make-it-up-as-you-go-along parenting technique employed by Virginia. In terms of your own childhood, were you raised more so by-the-book or more along the lines of Virginia’s method?
My mom was a young mom, just like Virginia, not quite as young as Virginia, but young. It was the ‘70s and she was a hippy. She was a single mom and she definitely had to make stuff up as she went along. That was the only way to go. They didn’t have mommy blogs back then and she definitely was an improviser, no question about it. It also didn’t hurt that I was around theatres and actors from basically the time — I mean when I was gestating, my mom was on stage with me in her belly — so I had that around me constantly from the time I was brand new to today. I guess I just watched other people do it and figured out how to do it and how not to. I don’t know that I have the greatest work ethic in the world. I’m not a huge fan of waking up really early in the morning, it’s not my favorite thing in the world to do, but the fact that my job is so fun definitely makes it easier.
What are some of your favorite discoveries about Virginia thus far?
Well, so far, I think one of the things I take the most pleasure in is Virginia’s sort of soft and chewy core. She’s kind of tough, she kind of says what’s on her mind, she kind of doesn’t take any crap, but at the same time she’s got a really gooey, chewy, soft center. She’s kind of a sucker for love. Playing around with that has been really, really fun as well as — I’ll only hint at the sort of things that you guys haven’t seen yet but that you will — her sort of Lucy-esque desire to be in the spotlight. Her aspirations are very cool and exciting to me. The fact that she has aspirations is great. I feel like we’re going to be seeing more of that as the season progresses.
What’s it like working with co-star Lucas Neff, who is a relative neophyte in the business — versus Cloris Leachman who has been around for shall we say a while?
I’ll start by talking about Lucas. It’s actually really fun watching somebody who hasn’t experienced this stuff before and let’s be honest, none of us really has. I certainly have never been a regular on a TV series so it’s new to me, too. Of course, we’re all new to the show so we’re all in it together, sort of figuring it all out as we go along as well, in life and on the show, which is a fortunate parallel. Coming from Chicago, he’s an incredibly proud and excited actor as most actors from Chicago are. He comes to it with a really ensemble minded attitude, which is great and that’s also a very Chicago thing. It’s been awesome watching him get his sea legs out there and get more confident in his performance, which is great. So that’s been really fun. He’s also really easy to mess with, he’s really easy to tease. He has got the biggest bull’s-eye on his forehead. That is the best part of the job. As far as Cloris Leachman is concerned, babies are a breeze. Cloris is the one who gets the leash. This is a woman who can find 15 jokes in one-half a joke. She is fearless, totally and is really basically willing to do anything for a gag and then some.
How does it feel to get picked up for a full season?
It feels awesome. It feels really good that FOX is behind the show and likes what we’re making because we’re having a really good time doing it. Sometimes, from what I understand, there can be a disconnect there. The people making the show are having an awesome time but the people airing it are like, “Nah,” so it’s really nice that they’re enjoying it as much as we are. It makes me feel really good.
Don’t miss RAISING HOPE Tuesday nights on FOX at 9PM (Coming soon to Global TV in Canada)