I gotta be honest you guys. Life as a freelance writer has its perks. I get to write about all the things I like, the music I love, and I occasionally get to chat with people who are kind of famous. As some of you know, in addition to my work here at PITNB I write film, TV reviews, and other pop culture fun stuff for Paste Magazine, and the other day something awesome happened. I got offered the chance to interview Mary Beth Peil, and my first reaction was, “Who is Mary Beth Peil?,” LOL. A quick Google and I diiiiied! OMG! I LOVE Mary Beth Peil, lol. Peil plays the incomparable Jackie Florrick AKA Peter Florrick‘s mother on The Good Wife. Love the show, love her character and I still can’t believe I got to chat with her. Click inside to check out an excerpt from my interview!
Paste: Before we talk about your new movie Contest, can you tell us a little bit about how you began acting? I know you started out as an opera singer.
Mary Beth Peil: What? How did you know that?!
Paste: Oh, just a little light research on Wikipedia.
Peil: (laughs) That’s amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this in an interview!
Paste: Well, that’s great. I’d love to hear about it, if you don’t mind sharing.
Peil: When I first started acting, I never told anyone that I was an opera singer; I had to keep that a secret for some time. But yes, I started at a young age, and I guess you could call me an early bloomer in the opera world. And then, when I was 43, I did my first musical, which I’d never been allowed to do as an opera singer. I did Kiss Me, Kate with Minnesota Opera, and it was like a lightbulb went on and I just said, “Oh my gosh, I think… I’m… an actress, not a singer!” (laughs) And that was it.
Paste: That’s great!
Peil: So then I did musical theater for a while. By my mid-to-late 40s I realized that with the ingénue roles, I was never gonna do a “Carousel” or a “West Side Story” so I started taking acting classes with the hopes of being taken seriously as an actress once the music roles dried up. I was just lucky to find a brilliant acting teacher Michael Howard, who taught me how to make mistakes and be messy instead of being perfect, which is what you have to be as an opera singer. I had a great agent—still do—and things started falling into place. I got the Dawson’s Creek role, and it’s just been a wonderful, wonderful, miraculous journey!
Paste: Now, for those of us used to watching you play Jackie Florrick, it’s kind of surprising to see you as this really sweet, pizza shop-owning grandmother. So I have to ask, off-screen are you more like your character in Contest, Gran, or are you more Jackie?
Peil: (laughs) I’m not Jackie Florrick, I can tell you that. That’s why she’s so much fun to play.
Peil: She’s a piece of work. And that’s the writing. The writers for The Good Wife are so fantastic, half of the actor’s work is already done with the script. It’s just great.
Paste: Well, I’m gonna go ahead and squeeze in one more question about The Good Wife. We’re all still buzzing from the 100th episode and that kicker at the end with Marilyn’s baby being named Peter. Obviously, as Peter’s mom I know you know what’s going on. I won’t ask you to spill, but what can we expect as the season progresses in terms of general drama?
Peil: Oh, I think you can definitely expect more fireworks and more drama. They came out of the gate this season with just—well, every time I get a script my mouth drops to the floor just reading it. Even if I could spill anything I wouldn’t, but I can guarantee a lot of fireworks.
And here’s a trailer for her new movie:
Now the best parts of my convo with her are the parts I couldn’t really include in the published interview. She was sooo nice and awesome and sweet. I don’t know how we started talking about children, but she asked about mine towards the end of the interview and she was, like, so impressed that I’d interviewed her with an 8 week-old in the other room, lol. She also advised me to “enjoy every moment” of baby-raising, and we also talked a bit about the life of an artist and other fabulous, awesome, fabulous things. It was so offing cool!
So in conclusion, I am now BFF with Peter‘s mom, and it’s not a big deal. Also, I’d def recommend checking out her movie Contest. As I point out in the interview, it’s not a character we’re used to seeing but it’s a good movie with a strong message.
Cannot wait for The Good Wife to pick up again! We now PERSONALLY know a main cast member on the show, lol. Just had to share that with you guys.
And major shouts-out to PITNBr blaqfury! I’ll never forget that you’re the one who finally got me to watch the show, after that Graham Phillips Is Hot post, LOL.