From show creator Greg Garcia (Raising Hope, My Name is Earl), the CBS comedy series The Millers tells the story of Nathan Miller (Will Arnett), a recently divorced local roving news reporter looking forward to living the single life until his parents’ marital problems unexpectedly derail his plans. When his meddlesome mom (Margo Martindale) living with him, and his absent-minded dad (Beau Bridges) imposing upon Nathan’s sister Debbie (Jayma Mays), they both wonder just how long the aggravating adjustment period is going to last.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actress Margo Martindale talked about how this show came about, that she’s always wanted to do a sitcom, what she loves about this time of old fashioned comedy, how she views this dysfunctional but loving family, how great it is to work with this level of talent, and that the physical comedy comes very easily for her. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
MARGO MARTINDALE: It was just a matter of The Americans wasn’t picked up when I got The Millers. And I was a guest star, so who knew if I was gonna be dead or not. I didn’t know, so I wasn’t gonna chance it.
How did this show come about? Had you been looking to do a sitcom?
MARTINDALE: I’ve always wanted to do it. It had been out of my head for years because I had been doing drama for so long, but it’s really what I wanted to do when I started out. So, I’ve come all the way back around. I did a play in San Diego in 1986, at the Old Globe, and lots of comedy people from Los Angeles came down and saw me and were very interested in me doing comedy. I played a comic part, in both of the shows I did there. I did the original Steel Magnolias on stage, and I’ve done tons of comedy shows on stage. So, it was logical that I wanted to do a sitcom, but it’s just only working out, at this time. I came out to do New Girl, and a lot of pilots were interested in me, but this one really sang to me.
Do you have a lot of freedom to play, on this show?
MARTINDALE: You know, we don’t need it. It’s too well written. And it’s gotten more tailored to us, as it goes. Most everything is there. [Greg Garcia] is a really, really, really good writer. It’s all underpinned with a real reality and heart.
What did you respond to, with this type of comedy?
MARTINDALE: I knew that this was going to be old fashioned-ish. It’s almost like a throwback. It’s like the comedies from the ‘60s, but with all of the issues that are out in the open today. It’s a family comedy, it’s just that all of the things that were undercover are now exposed. It’s a comedy for the times.
When you do a pilot, you have more time to work on it and everyone wants to put their best foot forward. So, is it ultimately more nerve-wracking to then read subsequent episodes, and did you breathe a sigh of relief once you did?
MARTINDALE: Yes, absolutely, 100%! He can really write. It’s very interesting, coming from where I’ve come from, working with the writers on Justified. Those are real writers. They’re poetically beautiful writers, headed by Graham Yost. And then, doing The Americans, it was the same thing. They are really great idea people. You can really tell the difference in writing that has depth in it, even if it’s comedy. You can see cheesy jokes. I don’t think this has cheesy jokes. Okay, it had fart jokes, but I’m happy I got to do a fart joke on television. I know my husband wasn’t happy about it. He said, “Please tell me you’re not going to be farting on television, every episode.” I said, “I’m sure I’m not. I’ll just fart at home.”
What’s it like to work with this level of talent?
MARTINDALE: You can trust what they say. I can trust whatever James Burrows asks me to do. I can trust that Will [Arnett] will be there with a good take on things. I can trust Beau [Bridges], 100%. And J.B. Smoove makes me really laugh. So, I’m playing with people who are all on the same playing field. That’s just really good. I think it’s great.
How do you view this family? Do you think they ultimately love each other, even if they argue a lot?
MARTINDALE: Yeah, I think it’s all love, and I think it’s been that way for years and years and years. I don’t think we’ve changed, at all. I think we’ve always bickered like that.
How is it to work with Beau Bridges? What was your reaction when you found out that that’s who would be playing that role?
MARTINDALE: I was beyond thrilled. I think he is the perfect husband for me. I couldn’t even have imagined that it would be somebody like that.
Does the physical comedy come easily for you?
MARTINDALE: Yeah, very easy. I forgot that I was good at it, until I did this. It was really fun to remember that I could actually do that. And I’m extremely careful. I won’t do it, if it hurts my back.
How much fun was it to shoot that dance sequence in the pilot? Did you have a lot of rehearsals for that?
MARTINDALE: Yeah, we rehearsed it. We had a choreographer there, and we listened to the music. It wasn’t easy, and then we got it. I thought it was cute and sweet. I wish we had shown a little more of the dance, but it’s only 22 minutes long. It was really fun.
How did you end up doing the pilot for Masters of Sex?
MARTINDALE: Sarah Timberman, who produced Justified and A Gifted Man, asked me to do that. I did it as a favor, but I was delighted to do it.
The Millers airs on Thursday nights on CBS.