Mamie Gummer Goes to School
The talented actress discusses starring in CSC's The School for Lies, ABC's Off the Map, and mom Meryl Streep.
THEATERMANIA: Is this your first experience with Molière?
MAMIE GUMMER: I did some scene work in school, but I haven't really done anything too extensive. It's definitely outside my comfort zone. It's the farthest thing from Chekhov or something where you're kind of able to work in between the lines a bit more and then use it with your own interpretation. With this, everything is in the words.
TM: How do you see The School for Lies as different from The Misanthrope?
MG: We're prancing around in period dress while saying "LOL" and "douchebag." It's just a modern kind of interpretation. I think it's also lighter than the original.
TM: Do you relate to Celimine at all?
MG: I think Celimene has gotten a bit callous. She's hardened by the loss of her husband and her heart, as she says. It's like when we were in high school -- when we used to just cut people down to make ourselves feel better because really everyone is in some kind of torment. I remember being tormented as a kid. I had a really awful haircut, I had glasses, I was fat. I did theater. There was plenty to work with! And then finally, I was in this position where I could dish it out. I had to check myself.
TM: What do you look for in a role?
MG: It just has to grab me. I remember not being able to put this play down. I think I read it in about an hour. I was just giggling to myself and I was impressed and tickled by the way David uses language in this play. It's just so clever. I got excited, and I thought, "Well, that has to be me!' Also, if I see something that scares me, if it's a challenge, then that's appealing as well, especially in theater. I feel more free to experiment in that way.
MG: I'd love to play Bananas one day in The House of Blue Leaves. That's a great part. I did it in college.
TM: What experience did you gain from your being part of Off the Map?
MG: It was fun living in Hawaii, and I really enjoyed working with my castmates. I learned a lot in terms of kind of rolling with the punches and just going for it in full. And now, from playing a doctor, I can put on BandAids and administer very basic CPR!
TM: In which ways did your mother inspire you to pursue a career as an actor?
MG: I think it was just being in the presence of it growing up. It's what I've always been familiar with, in the same way that someone might be inclined to become a lawyer if their parent was a lawyer. It was just the world in which I was raised. I wish I could draw -- maybe I would have been an artist!
TM: Has your mother had any advice for you?
MG: She has plenty of advice. Most importantly, she says to generally be a good person and not do stupid things. .