Why Mary-Louise Parker Thinks of Herself as a Stage Actor


“I can’t think of a part that I’ve played where I go, Oh, that was easy. I don’t think there is one.” – Mary-Louise Parker

Since the conclusion of the Showtime series Weeds in 2012 (and before a sequel series, Weeds 4.20, that is is currently in development goes into production), series star Mary-Louise Parker has virtually been a regular on Broadway. She has starred in The Snow Geese (2013) and Heisenberg (2016), and is currently starring in The Sound Inside (she is also set to star in How I Learned to Drive in the spring of 2020, reprising her role from the 1997 off-Broadway production). The Sound Inside is about the relationship between a Yale creative writing professor (Parker) and one of her students (Will Hochman). Parker spoke to Vanity Fair about her work in the play and on Broadway.

When the interviewer asks if starring in a play that requires so much from her is taxing, Parker responds, “It’s as taxing as you make it. I feel like I would make anything taxing. This is the most arduous, technically. Because [the text]is so descriptive, because it’s like prose. Which is challenging to act. To make sure the hierarchy of the text is getting across in a way that people don’t fall asleep. The most important thing for me is that I sound like I’m just a person talking, like I’m not exerting effort. I’m exerting more effort [in The Sound Inside]than I probably ever have. But I can’t think of a part that I’ve played where I go, Oh, that was easy. I don’t think there is one.”

She also points out that while she may not always feel like greeting the audience after the show at the stage door, she feels that she owes it to the audience to give them the best experience possible that night. She explains, “Tickets are expensive… I want to give the best show on that night that I can. I know that if you talked to anybody who’s ever worked with me, any other actor, they would back me up on that. It’s that show. I don’t care what happened the night before. [The audience] deserves their ticket price.”

That is part of the reason why Parker thinks of herself as a stage actor rather than the Hollywood star of Weeds or films like RED. She says, “I went to drama school, so I wanted to be a new play actor. I wanted to be a regional theater actor. When I picture myself as an actor, that’s what I see myself doing. The rest of it is stuff that came along, and some of it was incredibly fulfilling and I was really lucky. I got a lot of good chances at a certain point. But if I think about myself as an actor, I think about this; that hallway, walking to places. That’s what I think about. I don’t think about sitting in a trailer or going to a press junket. I’ve never been to the Oscars.”

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