Mamie Gummer on Off the Map, and the Meryl Streep Movies She Hasn't Seen
Mamie Gummer may have notched her film debut in her mother Meryl Streep's film Heartburn at age 3, but the actress has gone to great lengths to learn acting the formal way. She graduated from Northwestern University's theater program in 2005 and soon won roles in Evening, Stop-Loss, The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, and Taking Woodstock. Now, alongside fellow NW grad Zach Gilford, Gummer stars on ABC's new drama Off the Map, a Shonda Rhimes medical serial set in exotic South America. Just ahead of tonight's premiere, we caught up with Gummer to discuss her theatrical past, her feelings for TV, and the Meryl Streep movies she keeps meaning to see.
You graduated from theater school not so long ago, and your last onstage role was in Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. Is there any correlation between that classic, difficult work and what you're doing now on Off the Map?
You know, it's interesting. I think it does a little bit. I mean, obviously, it's different. I think that Chekhov similarly tread a very fine line between humor and tragedy. It was all about the negotiation between drama and silliness, and I think that's not dissimilar to what we're doing on the show.
Do you approach a classical text in the same way you approach an Off the Map script?
Oh, no. The language itself is obviously more refined, I guess, in the works of Chekhov, etc. On our show, it moves at a much quicker pace and you have to just roll with the punches. Sometimes I'm only given a script the day before. You don't really have the luxury of being able to sit with a text and work it out.
Which is your preferred medium: theater, film, or TV?
Theater. I think the alchemy of it, just that very basic, very exciting chemical thing that happens in a room between the audience and the players. The energy of that environment is the most exciting, vital thing to me.
Do you have a most exciting onstage moment?
Too many. Too many! I can't pick one. Read my memoirs.
Was there a defining time you realized you could act forever?
It was in college actually. They were doing student theater there, and the communal aspect of it -- the building the sets, the finding the costumes out of whatever's lying in the back of your closet -- that scrappy kind of do-it-yourself theater? It was so invigorating and thrilling to me. I just said, "I want to do this all the time."
Does Off the Map afford you room to add quirks to your character at will? Have you?
No, I mean -- I sort of stumble upon those things, but I don't generally make it a habit to give my character strange tics.
What have your costars taught you?
Oh, plenty. It's hard to pinpoint any thing in particular -- but certainly makeup tips.
I'm sure it must be tiring to talk about your mother so much, but I was curious: Do you have a favorite Meryl Streep scene?
I can't. I'm sorry! They're all brilliant.
I'm a Postcards from the Edge man myself.
I haven't seen that many of them. A whole bunch, actually. Never saw Silkwood. I hear that's great. A Cry in the Dark? I hear that's pretty good. I've been meaning to see those two. I've got to sit down with those two.