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An interview with a Queen Margaret

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You earlier described Margaret as ballsy. How did that play into your actual speeches, how does it play into your delivering the lines? I mentioned that with Tamora, you could be very sexually wiley and all that, but here you were leather-warrior person. Was that important to you to maintain a commander’s presence?

It was a very specific decision to leave her in the dress with the breastplate on. I didn’t want to erase her femininity. She is acting very masculine for the majority of this play, but again we have to remember that she’s a mother and she is a woman, and if she could be king, she’d make a great king, but she can’t be, she can only be queen and she’s holding onto the power in any way that she can. She’s willing to do anything, I think. I really think that there’s no line that Margaret won’t cross to get what she wants. I think it’s in the lines; the ballsiness of her character, Shakespeare has given it to you. I think the way that she speaks, she calls her husband, who is the king, “wretched man, timorous wretch.” She speaks with all the authority of a man in power.

And it’s in the other characters’ lines.

Yeah. Absolutely. Shakespeare’s given you that. I think it would be a shame and I think it would be absurd to ignore it. That would be trying to make Margaret into something she’s not. She’s a very strong woman in a man’s world. But she knows how to speak the language, she knows how to play the game.

I want to go back to Part 2. You started with Part 1, Margaret the innocent: ambitious but innocent. Part 2, she’s got Suffolk protecting her and then she no longer has Suffolk. Part 3, she’s the she-wolf. First of all, there wasn’t really a time shift between Part 1 and Part 2. From Part 2 to Part 3 you’ve got a 15-year-old boy and there’s considerable time.
Yeah, much bigger gap.
How did you envision coming back into Margaret for Part 2, bringing in the innocence, bringing in the protection of Suffolk and then moving her along?

Like I said, I didn’t read it ahead of time. So I didn’t really have much to go on for Part 1. And then just jumping into Part 2, she is queen now and she definitely has this lover. Shakespeare has given me these things. Every time she was in a court scene, she would wait until Henry was gone until she actually spoke her mind, and Suffolk is still there backing her up and making sure that everything’s going to be OK. The assimilation time is pretty quick for Margaret in Part 2; that must be difficult to jump into being a queen, much less with this child-like king. But she’s up for the job in that she has her own sort of protector. Like Gloucester is protector of the realm for Henry, she’s got Suffolk. I think she’s just a strong enough woman that when she’s out there on her own without any of that, she learns quickly. I think she learned the game quickly, and I think she is strong enough to play on the playground with those boys.

The time frame between 2 and 3 certainly, I can’t think too much about it except for the fact that I have a 15-year-old son. As an actor coming toward it, I’m also a year older, you know. My life has changed in the last year. So, what do I bring of who that actor was playing Margaret last year and who that actor is playing Margaret this year? Is there anything I can draw on from my own life that I can put into this person? Because I’m a year older, hopefully wiser, how am I changing?

I’m not sure I answered your question.

Well, the next question will add to it, what I consider the political catfight between Margaret and the Duchess of Gloucester that basically is two very strong women with two extremely weak husbands.
How did you all work that out? I know you act in your scenes, but there’s some degree of working as you rehearsed. Or did you just decide as they did in [the film] The Fighter that Amy Adams was not going to have anything to do with the sisters even off screen.

The other ladies in this troupe will tell you that after Part 2 last year, if we were going out to have a glass of wine or whatever, they were like, “Whoa, Margaret, play’s over now.” Sometimes it would take you like 15 or 20 minutes to let go of that, I’m like “What? What is your problem? What are you talking about?” “Hey, Margaret, we wanted to have a glass of wine with Sarah."

We’re even seeing some of that now when you’re going, “Are there any Yorks around here?”

I know, it’s kind of crazy. It’s fun, though. It’s a lot of fun. We get heated up about it in a very fun, playful way. Before Henry, I’ll see Ben back stage and we’ll walk by each other and go, “Hate you.” “Hate you, too.”

I think that playing a strong woman is not difficult for me.
No, we know that.
I think a lot of the women here—I don’t know, it may be hard for the guys to play a man that’s weak, too.

That’s what I wondered about Gregory.

Yeah, because he doesn’t usually play these roles either; it’s sort of a different role for him. He’s played the Orsinos that’s kind of soft in love, but this is different. They’re still charming and cool, but this is different. This is different.

The women never powwowed about it like, “This is how we’re going to portray it and this is what we’re going to do.” Again, I think that’s just a function of time. I find that in the summer/fall season, I do have more conversations like that, not only with the director but also with my fellow actors here. We just have more time to talk about, “What’s going on with this relationship and how are you portraying this with your husband? What’s going on between Goneril and Albany and can I mirror that with Regan and Cornwall?” but we just don’t have the time to do that here, which is a double-edged sword.

But I think that naturally we’ve got some strong women, and naturally when you get to say the things that you do, if you can own it, then I think that it sells. I don’t think a weak woman is somebody who walks around calling her husband awful names. [Laughs]
In the middle of the court.
“Would I had never seen thee, never bore thee son.” That’s vicious. And “timorous wretch,” “wretched man.”

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