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Jane Kaczmarek: From Lois to Margie

The actress will soon star in the West Coast premiere of 'Good People' in a part not unlike the harried mom she played on 'Malcolm in the Middle.'

March 04, 2012|By Susan King, Los Angeles Times
  • Jane Kazcmarek
Jane Kazcmarek (Michael Larsen & Tracy Talbert,…)

Jane Kaczmarek didn't see Frances McDormand's Tony-winning performance in David Lindsay-Abaire's 2011 play "Good People" on Broadway. But the actresses were classmates at Yale Drama School more than 30 years ago and are the best of friends. "I know her well enough, so I can kind of imagine how she could do it," said Kaczmarek, 56.

Soon Kaczmarek will make the role her own. She will be playing the part in the West Coast premiere of "Good People," which opens April 11 at the Geffen Playhouse.

Kaczmarek's Margie Walsh is a world-weary single mom from South Boston who has just lost her job as a clerk at a dollar store and is forced to seek work from a successful old high school beau (Jon Tenney).

While she was in contention for the part, Kaczmarek called up McDormand to see whether her BFF had any advice about playing Margie. "She said to just really trust your director and just go on the journey. It's a great experience," Kaczmarek recalled.

Being that the play is "written as well as this is written," she added, "you don't have to do a lot of work. You still have to work, but it's not like you have to come up with something inside of you that will make sense to you about something you are saying.

"This is so beautifully written that you kind of just have to get on the escalator."

Kaczmarek also sees a lot of Margie in Lois, the harried mother of overactive boys she played on the long-running Fox sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle."

"The character I played on 'Malcolm' is almost like Margie's older sister, who got out of Boston," she said. "Lois is a real hard-scrabbling mother on that show and worked at the Drug Emporium. They kept her at 38 hours instead of 40 so she wouldn't be a full-time employee and wouldn't get health benefits. They were always trying to raise those boys on limited funds."

Kaczmarek has children ages 9, 12 and 15 with ex-husband Bradley Whitford, the stage and TV actor known best from "The West Wing." Since their 2010 divorce, she has been really picky about her projects.

"I know I don't want to do another single-camera show," she said. "It's so time-consuming. I did a couple of episodes of 'Whitney' as her mom, but I have been laying low. I love being with my kids and being a mom."

But "Good People" is a project she couldn't refuse. "I thought this is something I feel so certain about, this is what I need to be doing right now. I need to throw myself into a very good play."

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