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In Plain Sight Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is the transcript of an Interview on April 26, 2011 with Mary McCormack and Fred Weller about the USA Network show In Plain Sight.

Mary McCormack and Fred Weller

Question:
How do you maintain your aplomb despite Mary's rattlesnake test nest?

Mary McCormack:
She saw that one on Twitter.

Fred Weller:
You know, I just try to roll with it and forgive, as Marshall would.

Question:
Mary, what do you continue to enjoy most about playing your character?

Mary McCormack:
I just love the character. David Maples, who created the show, just wrote a really great part. Fred's part is great too, and so is Paul Ben-Victor's. He just really wrote some three-dimensional characters. I love them. I love that Mary Shannon's really good at her job and not so good at her personal life. I like that she's cynical and sarcastic. It's just fun to play someone so grouchy. It's sort of refreshing. I can be a little bit grouchy myself so it's a comfortable fit.

Question:
Can you tell me how your pregnancy will be worked into the storyline?

Mary McCormack:
Well, we're writing it in. I mean we're writing it in and I'm playing pregnant. I did what I had to do to get pregnant first. And now we're dealing with it. You don't think of Mary Shannon as necessarily maternal so it's making for some interesting story stuff and character stuff, which I think is really fun to play. To me I think it's really interesting to see someone play pregnant who is pregnant. It's not altogether as pretty as when someone all chiseled up does it. I think refreshing, at least as a woman I find it refreshing to sort of see someone who's passionate about their career and then having to try to come to terms with this new area in her life, which all women deal with.

Fred Weller:
You're every bit as pretty as any fake-o pregnant lady.

Mary McCormack:
Thanks kiddo.

Question:
How is Marshall going to deal with the pregnancy?

Fred Weller:
I think Marshall has a pregnancy fetish, but they haven't written that in yet that I know of.

Mary McCormack:
I love it. You'd better tell the writers if you want that written.

Fred Weller:
I tried. I told Cockrell, he says he put it in the file.

Mary McCormack:
No but, you've got to tell more writers.

Fred Weller:
All right.

Mary McCormack:
Yes, work that in because that's hilarious if that's the case.

Fred Weller:
I'll work it. I'll look into that.

Question:
How are they going to work this new development into the actual storyline?

Mary McCormack:
We've just started working it in so we'll see. I mean I'm not sure where it ends up yet. It was a lot of news for the writers and they've had to act fast. So they've been really sweet about it and really adaptable. When I discussed it with them and we discussed it with the network too I think the thought was it might actually provide for, you know as opposed to just being sort of a wrench, it might actually provide for really an interesting development. This is our fourth season so I think the theme of the season is change. If Mary's whole life is changing, her mom is sober, her sister's engaged and getting married and you know, Marshall is in this relationship which seems to be working and is sort of meaningful. And then what's she left with? All of a sudden she has this enormous change in her own life too. So I think it's going to actually be really rich for stories.

Question:
Are you excited about this season?

Mary McCormack:
I'm excited about it. Fred, are you?

Fred Weller:
I'm extremely excited about it. And the kind of impromptu nature of some of the shifts, just makes it more interesting I think.

Mary McCormack:
Yes, we're excited. It starts May 1st. And we've been working really hard so we're about halfway through shooting them. It's more fun when it's airing.

Question:
Fred, you get a love story this season. How does that change the dynamic between Marshall and Mary?

Fred Weller:
Marshall's feelings for Mary are now inevitably more submerged. They're more submerged, like underground lava or tunneling Viet Kong. They are more dangerous.

Mary McCormack:
Oh my God, I want to throw up.

Fred Weller:
I didn't have anything prepared, but that's what I would say.

Question:
Mary, like you said, "This is a season of change," but your character doesn't really seem to be a fan of change. What can we expect from her emotionally through the season?

Mary McCormack:
I think she's sort of confused. I think she keeps expecting her sister to fall right into old patterns and it turns out she really hasn't. If your whole life is spent taking care of other people, and then those other people randomly either get sober or learn how to take care of themselves, her think her identity's in question. A big part of her is sort of walking around feeling sort of smug and proud of herself for being the only adult in the room and now she's not the only adult in the room. I think it's interesting. For her it's a big shift. And now on top of it she's becoming the one thing she never wanted to be, which is a mother. I don't know what they have in store. I'm sort of only halfway through the season. And these poor writers, I only told them I was pregnant a few episodes in, so they're scrambling. But it should be exciting.

Question:
This is the fourth season and that's no small feat. What do you think it is about the show that keeps viewers coming back?

Fred Weller:
I think it's a great drama with a sense of humor. And I don't think that's a very common combination on television.

Mary McCormack:
Something USA does really well is character stuff. And I think our show, even if you weren't interested in sort of the procedural side of it, or the witness protection side of it, I think the character relationships are really rich and fresh and funny. I love reading the scenes between me and Fred or I love Paul Ben-Victor's character so much. And so I think that's a big part of it. Witness protection just makes for exciting stories and it's a really rich sort of place to grab stories from. People starting over completely, saying goodbye to their lives before, it never ends in terms of story opportunities.

Question:
Last season we saw the increasingly introspective monologue, making Stan stronger, stabilizing Mary's family,and even more of Marshall's ability to read Mary. Are any of those items going to be carried over to the new season, or are there going to be any new changes overall to the format?

Mary McCormack:
I think those are all changes that are continuing. I mean the first one you mentioned was the monologues. Those will continue and be written in the same way. One of my favorite things about the voice-overs, at least from my perspective, is that Mary Shannon is a person who doesn't let people in. She barely lets Marshall in and he's the closest person in her life to her. And so to me it's opportunity for the audience to just know the real her. I think what's nice is the audience has a really intimate relationship with her, even though she doesn't really allow anyone else to. I love those and I think they're beautifully written. Yes I know that continuing.

Stabilization of the family is continuing obviously, along with our theme of this year Brandi is engaged and getting married. And so far her relationship seems to be going great. And my mother is still sober and doing great, and so that's all confusing for Mary Shannon. But I think in an interesting way. There are kind of fewer bits about Marshall's ability to read Mary, but it's very much part of their everyday relationship.

Fred Weller:
I think it's interesting. I mean the pregnancy obviously is the huge shift around which all other shifts are defined. And I think it's interesting how that forms your relationship with your mother and sister of course. And your relationship with Marshall. It's a definitely a huge twist. And I don't think they could have planned a better one.

Question:
In Plain Sight cut short last season, are there any unfinished story lines that you might incorporate for this season,?

Mary McCormack:
We have new show runners this year, so it's a bit confusing. I haven't heard any mention of the brother coming back this season although everyone was a big fan of that actor's work.

Question:
Will we ever return to Marshall's former feelings for Mary?

Fred Weller:
We'll never leave them.

Mary McCormack:
We'll never leave them.

Fred Weller:
The lover deprived.

Mary McCormack:
It's always there, and this season it is interesting because all the sudden I'm pregnant which is confusing in terms of I think our feelings for each other. And then there's also his new relationship which throws a wrench in it. And you sort of see all the stuff percolating along the way. We never leave that story all together, because it's just there. It's in their friendship and their friendship is so close that it's obviously somehow more than that all the time.

Question:
I know Bradley Whitford will be on this season. What was it like having him on the set? And did Josh Malina have some scenes with him?

Mary McCormack:
It was great having him on the set. I mean he's a complete clown. And you know, I'll just tell this really quick anecdote about Brad. A lot of people know this already, but Bradley and Josh Malina have a really long history of sort of pulling pranks on each other and teasing each other. When we were doing the West Wing, Brad Whitford wrote a script for the West Wing, and he made Josh Malina's character, Will Bailey, say maybe five different times during the script, "I'm a terrible actor, I can't act." For this episode that Brad Whitford came down to shoot, Josh called me and said, "Please, please talk to the writers and have them write a scene where Bradley says he can't act and he's a terrible actor, whatever. So we did it, and unfortunately it's not in the episode we ended up not shooting the scene. We were late one night and we didn't really need the scene. Like it was kind of shoe-horned in there. And it was a great little monologue, but we had him say "I can't act. I'm a terrible actor. I'm the worst actor on the planet, don't make me lie." It was wonderful. And I was so proud of myself. And I would have scored big points with Molina forever. But in the end we didn't shoot it and Bradley won the day, so he was thrilled.

Question:
What is it about Mary and Marshall that you can relate to the most and why?

Fred Weller:
I guess Marshall's fondness for Mary, because she is so intriguing and beautiful.

Mary McCormack:
Oh my gosh, I didn't see that coming.

Fred Weller:
Whenever I can talk first I like to throw you for a loop so you can't say something mean about me.

Mary McCormack:
I love the relationship between Marshall and Mary. We have a lot of fun with it. Fred and I aren't too far from our characters. We just have a good time. We should hate each other by Season 4, and we love each other. So we have a really good day at work, when we get to work together.

Question:
In past seasons we'd get the feeling sometimes that if In Plain Sight had been made in the '80s, Mary's role would have been played by a guy and Marshall would have been the sidekick in the skirt. Do you agree?

Mary McCormack:
Even knocked up I'm still pretty butch.

Fred Weller:
Do you really have to tee up a crack like that for her, about me wearing a skirt? I mean it's just a meatball coming up for the plate.

Mary McCormack:
He is way girlier than I am. I mean, I'm in and out of hair and makeup in no time, but Fred's in there all day.

Fred Weller:
That's a bold-faced lie.

Mary McCormack:
It's true. I think it is true. It's one of the refreshing things about the show David Maples created, is that everyone's a surprise. In the first season he had this black detective who had a line where he said, "Detective Dirshuitz," and we all looked at each other like, "Huh?" I think Stan's character's a total surprise. Because usually the boss on cop shows is like, "You have one day to close this case or you're fired." You know, and he's not that guy at all, he sort of has no control. And Mary Shannon acts like a man in many, many ways and Marshall's completely girly... just kidding.

Fred Weller:
Okay, come on.

Mary McCormack:
Just kidding. I'm kidding. I'm kidding. I'm teasing him. I think all the characters are sort of drawn in ways that are surprising. And it's one of the things I love most about the show.

Question:
Fred if you were to answer that, the only part that would be different is that Marshall would have been the sidekick that's a guy, right?

Fred Weller:
I love the twist on that dynamic.

Question:
Fred, were you the type of kid who played cops and robbers? And if so, is this show like reliving that?

Fred Weller:
You don't realize the extent to which the cops and robbers you played as a kid inform your career choice until you strap on that gun. And then suddenly it all comes back. It's a weird, like fustian flashback thing, where you're like, "Oh of course, this is why I'm doing this." Yes, absolutely.

Question:
Do either of you read mystery fiction? And if so, who do you read?

Mary McCormack:
I don't. Do you Fred?

Fred Weller:
A little bit. I got into Harlan Coben after that French thriller based on his book Tell No One, which I love. That was just an astonishing movie. And let's see, who else? Most of the fiction I read is not mystery fiction. But once a year I'll pick one up.

Question:
Do either of you plan to do any more stage work?

Fred Weller:
Yes.

Mary McCormack:
Fred does a play almost every year.

Fred Weller:
Yes. Whereas Mary flies in every ten years and gets nominated for a Tony, which is kind of infuriating.

Mary McCormack:
It's not about the awards Fred. The awards don't matter. That's not why we're in this. I mean Tony-schmoney. It's not important.

Fred Weller:
The face consolation that's meant to hurt.

Mary McCormack:
I would like to do more stage work. I mean for me, it's just finding the time. We're in New Mexico seven months out of the year. So Fred and I have to be really stealth about what we choose to do in our off-time. And the last few years I've been having these little babies. But Boeing-Boeing was one of the happiest times in my whole life. I mean it's such a stupid farce. And it was so much fun. I don't think I've ever laughed harder, more. So I would love to do some more theater, soon as I get this baby out and nursed.

Question:
Fred, are you doing another play this year?

Fred Weller:
I'm waiting to hear about something right now. But my wife and I are planning to experiment this fall with moving to Los Angeles. So that would probably impinge on the New York theater. Maybe I'll do another Indie film that no one ever sees, which is sort of my other modus operandi.

Mary McCormack:
Hobby.

Fred Weller:
Yes, big hobby, exactly.

Question:
Mary, you had mentioned earlier you have new show runners for this season. How is it different with the new show runners?

Mary McCormack:
It's interesting because obviously the characters stay the same, and that's what they're job is. All of them, from John Macnamara before and now Ed Decter and John Strauss, they've all sort of been fans of the show. They've all sort of been really respectful and sweet, and just kind of fans. And so wanting to continue the show down the path that it was on. Which is a relief. For Fred and me it's a relief because we love the show that David created and the tone, which is really special and a little bit hard to write. And so we've been lucky. I mean I think Macnamara did an excellent job. And then John and Ed are doing a really good job too. Every show runner comes in with some changes, they hire new writers and they I think this year we have new opening theme music. But tonally the show, hopefully is the same. And there are a few new characters in the office.

Question:
Do you get much input in shaping the characters with the writers at this point?

Mary McCormack:
We do. They're really sweet. I have to say, I met with John and Ed yesterday and I was thanking them for that because Fred and I have been there since the beginning. And so we do feel a responsibility to the show and the voices of the characters. And John and Ed are really collaborative and said, "You know, it's going to be a learning curve." You know, when you're writing someone else's show. If you created the show - I mean if David were to write it, he could write it in his sleep. But for any other writer there's a little bit more work involved, in terms of getting to know the characters and then and then writing for them. But they're doing great. And they're really collaborative. And if I call and say, "I'm not sure she'd say this, but it might be this," they're just completely on-board with making changes, which is great.

Question:
Do you have any dream scenarios for Mary and/or Marshall that something as an actor you'd just love to play?

Fred Weller:
Every season I'd like to see a payoff on Mary's father search. I think that's a great subplot. Personally I'd like to see some payoff every season on Marshall's feelings for Mary, which is of course, those feelings are really interesting in this season with my girlfriend and her pregnancy.

Question:
How do you feel about having the day you're on changed? And how do you think it'll effect your viewing?

Fred Weller:
This is sort of a new/old time.

Mary McCormack:
It's our original time.

Fred Weller:
It's a retro time at this point.

Mary McCormack:
Yes, we were on Sunday nights at 10:00 originally and it was a great slot for us. And then it went to Wednesday nights at 10:00, which was also, we did pretty well on a much busier night. So we were proud of how we did there. But I think Sunday night works great. We were always happy there so. Programming is a little out of my area of expertise. But I know we did great on Sunday nights at 10:00. So I'm happy to be there.

Question:
If you had the choice to do a crossover, what would be the show that you would like to see crossover with?

Mary McCormack:
If it's a USA show I would do Psych. Or I would do 30 Rock. That's my favorite show on TV besides In Plain Sight Sunday nights at 10:00. But if it was a USA show I would do Psych.

Fred Weller:
I think it's okay to say 30 Rock because it's still owned by the same company, right?

Mary McCormack:
Well it doesn't matter, it's never going to happen. It's like a fantasy question.

Fred Weller:
No just because I don't want to plug non-company networks right now.

Mary McCormack:
I would always plug Tina Fey's 30 Rock, because it's sensational.

Fred Weller:
I'd have to say 30 Rock because that is my favorite show on television besides In Plain Sight. It's an amazing show.

Mary McCormack:
We can't crossover Survivor, but I would like to.

Question:
Would you be yourself or would you be Mary on it then?

Mary McCormack:
I don't know. I love Survivor. I love reality TV, so. I love reality TV and I love 30 Rock and I love In Plain Sight Sunday nights at 10:00.

Fred Weller:
You may have come up with an interesting idea, to play a character, a fictional character on reality TV.

Mary McCormack:
And I love Psych. I love Psych as well.

Question:
In the season premier Stan puts his foot down in regard to new personnel because the place is understaffed. How long does Mary put up with Stan's new regime?

Mary McCormack:
She puts up with that because she can't ultimately boss him around too much. But she fights back when she can.

Question:
What can you tease about some of your guest stars?

Fred Weller:
Ali Marsh is a great actress.

Mary McCormack:
She plays Dr. Finkle, the therapist.

Fred Weller:
The latent sexual tension between Marshall and Dr. Finkle will appear a bit.

Mary McCormack:
Did you know that Ali Marsh is Fred's wife in real life? So it's not that latent.

Fred Weller:
There's a very interesting subplot with Dr. Finkle in Episode 3, where she's kind of calling Marshall in for therapy and it seems like she's doing it really because she wants to date him. I loved it. I thought it was a great idea.

Mary McCormack:
Yes, it was a great idea. And she's an excellent actress and fun to have around. So those are always good days at work. Brad Whitford was a blast. He's funny as anything. And I loved working with him on the West Wing. So I was really happy when he said he'd come down and do one. He's also incredibly talented, for such a goofball. Then you - I watched the episode and I was like, "Oh gosh, you always forget how incredibly skilled as an actor he is." And D.W. Moffett I'd never gotten to work with and I'm a huge fan of his so that was a real treat. We've had some really good actors come down. And hopefully - you know, we're only starting Episode 9 now, so hopefully we'll get a bunch more. We've been lucky.

Question:
Mary, how do you see the future of Mary and Mike playing out after the Season 3 finale?

Mary McCormack:
I don't know how much I'm allowed to say because of this whole pregnancy thing. And I just don't know what I'm allowed to say. I don't want to be a bore and be all coy. But I might have to be a bore and be coy. I'm sorry.

Fred Weller:
Can I just say that even when you're trying to be a bore you're intriguing.

Question:
How's the Albuquerque heat affecting the pregnancy?

Mary McCormack:
It's not bad. You know, I think I get that question quite a bit. And I think people have a misconception about New Mexico. We have four seasons that are incredibly specific. Like right now we're in a beautiful, beautiful spring. It's kind of like the East Coast. And then summer hits, like East Coast it hits in sort of late June and July and August. And then we did move into a gorgeous fall. And then like a snowy winter. So it's not as hot as everybody thinks. I mean August is no joke, it gets pretty desert hot. But right now we're enjoying a beautiful spring there. The cold was tough when I was down there; when we first started in January and February and I was in the first couple months of pregnancy. That was less fun than it could have been.

Question:
Fred, what are some of the interesting things you've discovered about Marshall over the course of playing him for three seasons?

Fred Weller:
I think that he's a romantic. And I think that he looks at himself and Mary kind of like that famous Isaiah Berlin essay about Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, about the humanities divided into the foxes and the hedgehogs. And I think he thinks of himself as a hedgehog and Mary as a fox. To elaborate that, hedgehogs define all of existence by one controlling idea and the foxes see existence as a vast variety. And for Marshall the controlling idea is love. And Mary has no controlling idea.

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