"In Plain Sight": Mary McCormack relishes chance to play a character with flaws
Their minds are focused elsewhere. Like counseling the president of the United States about security matters on "The West Wing" or managing chaotic married life with hubby Howard Stern in McCormack's first feature, "Private Parts."
"Sensible" is how McCormack sums up such women, and she mines them for authentic, rich portrayals. McCormack is an actress with more to offer than gloss.
But now a hearty new crime drama, "In Plain Sight," gives her license to be a little flashier. Not as outrageous as her Tony-nominated German stewardess in the Broadway revival "Boeing-Boeing," but a departure from sensible all the same.
In this USA series, premiering at 10 tonight, she stars as Mary Shannon, a U.S. marshal in the federal witness protection program who relocates secret witnesses (some of them criminals, some of them innocents) into a new life in the Albuquerque, N.M., area, where the series takes place.
Shannon is tough, peevish and prone to sarcasm. She bickers with her fellow marshal and pal, whose given name is, aptly, Marshall (played by Frederick Weller).
She is "one of the angriest, most controlling, most toxic women I've ever encountered," a gangster in her custody complains. "And I work for a female assassin!"
Meanwhile, crashing at her home are her loopy mother (Lesley Ann Warren) and party-girl sister (Nichole Hiltz), who add to her emotional disarray.
Mary Shannon would not be described as sensible.
"This role is different," McCormack, 39, said. "There's a lot more comedy than most things I've done. And it's action-y, which I've always wanted to do. I'm sort of built for action, and I've never really had the opportunity."
When she read the pilot script, the character seemed tailor-made. The character was already named Mary and hailed from New Jersey, as does Mary McCormack (along with her actor-brother Will McCormack, by the way, who appeared in FX's "Dirt").
"In Plain Sight" creator David Maples "didn't write a superhero," McCormack said. "Instead, he wrote someone who's flawed and real. One of my favorite details: He made her cheap. I just love that she's cheap -- it's SO unattractive!"
Another revealing detail: In a bold attempt to impose some control on her frenetic life, Mary keeps a things-to-do pad suction-cupped to her car's dashboard.
McCormack has had plenty to do since her series' 12 episodes wrapped last December.
A month ago, she opened on Broadway in a hit revival of the 1960s farce "Boeing-Boeing," the dizzy tale of a high-flying bachelor and three stewardesses, each of whom thinks she's his one-and-only.
There's plenty of action when, thanks to a screw-up in airline scheduling, all three "fiances" crash at their boyfriend's love nest the same day.
Stars of "Boeing-Boeing" include Bradley Whitford as the bachelor, Christine Baranski as his cranky French housekeeper and, as the girlfriends, Gina Gershon (the Italian babe); former "Crossing Jordan" regular Kathryn Hahn (the American); and McCormack, whose performance as the German is bursting with physicality and overflowing with Teutonic theatrics in her skintight uniform and towering blond wig.
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