Tony winner Andrea Martin has played two motherly roles this year, the excessively doting Carol on NBC’s “Great News” and, on Hulu’s “Difficult People,” one who is decidedly not.
“When we started this show, I thought, ‘You know, I’m not really Carol!’ ” Martin says. “And as I’ve been doing it now — I guess we’ve done 23 episodes — I see similarities. I did a character on ‘Difficult People’ who was another mom but she was not intrusive in a codependent way that Carol is, neither was she nurturing or unconditionally loving. And there are kind of two sides of me actually. It can be all about me sometimes and it can be all about my children. So it’s a fabulous balance to be able to have played those two moms.”
While “Difficult People” finished its three-year run in September, “Great News,” created by Tracey Wigfield, is going strong in its second season on NBC.
The show stars Briga Heelan as Katie Wendelson, a low-level producer at low-level cable news show, “The Breakdown.” Her career is thrown a curve when her overly nurturing mother Carol (Martin) joins the production as an intern. The show also stars John Michael Higgins and Nicole Richie. Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (“30 Rock,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) executive produce the show.
amNewYork spoke with Martin, 70, on the phone before Thanksgiving about Broadway, getting ready for the holidays, and “Great News,” which returns from midseason break Dec. 21.
What’s coming up for Carol?
Oh my gosh! Well, let me see if I can even remember, because, you know, I can’t remember anything. So look: Dec. 21 is a fabulous Christmas episode, which kind of crazily parallels my life. I’m in Toronto right now. And my entire family is coming in for Thanksgiving, but we really actually celebrate Christmas. And as you were calling me, I was putting partridges in a pear tree. I mean I’m like, I’m literally going insane. The idea of Carol Wendelson is that she’s been obsessive about Christmas since Katie was a little girl. And she believes that if Christmas isn’t perfect, then she’s failed. And so at the end of this episode she realizes, comes to the conclusion, that what’s important is the family around her and not, you know, the perfect light bulb for the perfect tree. But as I am in my home in Toronto putting jingle bells on the dishes and putting snowman salt and pepper shakers out on the table and putting a nutcracker on the lamp — I mean I’m going insane. I wish I could FaceTime with you.
What do you think makes the mother-daughter relationship between Carol and Katie unique?
What makes this unique? You know, I think the bond between them is — I don’t want to overstate it — but it’s kind of complicated, really. They love each other and at the same time the mom is Katie’s cheerleader and only wants the best for her. But she’s kind of re-examining her own life at 60 and so the boundaries cross quite a bit in what Carol needs to reaffirm herself in the workplace and what Katie needs to be independent from her mom. I don’t know if that exists in any other show. I think also there’s a very uncomplicated relationship in the love they have for each other. So there’s a lot of beautiful dynamics at play that I think echo a lot of mother-daughter relationships actually in the world.
How is life with your on-screen daughter Briga?
Oh, I just worship her, really. I have two sons. It’s interesting to have a daughter. She comes from a family in which she has a very close, tight relationship with her mom. I think she calls her mom her best friend. So I don’t think that was a departure for her. Where we lucked out is we’re also friends and even though I’m considerably older than her, we share a lot just as women, you know? It’s I think a real mutual love. I feel both maternal to her and also a friend to her. I think she probably feels the same way to me. She just had a baby, so I feel like a grandmother of sorts.
Where would you like to see Carol over the next episodes?
I hope that she finds a niche that she’s actually good at. She so far hasn’t found one. But I hope that they can figure out something that her talent can excel. I don’t think we really know what her talent is yet other than getting in everybody’s business. But she’s a cheerleader. She’s so enthusiastic and just kind of in awe of everybody. But there are hidden talents in people and I hope that we can find what that hidden talent is and maybe she can call the shots in a very small limited way at the station.
With a pair of Tony Awards, you’re certainly no stranger to Broadway. When will you be back on the stage?
Let me just think about this. I’m in Canada right now so I have to put my New York hat on. … Listen, I would love to do another show. What’s happened, I think, is because I’ve been doing “Difficult People” and “Great News,” I’ve been away for Broadway and they cast way in advance. I’ve kind of missed the spring shows. I kind of have to wait until maybe fall of 2018 to see what’s out there. But everything has been cast. Really, Scott, it’s my first love. I love the Broadway community. I’ve missed New York. I’ve been away for about four and a half months. I very much looked forward to doing another play or musical on Broadway, very much so.
When you get back to the city where do you make a beeline to?
I make a beeline for the Silver Moon Bakery on 105th and Broadway and then I probably work down my way to Maison Kayser [at W. 76th and Broadway]. Restaurants aren’t my thing. But having coffee and a great pastry is my thing. I’m sure to make a transition from L.A. to Canada to New York, I’m going to have to hit Levain cookies [at W. 74th and Amsterdam Ave.]. And then kind of sit quietly and have a croissant and coffee until I get into the New York frame.
Will we see more of you in the “Big Fat Greek” series?
You know, there were talks after the second one came out. I certainly think there’s a world in which those people can — we see what the next step in their lives are. But there hasn’t been specific talk, but kind of a gentle buzz. I think if Nia [Vardalos, the star and writer] were up to writing another one, I’m sure a studio would be happy to produce it and I know we’d be all very happy to be in it. So I won’t rule it out that’s for sure.
What else are you working on?
I have for 15 years hosted and organized a gala for the Children of Armenia Fund, COAF, and it’s Dec. 16. It’s at Cipriani’s. So I just want to get the word out there. It’s an extraordinary organization. You don’t have to be Armenian to want to help out the children in the very impoverished country of Armenia.