Allison Tolman Talks Playing the Not So Good Girl on NBC’s ‘Good Girls
Follow social media on Sunday night as NBC’s Good Girls airs and when Allison Tolman’s Mary Pat gets up to no good, the fans let Tolman know. Of course, Tolman has had a lot of fun extorting money or blackmailing the other moms on the show. Who doesn’t like playing the villain? Tolman does.
Mary Pat ended season one running over Boomer, her second husband after her first husband, Jeff “died.” If you haven’t caught up with season two yet, then you definitely need to and you’ll see why Tolman’s guest appearance on the show deserves all the awards. It’s one the of funniest and bad-ass appearances you’ll see on Network TV.
I caught up with Tolman to talk about her not so good girl, Mary Pat. When we weren’t laughing, we were talking all things Good Girls.
You guys have just moved back here from Georgia to LA.
Yes. That was nice. I got to drive to Universal, and it’s six minutes from me. It was heaven.
I have to say, the second your character walked on screen, I thought she is so shady. She’s shady as… How did you first get the part for Mary Pat?
I got a call about this role. It was a new show and it hadn’t aired yet. I read the first script that Mary Pat was in. She’s not in it a lot when she first shows up. They just said, she was a suburban mom who got wrapped up in this life of crime but she was the villain. I hopped on the phone with Jenna Bans who is the showrunner and creator. We chatted for a long time about Mary Pat and who she was and what made her tick and what her story was. I got off the phone, and I called my agents and told them I wanted to take this role. I thought it would be so much fun and something completely different for me.
I’ve never played a villain, and people hate her. They hate this character so much. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and it’s kind of incredible. Especially playing Molly on Fargo and she was so beloved. To playing someone who every single tweet and Instagram comment is “She should die. She’s the worst.”
That’s an example of how great the writing is in that we’re so invested in the characters. Every time I look online, I see “Mary Pat has got to go.” Do you follow the online chatter?
I do. There was a time when I followed along with tweets. Every time someone tweeted about Mary Pat, I’d reply, “How dare you?” I went through a three-week period of tweeting at fans. I follow along and it’s fun. It was jarring at first because I’ve never played a bad guy before. Then I thought it was a lot of fun. I’m really proud of Mary Pat and the work I’ve done on the show. I take it as a compliment that people dislike her so much.
OK, let’s go to the end of season one when she slams into reverse and Chicago is playing. What was it like to shoot that scene?
It was so much fun. When Jenna called me and told me that was what was going to happen, I thought it was so perfect and so exciting. It was a joy. I never get to do stuff like that. There were car stunts, driving off quickly and running over him backward. David Hornsby is an incredible actor and a great scene partner. He was truly threatening and scary on the other side of the window. I thought they did such a great job of making that moment believable. It escalated in such a realistic way. And then, they top it all off with that hilarious comedic vision of these kids completely oblivious with their headphones on and their iPads. Then with ‘Glory of Love’ playing, it’s so perfect, so dark and so bizarre.
The irony was just brilliant. But then it wasn’t that she just ran him over. She “chopped him” up. What is it like to see the next thing she’s doing?
At the beginning of season one, when I first started working on the show, I was the one saying,”I think she’s crazy. I think she really has a screw loose. I think she’s a bit kooky.” When they started leaning into that and when there’s the accident and she starts covering it up, her reaction is so eerie. And shooting that scene with Retta, Mae and Christina were some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Their reactions make that scene and I have this incredible monologue to deliver. I just had a blast with it.
What is it like for you on set to have that?
It was such a pleasure and it was instantaneously clear to me that the three ladies get along and adore each other. I think there are many examples that I haven’t experienced, but where you have female-heavy cast where people don’t always get along and it wouldn’t be a pleasant place to work. In this instance, that is not the case at all. It’s such a happy set and when one isn’t on set that day, they text each other. They’re just great friends and they really get along and it’s so obvious when you’re on set. It trickles down from the top.
Mary Pat is quite a problem.
Do you have much of an input as far as ideas and where you want her to go?
I was never getting direct story input, but I was pushing from the beginning for her to go off the deep end because I think that’s who she is. I think she’s crazy. I was really thrilled that they leaned into that in the second season. I’m so proud of this character. She’s one of the characters I’m proudest of in my entire career. I really feel that between Jenna and the writers, that we created this human who could have been a small role and a utilitarian role to help get them to the next level. I think we kept feeding each other and the writers kept giving me great stuff and I’d give them great stuff back and it doubled into this character that could become this whole bizarre villainous human. Whereas, it could have very easily been someone who was forgotten.
What would you like to see happen to Mary Pat in the long term?
I would love if the girls could get into bed with her in one way or another. I would love it if they needed her to do business. To me, the idea of them having to do business together for whatever reason would be so funny. This whole thing of her saying, “Well, shall we grab lunch after this and them saying ‘No, we hate you'” would be so funny. I love the idea of her thinking they’re friends now because they’re stuck together. It just makes me giggle. I would love to see that happen. I think Mary Pat can make any situation more complicated and dire and that’s what that show needs to thrive. [laughs]