The pot selling business that widowed mom Nancy Botwin began in season one of Weeds is growing and so is the critical acclaim of the Showtime hit series airing its second season on Aug. Mondays. Recently, Mary-Louise Parker, who plays Botwin, discussed playing this role and the trials Botwin will be going through as she struggles to expand her illegal business and pursue a bit of romance. It promises to be another heady — and occasionally dangerous — season.
Does your character perhaps enjoy the pot business a little bit?
Mary-Louise Parker: I think she enjoys the adrenaline of it and I think she’s grown to enjoy it. I don’t think she necessarily knows that about herself but I think she … is a bit reckless and I think she isn’t someone who thinks ahead.
The direction that she’s headed seems to be leading her into some dangerous territory. Will that take away from the comedy?
I don’t know how to approach anything as a straight-out comedy or a straight-out drama. It’s just life as life. … I think that it does have the potential to go pretty dark. I think actually within that darkness is where a lot of great comedy is born. … It’s also a great opportunity for other situations for me to play. It’s not going to be very interesting to me to play if things stay safe.
How have your feelings about your character changed over time? Is this a character you’ve come to like a lot or somebody you liked immediately?
My feelings are still changing because I’m still trying to discover new things about her that will help me to play her and help me to understand her and her relationships to other people, and I don’t really think about whether I like her not. I don’t try to think of her in those terms. It doesn’t really help me in terms of playing her because she doesn’t really think about whether she likes herself or not, you know? I don’t think she’s somebody who thinks about that. There are some scenes I like playing more than others, and there are a lot of scenes I enjoy immensely playing.
What are the scenes you enjoy playing the most?
I like playing the scenes when [Nancy is] in the most amount of danger because I think that she’s someone who … doesn’t necessarily belong where she is. So when you see her in this world where she’s getting shot at or f**** someone in an alley, everything is incongruous. I just like the juxtaposition of her against these other backdrops and these other worlds. … I like it when it’s very dramatic and things are going very badly.
Is it perhaps any easier or harder to do this role than other roles you’ve had?
They are all hard because I kind of make them hard. … I’ve never been able to kind of sweep in and just do it and go home, you know? I like to look under the rug and see what I can find. Sometimes that’s hard, but I like the challenge of it. I like the pressure of it.
One of the really interesting things about Nancy is that, in spite of her — let’s say unusual — occupation, women can relate to her shift in circumstance. What in your own background are you drawing on when you play her?
I tend to abstract my characters more than draw on my own background. A lot of times the first thing I do when I play a character is make lists of the ways they are different from me. I find it distracting to at all relate it to my own life. … If an image flutters down in the midst of a scene and happens upon me or washes over me that’s lovely, but I don’t intentionally impose those things because I just find them intrusive.
There seems to be some sexual tension between Nancy and Conrad (Romany Malco). Can you talk about where that relationship is headed, particularly now that Peter (Martin Donovan) is in her life?
I think that that’s kind of a gray area of who’s in charge between her and Conrad because, no matter who holds the cash, he always is the authority because he is the knowledge base. He will always know more than her; he will always know which foot to put in front of the other. She is always going to be floundering, so she always needs to look to him. She will always be kind of reaching for his elbow. … Neither one of them fit into their world anywhere in a very neat way and I think that may be that oddballs tend to kind of find one another in the world, and I think that’s the case with the two of them — aside from just a pure indescribable attraction, which is what they have. And also he’s really hot.
And [Peter] has this power, and he is able to kind of negotiate things for her and potentially guide her through a situation that could be kind of tumultuous and really, really, really dangerous.
What did you think about Peter when he tells Nancy to turn on the TV?
Oh, I think the way [Martin Donovan] plays it is incredible. First of all, he’s a really good friend of mine and I wanted him for the part. I actually kind of stamped my feet about him getting the part. So I kind of brag about that now … because he’s so wonderful. I just thought the way he played that scene was amazing … He’s done something entirely crooked and yet for her benefit. It kind of leveled her. Whether or not that has anything to do with the actual man that’s debatable, but the act itself is, [well] he bought the right color roses, let’s just say that.
Is Kevin Nealon there to kind of add a broader comic tone to the show?
I don’t know. I think they cast him because he was really great for the part. … I have to say he’s one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. He’s freakishly nice.
Elizabeth Perkins is often pretty horrible, particularly to her daughter, and yet there is still a certain appeal to her character. Is that sort of the contradiction part of why she’s there?
I think it’s because she’s such a wonderful actress that she’s able to bring that kind of dimension to the character. I think it would be really easy to play Celia as just Cruella DeVille. I think in some ways it would probably be more fun for an actress to play it that way but I think Perkins manages to bring another layer to it and make Celia more of a human being … and I think that’s why you care about her at all.
Why does Nancy stay friends with Celia?
I think Celia sees that there is something about Nancy that is not phony in the way that the other ladies are phony. Oddly, in a way Nancy is incredibly duplicitous and incredibly dishonest.
Can you tell us anything about how Nancy crosses paths with Snoop Dogg later in the season?
Did you think this was a series that was going to go into a second season and have some Emmy recognition?
You know the very first movie I ever did in my life ran for two days and just tanked. I was so excited about it before it came out but it really taught me to not have any expectations whatsoever. … With this I didn’t have any, and if anything I thought people would probably be pretty offended by it. I didn’t think that it would necessarily be something that people would really dig. So I guess it’s kind of surprising.
Do you run into people who are offended by it?
I haven’t as yet; I’m sure I will though.
How about people who look at you funny in the grocery store or something?
Yes, but sometimes really terribly sweet-looking ladies come up to me and tell me how much they love it and they can relate to it. It’s pretty surprising.
What episode are you working on now?
You’re all done, okay. So you do know how the season ends.
Can you talk a little bit about that?
I’m not allowed to because every time I start to somebody kind of sweeps in and says I’m not supposed to. But I think am allowed to say that it gets dark. … Things get dark all over.