What are the conflicting drives Mildred faces as the series begins?
Mildred does a very good job of pretending to be strong -- something I think a lot of mothers do. Especially given the state of the economy and her domestic situation, she has to let her daughters know that they can absolutely depend on her. But I don’t think even she realizes how vulnerable she is just beneath the surface of her determination and survival instinct. It had been a really long time since that rawness had to be so alarmingly accessible to me and I didn’t really like it!
In episode one, Mildred suddenly finds herself the provider. And to complicate things, she is prideful about what kind of job she’ll take. Where does that pride come from?
She is so darned proud. She has these strange standards that come from ... herself. They don’t really come from anywhere else. It’s just her own desire to be this immaculate image of stoicism, poise and grace for both her girls. To have to work is misrepresentative of who she really wants to be for her children, and degrading in some way. But she does it. And it just so happens that the job that she gets is the key that unlocks the door to her future, which is just great fortune.
How does the time period figure into her dilemma?
Mildred refuses to not be able to live to tell the tale. To get through the Depression, as a woman, to start her own business from absolutely nothing, based on a very out-of-the- box, unique idea, takes remarkable courage anyway, but at the time that she was trying to do this, it took a hell of a lot of guts. The risk factor was huge. I hope that women today are actually able to relate to Mildred, because she was going it alone and actually doing it really well for a while.
What do you and Mildred have in common?
Mildred’s desire to be successful comes from this incredible survival instinct that she has, which I do share a little bit. My parents didn’t have any money. I came from this acting family - a bunch of working class acting lunatics who happened to speak very well (because someone had been trained and so they all copied that person). But I did grow up with very little and so I was able to connect with Mildred on that level: Knowing what it’s like to work hard to get by and make something of yourself. You have to dig your heels in and get through it.