What did you know about Gillian going in? What about her appealed to you?
I knew very little. I knew that she was a showgirl and Jimmy's mom, which I thought was interesting, but that was really it. There were a lot of unknowns, but I trusted all the parties involved. And the writing -- there was so much juice to the character, so much attitude. Even when I discovered she was a grandmother! I thought "Oh my god!" Some of my friends have asked, "Is it weird to play a grandmother?"and I say, "I'm still the same age!" I'm not a 60-year-old grandma with old-age makeup. It's just an added detail I can thrive on.
There's clearly more to Gillian than she lets on. What does she know about Angela and her "bohemian" lifestyle?
Gillian grew up on that Boardwalk. It's a small town, I think she sees everything. The writing is so clever, there'll be these little things: Gillian shows Angela the magazine cover and it seems to be about her own vanity -- "Do you think she's pretty? I should be on the cover," but underneath that, I thought immediately, is she playing with her? "Do you think she's pretty?" I don't frankly know if they meant it, but it's one of the fun things to layer in there.
The ambiguity of this style of working is really different from a film or a play where you have all the materials in your hand. You can ask questions, but they keep it vague. There's a lot of freedom in that.
Do you believe Gillian is really interested in raising Tommy?
I feel that her relationship with her son is very unique and she didn't make hard work with Jimmy -- he was with her backstage or wherever she went. I don't think she looks at parenting the way we do today, taking on a huge thing that's going to change her life. She thinks Angela is slightly in the way of her relationship with her son, her hopes for him and what that future means for her.
So is it a chance to do it over?
I think it's even colder than that. I don't think it's even about a grandmotherly instinct for Tommy. It's more about her future and her survival. It's about getting to what's important -- these two male figures who could keep her comfortable. Another woman would be just in the way.
Can you talk about Gillian's connection to her son?
I think their relationship has many complexities to it. They're almost like peers in some ways. One of the main aspects of the show and most of these characters is their will to survive the situation they're all in, the lengths they're willing to go. Jimmy is all she has. There's no man, and women aren't earning the same way men are. She loves and adores him but he's also her only asset.
She knows the lengths he's gone to for her - replacing her necklace from a long time ago, even if he stole it back.
She'll love him no matter what, so that wasn't a huge risk to the relationship. Even the fact that he didn't get in touch with her immediately -- I think that says a lot about how times were different and how communication was different. What he's up against isn't something that she can necessarily help with or know about. But I think she suspects -- that was the whole scene with Nucky at the Palmist's-- what's going on.