Mae Whitman plays the wisecracking Annie on Season 2 of NBC’s Good Girls. Here, she talks about the new season, set life and growing up in the entertainment business.
Congrats on Season 2 of Good Girls! What can we expect to see this time around?
MAE WHITMAN: Someone recently asked if you were worried about Season 1 being so great and the comparison with Season 2. It never actually occurred to me to compare them. We’re expanding into these women’s lives now especially after the choices they’ve made. It feels like a really natural continuation of the story. It’s a little darker while still being really funny. What’s fascinating to me about this show is the absurdity of people being these real fish out of water. They’re put into these circumstances that are so far outside of what they’re used to. They apply things they already know to become sort of actually good at this endeavor. Annie represents the fantasy element of all of this. She’s kind of like ‘shoot ‘em!’ ‘steal the stuff!’ ‘who cares!’ She doesn’t realize the repercussions of her actions and charges blindly ahead. I think Ruby and Beth need an element of that or they may not get anything done. Annie is starting for the first time in her life to realize the consequences of her actions and the possibility of losing her daughter Sadie.
What’s the hardest part about playing Annie?
MW: I’ve sort of grown up playing an old soul in a young body. One of the things I was really excited to do was the opposite. Annie is still a bit of a kid in a way and has relied on Beth and Ruby to help her in line. I joke that I’m the Joey Tribbiani of the group. It’s been fun to rearrange what I know and see where she’s coming from and how she’s been affected by things her life. Annie plays off a lot of pain and sadness with humor. It’s been fun trying to rearrange my innards to be a whole different person for one of the first times in my career.
Your co-stars, Christina and Retta, both mentioned how funny you were on set and how you’re often the comic relief. Any stories you want to share?
MW: I feel so flattered and honored that there are people that think I’m funny! It’s a funny tone on set because you’re dealing with these really serious situations. The thing that makes it so funny is our reactions. They’re so fish out of water and so absurd—it’s not something we’re used to and our reactions are so human. They’ll be one thing that one of us will say and the others will not be able to keep it together. In season one there’s a part where Retta says something about someone we have in a treehouse. It got more and more nasally between us as we went on—the three of us can still can say those lines to each other and make each other laugh to high heaven. That’s the most rewarding, when you can make your costars smile and laugh. We get to work with such a professional crew. They make our job so easy because they’re so talented that they allow us a lot of time to play and make jokes and ask questions if something doesn’t feel right. They let us mess around with the tone and often that’s when the really special moments are created, when you feel like you have time to play and try different things. We’re lucky to work on a set with no fear and tension.
You started in entertainment very young. Who have you encountered in your career that’s inspired you along the way?
MW: I’m just so lucky I had such an amalgamation of amazing experiences growing up in this business. My parents were incredible. They guided my whole situation, they’re the reason I’m not in a gutter somewhere. When I was growing up the priority was me growing up and doing what I wanted to do, things were supposed to be fun. We would pass on a movie if there was a field trip I wanted to do. It really kept me grounded. I was lucky enough to have hundreds of TV parents—some of the best actors in the business, like George Clooney, Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock and Lauren Graham, who is still my best friend. My parents worked hard to make sure the people I was around were healthy, kind, loving and understanding of kids. I scooped up all the knowledge from all the fake parents I had over the years. I feel extremely lucky and it’s not something I take for granted.
If you weren’t acting, what would your chosen profession be?
MW: Being an actor you never know what’s coming around the corner or if you’ll work again. It’s always in the back of mind, what my plan is. I’ve had calls with my agent from the bathtub sobbing saying I’m going to move north and be a tour guide at a little roadside attraction—they have health insurance! When I was growing up I always wanted to be a marine biologist. I loved science and I loved the ocean. Other than that, if the shit hit the fan I’d be either a museum docent or someone who stands up against the wall and tells people they can’t take photos in a museum. The other thing I’d be is a park ranger. I could go be by myself in a tower for a million hours and going to move a deer from where it is from time to time. Not that that’s all they do, they obviously do way more important stuff than that and I’m sure I couldn’t handle what they actually do.
Any interesting projects coming up?
MW: I’m taking some time off which I never do. I literally never take a break, I’m always trying to work. I just moved into a new house. I’m trying to unpack my boxes and get things together. I just want some time to stand in my new space and put my own two feet down and create my own little world around me before I launch back into everything. I’m sure it will be soon before I hit the ground running again.
Photography by: Photography courtesy NBC Universal