On a recent July morning, Martha Plimpton awoke at her Hamptons rental to find out that she’d been nominated for an Emmy. The nod was for her starring role on Raising Hope as Virginia Chance, a lovably salty housekeeper who becomes a grandma—and stand-in mother—at 39. Plimpton herself doesn’t have any children, only an adorable two-year-old wheaten-terrier mutt named Eloise she is raising with her boyfriend, Edward Owens. She spent the morning of the nomination cleaning a mess of Eloise’s poop out of the shower, a fact that she made sure to mention in the press release. (“Apparently my dog is so excited, she has explosive diarrhea.”)
This is Plimpton’s first time being a TV-series regular. She’s 40, and the delay wasn’t by design, she tells me, back in the city at the Riverside Park dog run with her gastrointestinally enthusiastic canine, whom she adopted from an L.A. shelter in January after falling in love with her via Facebook video. “It’s not like I was turning down TV work left and right,” she says. It’s just that, after many fruitful years in the theater, including three consecutive Tony nominations, she wanted to make a living, and there wasn’t a place in movies for “an actor like me, meaning a female character actor who’s above 22 who isn’t, like, a super-gorgeous, stunning superstar. Which is fine, really. You’re not going to hear me complaining about my lot. But that’s the reality.”
The reality of Hope’s sixteen-hour shooting days leaves her “literally bone-tired, like my bones hurt,” she says, and made a do-nothing summer both necessary and, finally, affordable. “This is, like, the first time I’ve ever had the luxury of being able to not work, of not having to hustle,” she says. “It’s strange.” She’s split her time off between the city and the beach, calling it her “white people’s vacation”: “I just want my life to be like a Turning Leaf commercial—white wine, roasted chicken, lobster, white foods. White-people foods.” Eloise loves the Hamptons too: running on the beach, rolling in bird excrement. “She just luxuriously sort of swabs her entire neck region in stinky bird poop and then comes proudly hopping over to show us how wonderful she smells, with a big grin on her face,” says Plimpton. “Yeah, she’s in heaven, and so are we.”
When in the city, Plimpton still lives in her childhood bedroom, in the rental where her mom, Shelley Plimpton, raised her after breaking up with her dad, Keith Carradine; they’d met while starring in the 1969 Broadway production of Hair. “I don’t like to talk about [the apartment] too much, because the building has gone condo recently, and I don’t want to ruffle any feathers or get anybody upset,” she says when I ask if it is rent-stabilized. (It is.) “I have lived there for 36 years, maybe more. It would be insane to move.”
Also insane, she says: how often people ask her when she’s going to have kids of her own now that she’s playing a grandma on TV. “Oh, God, this subject!” Plimpton says, running off to find Eloise, whom she fears has an incurable addiction to chasing squirrels. “You’re 40, you’re getting old, your ovaries are drying up. The gynecologist is like, ‘So, are you thinking about it?’ It’s just the question everybody—no offense—feels like they can ask. Like, ‘So, what are you going to do with your reproductive organs?’ ”
Plimpton has considered the matter more after being around the two irresistible babies who play her granddaughter on the show; she’s been surprised by how much she’s missed them during the hiatus. “I see their cute little pudgy faces, and I just want to eat them alive,” she says. She’ll see them again when she returns to L.A. in a week to start filming season two. “I’ll put it to you this way: I don’t dislike children as much as I used to. Who knows? I’m really not a planner. Apparently, as you can see, because I’m 40 years old. You know, when you’re independent and you’re female and you’re working, it’s just … you wake up one morning: ‘Holy shit! Oh, that’s right, I didn’t do that. Huh.’ You know what I mean. Eloiiiiise!”
Nearby, Eloise has made a new friend, a male friend, presumably not fixed. “Eloise!” exclaims Plimpton in horror. “You’re getting slobbered on, on your vagina. That’s not something I’m enjoying. Eloise, come on. Don’t give men too much. It’s unseemly. You can’t just roll over for any old bulldog. You need to know your worth, dear.”
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