Who's Margo Martindale? Oh, you know her. You might not know her name, but you recognize her. She's one of the busiest character actresses in Hollywood, having appeared in more than 100 movies and TV episodes in the last 20 years, and she's firmly in the "Hey! It's That Guy (or Gal)!") category of actors.

She plays the psychologist in the current film Orphan, but it was her guest appearance a couple weeks ago on HBO's Hung that really reminded me of how much I admire her. The reason she gets so many gigs, especially in guest-starring TV roles, is that she's highly skilled at making an impression even with only a few minutes of screen time. Part of this is due to her embracing (and making full use of) her physical characteristics: She's in her late 50s, pleasantly plump, somewhat matronly, a twinkle in her eye, a charming East Texas accent in her voice. With those components, she can instantly give you a feel for what sort of character she's playing.

So she's not exactly a chameleon, but she does have range. She played Hilary Swank's greedy trailer-trash mother in Million Dollar Baby and John C. Reilly's sweet country-fried mom in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. She can be a no-nonsense nurse, a naive aunt, or (as in Hung) a sexually frustrated middle-aged woman with self-esteem issues. Million Dollar Baby was an exception -- Martindale almost always plays someone that we're meant to like, even feel protective of.
categories Cinematical