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While the new HBO Max series Generation primarily focuses on the teens of Gen Z, actress Martha Plimpton has been stealing scenes representing the parents as Megan, the Type A mom to twins Nathan and Naomi (played by Uly Schlesinger and Chloe East).
With what happened after the first three episodes that premiered last week, with Nathan publicly coming out as bisexual, Plimpton told EW "I think we can expect [Megan] to maybe lose a little bit of control over her feelings about it. And not just about that, but about the whole megillah."
"She's been operating according to this one system for so long that it's really incredibly challenging for her to get out of it. And I think she's leery of what may come," adds the actress.
With the new batch of Generation episodes out today, Plimpton shares why she feels she may be a go-to person to play parents to queer children, why she's both impressed and intimidated by Gen Z, and more.
Warrick Page/HBO Martha Plimpton as Megan on HBO Max's 'Generation'.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: To start, how'd you get involved with this show, and what drew you to this character?
MARTHA PLIMPTON: Well the Barnz's, Zelda and Daniel and Ben, contacted me when I was in London doing a play, and they sent me the script, and I read it. Really, they told me sort of the arc of where this woman was gonna go, because obviously, the pilot script doesn't really indicate much. They talked to me about her marriage, and about her religious life, and where she's coming from as a mom, and where she's at in her life. And I also really, really love Zelda. I really loved her, and I just thought this girl, she's so sharp and so lovely. I just thought I gotta do this. This makes perfect sense. I want to be with these people. I want to work with these people. I just felt like it was something I hadn't really done before.
And even though The Real O'Neals was a similar kind of person, a religious mom struggling with her kid's sexual identity, this was completely different. I mean, this was way more sort of nuanced. And obviously, that was a comedy, and this is just so much more than that. I just thought this is something I could really sink my teeth into.
You mentioned Zelda. I wanted to know too, what was it like working with her on this vision of a parent coming primarily from the mind of a teenage writer?
I think it's great. I mean, look, the perspective is really important in this show. And even though she's got Daniel there working with her, and writing alongside her to add that adult eye, I really loved it because it was braver than I've ever seen, you know? And I think young people are just braver in general when it comes to their parents, especially this generation. They don't pull any punches. That was really exciting to me.
I've noticed a lot of the time when you play moms, they're stories where more attention is paid to the character's sons. Is that an active choice on your part?
No, I haven't really actively chosen it. I think with this show, it's hard to say it's really focused on the son. I think for her, that's the character that she is most entangled with, but she also deals with her daughter in this really odd way. So no, I've never noticed a pattern like that. It's such an ensemble with the kids that I don't feel like I'm leaning more towards one way or the other.
Warrick Page/HBO Actors Sam Trammell and Martha Plimpton star on the HBO Max teen dramedy 'Generation'.
Well, the reason why I asked that, thinking about Nathan's story in particular, what draws you to playing a mother to queer children specifically?
Well, I don't know. I don't know why I'm asked to play these roles. I'm certainly of that age where I get asked to play moms a lot. But I'm not sure. I think it's because these are complicated issues and maybe they somehow think I have a sensibility that might work with that. I'm not sure.
Do you feel like you approach these roles with a particular sensitivity, or do you more so lean on the script?
Well, I definitely lean on the script more. This is a person who doesn't react at all the way I would react. She doesn't deal with her life in any way [that] I would deal with my life. She's completely different from me, but I think I find that interesting. I like that, and I think there will be parents or people watching this who can identify with her in a way. The pace with which the culture is moving forward, that so scares her, you know?
Would you describe Megan as conservative? Do you think she'd describe herself as conservative?
Yeah, I think she's conservative, but I think it's more than just politics. It has to do with wanting things to go a certain way, and planning your life accordingly, and then having it blow up in your face. Wanting what you think is best for your children and then discovering you don't know your children at all. And also the whole idea of the empty nest and the kids are growing up, and they're not going to be home for much longer, and what is she going to do with herself? Because they've been her whole life, you know? She doesn't have a job per se, except for raising them. When they're gone, who is she? I think that that's pretty universal.
That's a good way of putting it too because in her introduction you see how organized she is. I love her giant calendar wall.
Right, yeah. She plans every detail of their lives out to the minutest detail, and "this is the way," and it's the way she feels that everyone can have control. Everyone can be a part of maintaining control in this household, that's what she does.
Warrick Page/HBO Actress Martha Plimpton plays a Type A mother to teenage twins on HBO Max's 'Generation'.
Well, she loves them. Patrick is one of her oldest friends and she's the one he came out to, and it's okay for them because they're her friends, but it's not what she wants for her family, you know? And I think there are a lot of people like this. They're perfectly fine with gayness and gay people, they have their hairdressers and whatnot, but I think that when it comes to her side of the table, she's like "Look you guys, you're adults. You can do what you want to do. But my son's not, my son is different. My son is mine. And my son is not an adult."
Well, do you think that she uses that friendship as a shield from any allegations of homophobia?
Oh, absolutely. For sure. And I don't think she would consider herself a homophobe. She wouldn't at all consider herself that. I think "hate the sin, not the sinner," that's kind of her perspective. It's just, when it comes into her house, it's a completely different story for her. And she doesn't understand why other people don't understand that.
I loved her in episode four, where the other mom brings like, "Wasn't it your son who jumped off the boat," and she just snaps back so quickly with "Wasn't it your daughter who was selling drugs?
Right. Well, the thought of other people talking behind her back is untenable for her. She can't stand the thought of not being in control of whatever the image is of her family. She's very interested in appearances.
How has it been working with the young actors playing the twins, and having been in their shoes, is there any advice you share with them at all?
First of all, they're absolutely fantastic. I mean, they really, really are. Uly and Chloe just work so well together. They're so funny, they're so touching. Uly looks like he's just gonna explode at any moment. All the kids in the cast are excellent. Excellent. And the only advice I have for them because they're all very smart and very brilliant is just to have a good time, man. Because when this show comes out, I hope it will be very successful, and for them to enjoy that and take pleasure in it, you know? And just stay sweet, I guess because they all are so lovely. I just love them.
The show's called Generation. What have you learned about Generation Z while making the show and working with this generation of actors?
Gosh, that's a really tough question. I think what I noticed is just how far ahead of us olds they are in so many ways. They're so nonjudgmental about each other's identities and sexualities, and they're so keyed into the dialectic of their age. But it must be incredibly pressurizing to live in this culture where they are so far ahead of us, and yet they're still kids, they're still children. And so, the thing that all kids have, which is the firm belief that they know everything, is true for them in some ways. They're just way ahead of the adults in so many ways, but then, to have the inability to really process what all of that means, they still make stupid mistakes, and they still have terrible judgment. It's just a really pressurized time in our culture, and everything else, I do feel for them in that way, and yet I'm also incredibly envious. And also when I get around all of them, I'm just so intimidated. I'm just like, "Oh my God, I don't even know what these guys are talking about." But yeah, I think that's pretty much it.
hbo max Actors Martha Plimpton and Chloe East play mother and daughter on the HBO Max teen dramedy 'Generation'.
This interview has been edited and condensed.