‘Maid’: Margaret Qualley & Andie MacDowell Talk Onscreen Mother-Daughter Dynamic
The limited series from showrunner Molly Smith Metzler and executive producers John Wells and Margot Robbie delivers a story inspired by Stephanie Land’s best-selling 2019 memoir, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. Qualley takes center stage as Alex, a young woman who is trying to find her footing as a single mother to Maddy (Rylea Neveah Whittet) after leaving an abusive relationship.
Finding work as a maid, Alex turns to her mother Paula (MacDowell), who is dealing with issues of her own such as struggles with mental health. The dynamic between Paula and Alex is just one of the many facets of this heart-wrenching story.
“I read the script and I thought the writing was just incredible,” marvels Qualley. “I was just really taken aback by her experience, and it seemed like such an incredible part.” The actress was excited to tackle the challenges that the role of Alex would bring her and working with real-life mom MacDowell was just an added bonus.
“It was actually my idea to work with my mom,” Qualley reveals. “So I was so lucky that she wanted to do it. I pitched the idea to Margot Robbie and she was just ecstatic and loved it.” The series shoot lasted eight months, giving the duo plenty of time to bond onscreen and enjoy time together behind the scenes. “I’m really grateful that she did it,” Qualley adds.
“She’d said she realized that I was really the right person to play this character,” MacDowell says, noting that over the years, “my daughter’s asked me a lot of questions about growing up. I think she wants to understand where I came from.”
While MacDowell’s character is quite different from anyone in her own life, she reveals it was easier to connect with Paula based on her own experiences growing up. The actress’s character in the series is an artist who struggles with mental health, confidence, relationships, and more.
“My mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia right after I was born,” shares MacDowell. “So it was complex, my upbringing, and I had other relationships that involved mental illness that [Margaret] was aware of too. So I have firsthand experience and she knew that, but even my mother, it didn’t manifest exactly the same way [as Paula’s].”
Despite the heavier aspects to her role, MacDowell enjoyed exploring the free-spirited Paula who often ties herself to men in order to feel valued. “That was so much fun to explore,” she says, “and it was a gift from my daughter. She’s so sweet because she’ll say things to me that blow my mind, the way she sees me, I really appreciate her view of me.”
Mothers and daughters play a huge role in the show ranging from Alex’s relationship with Paula to the bond she shares with her own daughter Maddy. “Alex wants to be the complete opposite of her mother,” MacDowell says. “Her mother is just this wide open, lusty person and Alex is very reserved and interior, quiet, and proper.”
Bringing that to life was an interesting challenge for Qualley who isn’t a mother in real life but would fool most with her onscreen performance. “Rylea is four and there’s only so much acting that can be done when you’re four,” notes Qualley. “So a lot of our stuff had to be relatively authentic.”
That authenticity was built by going on grocery shopping outings together or even making meals. “Before we’d do a scene where I’m supposed to be cooking her breakfast, I’d cook her breakfast, so that she feels safe and cozy and happy,” Qualley reveals. “I had a blast with her. She was my best friend on the shoot. It was a really surreal experience for me, but also really rewarding.”
See the mother-daughter relationships come to life when Maid arrives on Netflix this October.
Maid, Series Premiere, Friday, October 1, Netflix