‘Maid’ Showrunner on Being Inspired by a ‘Lovely’ Tale of Motherhood
There’s something special about Netflix’s limited series Maid, created for television by Molly Smith Metzler and inspired by Stephanie Land’s 2019 memoir.
It tells the story of Alex (Margaret Qualley), a single mother who leaves an abusive relationship and finds work as a house cleaner in order to find a better life for her daughter Maddy (Ryle Nevaeh Whittet). Her tale shines a light on the challenges of poverty, minimum wage work, and the kind of support that is both available and unavailable to victims of domestic abuse.
Below, Metzler opens up about what drew her to the story that inspired the series, what it was like working with real-life mother and daughter Andie MacDowell and Qualley, and much more.
The show is inspired by Stephanie Land’s book. What drew you to her story?
Molly Smith Metzler: Well, what drew me to it was… I guess everyone was talking about it. I read a lot, and when John Wells and Erin Jontow gave it to me, I felt extremely excited that I got to read it. What got me, I think, is I’m a mom. I have an eight-year-old daughter, and this book just kept me up at night.
It is so upsetting how difficult it was for Stephanie Land to provide for her daughter on a minimum wage cleaning job. And she left an abusive relationship. It fired me up. It made me really angry. So usually, as an artist, when something fires you up, it’s a sign that you want to talk about it some more.
Despite the show’s heavier moments, there are also some lighter, funnier scenes. What’s the key to keeping it balanced so the tone isn’t completely crushing the entire show?
There’s a version of Maid, the limited series, that’s just a bummer summer, that’s just painful to watch. And it’s misery after misery. But I don’t want to watch that show, and no one wants to watch that show. I also feel like we shut down if [a show is] a slog, your ears stop working.
So it was really important to me that we experienced this journey through the eyes of somebody who has a sense of humor, who’s 25, who is horny sometimes, who wants to get a beer with her friends and can’t afford it. She is alive and has a really hopeful outlook of the world so that when we go through it with her, we shoot it through the lens of a very funny and winning 25-year-old. And a big part of that was working with Margaret Qualley on the role because she is goofy, she is funny, she is alive, she is incredibly dramatic. She has such a huge spectrum. So we started writing it with her in mind so that the show would have a big spectrum.
Andie MacDowell plays Alex’s mom Paula in the series and also happens to be the real-life mom of Margaret Qualley. What was it like getting to see their dynamic on and off-screen?
It was really inspiring. From the get-go, we almost immediately cast Margaret. Then the minute we met her over Zoom, we just knew she was going to be our Alex. And then we had started the conversations about Paula. We’d all immediately thought of Andie MacDowell, of course. But it’s her mom. My daughter would not want to spend nine months on an island with me.
So we didn’t bring it up until Margaret brought it up, and was like, “I really want to do this with my mom.” And so the casting of them came from a really generous place, that they wanted to do this together. It really informed our set because it was beautiful to watch. They supported each other and hugged between takes. They made soup and snuggled on the weekends. It made a show about motherhood even more lovely because we were all inspired by this example of motherhood. It was just a very beautiful thing.
Maid, Streaming now, Netflix