Erin Cummings Lifts Off on Astronaut Wives Club

Michael Logan


She Plays Marge Slayton, the va-va-va-voomy NASA spouse who was hounded by the press because—are you sitting down?—she was a divorcée when she married her astronaut hubby Deke (Kenneth Mitchell). Hey, it was the early ’60s! Meanwhile, those same reporters were giving JFK a free pass for his extramarital hookups. “It’s so sad that Marge was picked out and threatened with public exposure,” Cummings says. “But it’s that old double standard—the same one that has led to the vilification of women throughout history.”

Where You’ve Seen Her Got all day? Cummings played Sura, prophetess and doomed wife of Spartacus, in Spartacus: Blood and Sand; medical examiner Abbey Ward in Detroit 1-8-7; sweetheart lesbian Michelle in Dante’s Cove; and Candace, Don Draper’s prostitute of choice, in Mad Men. Next up, Cummings plays Bernie Madoff’s longtime secretary, Eleanor Squillari, in the ABC miniseries Madoff.

Why We Love Her Marge is the smoking, drinking queen of the snappy put-downs (“That’s why they call them ass-tronauts”), but Cummings counters all that tough-chickery with a sweet, deeply moving melancholy. “Marge drops her facade of strength behind closed doors,” the star says. “With Deke, she just melts. She becomes a puppy dog. All she wants is to be loved.”

It’s Not All Acting In the July 30 episode, NASA recruits Marge to lend emotional support when tragedy strikes the Gemini program. “Marge’s nickname among the other wives is Mother Marge, and Erin was that way on the set with the other actresses,” creator Stephanie Savage notes. “She’s tenderhearted, open-minded, nonjudgmental—the kind of friend we all need.”

She Relates to her Character “Marge wants to hide her past and just fit in, and that really grabbed me,” Cummings says. “I come from a small prison town in Texas and felt like a real outsider when I hit the big lights and glamour of Hollywood.” And she remained that way for years, despite her burgeoning résumé. “Only recently did I start to feel that I’ve found my place,” Cummings says. “I finally think I deserve to be in this business.”

Astronaut Wives Club, Thursdays, 8/7c, ABC

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