Monday, April 28, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mary McDonnell

JA from MNPP here, momentarily guest-blogging for Nat while he's in Indy.

Today marks the fifty-sixth year that Mary McDonnell has been here on the planet known as Earth, so say we all. McDonnell's been great in many, many roles over the years, plenty of which I've personally loved her in in the past, but - as my opening sentence there makes obvious - to me she'll forever and always be President Laura Roslin.

For those of you unaware - and I am aware that that's probably many of you, since the ratings aren't as sky-high as they ought to be - Roslin is the character McDonnell has brought to life on Battlestar Galactica. School-teacher turned president when the rest of the world exploded save 50,000 or so human souls, Roslin is sort of what would happen if Laura Bush ate Karl Rove, but were actually a likable person at the same time.

But as I said, McDonnell's had a sturdy career, coming at me every few years or so with another role to etch itself into my consciousness. For good (Donnie's mother Rose in Donnie Darko, baby-crazy Claire in Grand Canyon, Mary-Alice in Passion Fish) or for evil (The floundering First Lady in Independence Day, "Stands With A Fist" in Dances With Wolves), she's always sort of been around, making me smile. And now, thanks to BSG, she's earning the accolades and awards she's so deserving of... wait, what's that you're saying? BSG doesn't own the Emmys ass year after year? Out the airlock with 'em!!!

Share in the comments any McDonnell love you might have.
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18 comments:

NATHANIEL R said...

wheeeeee

thank you for posting this. Rewatching some of season 1 recently i realized with startling clarity that i disagree wtih Roslyn constantly --and yet, i deeply love her.

it's the mark of a great performer I think to make you love a character you might hate in real life --and not in the love to hate way. It's all love love

[/gushing]

adam k. said...

Really? I didn't really start disagreeing with Roslin until she wanted to abort little Hera. That was when she started to jump the shark for me... but yes, I still love her deeply.

In her SciFi interview series, McDonnell was explaining how she often disagrees with Roslin as well, but can always find understanding when she does her HW.

It's been fascinating to watch her morph from all scared and uncertain in the miniseries, to kindly and effective in seasons 1 & 2, to all badass and Nixonian now. It happens so gradually that you barely notice. And what's also interesting to consider is that she was never in all of this actually ELECTED by the people (in fact, they rejected her the one time they had a choice) and yet here she is, plugging right along, with the fate of humanity in her hands.

But in fairness, it's easy to poo poo all her hard decisions from the safety of our homes and laptops, but if YOU were the president of the colonies, entrusted with safeguarding the last remnants of humanity? Might think differently then...

I think she really legitimately deserved the Emmy for season 2. "Epiphanies" would've netted her a statue in a sane world. I don't watch enough TV to be familiar with the competition, but I feel like she was still probably better than everyone nominated that year. And of course, nominations every season would've been welcome.

And does anyone else think her new hair from last episode looks ominously like Admiral Cain's hair? That struck me immediately, but I think I'm reading into it too much. Hmmm...

(yes, I'm very obsessed, very obsessed...)

(someone please start a conversation with me)

adam k. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adam k. said...

One more thing:

more SPOILERS, btw...

I think she only really started to lose her way after Billy died. He was her little anchor. imo, It can all be traced back to that. Or perhaps to her cheating death? Cheating destiny can fuck with your head.

Although the aborting Hera thing did happen first.

NATHANIEL R said...

nick was telling me about some great sounding movie in which she played a mother superior and in prerelease buzz everyone was saying she was going to win the Oscar and then the movie never came out!

now i am obsessed with seeing it. finding and watching and determining if she was indeed cheated out of an oscar by distribution woes.

the movie was Mariette in Ecstacy

Jen said...

I love Mary McDonnell in everything I've seen her in. Don't forget Sneakers!!!

I agree with adam k. Hadn't thought about it before, but it makes sense that her shift started with Billy's death -- she really doesn't have someone to ground her any more. It's hard to watch her in BSG -- her character arc is pretty painful in terms of watching someone go down the road to hell paved with good intentions. I think her work in this show is spectacular.

NATHANIEL R said...

Oh and also: the EMMYS are a joke.

plain and simple.

that this can't even get arrested is just another painful reminder that they are a sad sad out of it institution. The Oscars take a lot of flak for poor choices but at least they listen to critics to some degree... and they don't always ignore non-baity work. The EMMYs just keep on with their Boston Legals and Two and a Half Mens. ARGH. if you don't fit into the procedural, lawyer, family drama or hospital shows and you aren't on HBO ...fuggedaboutit

i despise the EMMYS.

adam k. said...

Actually, she also advised Adama to kill Cain before the Hera thing AND before Billy's death. So maybe I'm wrong. I think the desperation to make things ok before dying also fueled some of her decisions.

But I do think the Billy thing marked a point of no return for her. Especially when you consider she went from Billy to frackin' TORY.

In terms of integrity, Billy > Tory (by a longshot)

Things were bound to change...

Nick Davis said...

I can't read these comments, and I only skimmed the middle of the post, because I just finished watching Season One and can't be spoiling the fun — but huzzah to McDonnell! As I was telling Nathaniel this weekend, it's a dream of mine to find a copy of the unreleased Mariette in Ecstasy (stranded by studio bankruptcy, but reportedly marvelous, with a great role for McDonnell).

adam k. said...

to JA:

You have the number of survivors down as "5000 or so," but it's actually 50,000. (a typo, I assume)

JA said...

Indeed, a typo; thanks for catching that Adam.

All this Billy talk is making me sad. RIP Billy! You were loved!

Sam J. Miller said...

Why do i believe that Mary McDonnell IS President Roslin? And that she writes all her own lines? BECAUSE I LOVE HER SO MUCH.

"It's naive to think that horrible things that we can't understand have simple explanations, because simple explanations make us feel like we have control, when we don't."

The Jack said...

What annoys me about the BSG situation is that if it was a summer movie, it would probably be a huge hit. It's not that the public don't like the show, it's just that they can't be bothered to seek it out and watch it.

Back to the actual content of the post, I was interested to see that JA didn't like "Dances With Wolves". It made me realise that although this is predominantly an Oscar site (or was... I think. That's how I managed to find it anyway) there is still a lot of Oscar-winning movies that Nat hasn't shared his opinion on.

Maybe that could be an idea for the future - try and review every (major at least) Best Picture winner. I know it would take up a lot of time and you probably have other plans, but it would be cool.

mrripley said...

mcdonnel took shirley m's spot on 90's supp actress for that she can never be forgiven.

NATHANIEL R said...

The Jack that's an idea I've been toying with yes. I want to get back to writing more indepth pieces so i am recruiting some writers so that i can expand the output on TFE. I hope to relaunch in some way that's new towards July or late summer

stay tuned.

Janice said...

But FIRST you'll finish the MR tribute...right?

Pretty please?

NATHANIEL R said...

um.... yes?

bryan said...

Mary McDonnell is so good as a president w/ dictatorial tendencies that I once reconsidered George Bush, and how hard it all might be for him, though of course only for a moment. But still, shows how much MMD rules!