Mary-Louise Parker is the most irresponsible mother since Ma Barker -- on TV. Her pot-dealing heroine, Nancy Botwin, runs riot on Showtime's hit series Weeds, which kicks off its fifth season June 8. When her husband dies and her comfortable suburban L.A. lifestyle is put at risk, Botwin responds by launching a marijuana-selling enterprise that eventually employs both her teenage sons -- at the same time sleeping with everyone from a DEA agent to a drug lord who may or may not try to have her killed.
But at home in New York City, Parker is just another busy working mom, toting her two kids to classes and play dates. Of course, when she rushes off to work, it's to the Weeds set or, earlier this spring when she spoke to WebMD, to a Broadway stage, where she was playing the lead role in the complex Ibsen classic, Hedda Gabler.
Equally nuanced is her portrayal of Weeds' fascinating Botwin, that dysfunctional, narcissistic mess of a mom. Parker says she's always a bit surprised when people gush over how much they love Nancy. "I guess it's because she’s charming. She’s so ingratiating, and she really uses that as a tool. She has a certain helpless, harmless look, and she’s not so crazy gorgeous that you feel removed from her -- because, you know, it's me,” she says.
Actually, that’s probably why a lot of us love Nancy Botwin -- because it's Mary-Louise Parker, an actor whose doe-eyed, quirky beauty, fierce intellect, and extraordinary ability to inhabit a character have earned her two Golden Globe awards, an Emmy, and a Tony.
Unlike Julia Roberts or Drew Barrymore, she has never opened big-name blockbuster movies. But Parker has more than two decades of extraordinary film, stage, and TV roles to her credit, from the abused Ruth in Fried Green Tomatoes, to the dauntless lobbyist Amy Gardner on The West Wing, to the troubled Catherine, the brilliant daughter of an equally brilliant -- and mentally ill -- mathematician in Broadway’s Proof.
And at 44, Parker is more sexy and appealing than actresses half her age (try asking your man what he thinks about her), and she’s got a lot more to say. Take for instance her comments about the business her character, Nancy, happens to be in. Parker has long been public about her stance in favor of legalizing marijuana. She doesn't smoke the stuff - "I'm not crazy about being around people who are high," she says. But she thinks it would be better for the economy and society if pot were legal (a view that’s been catching on in some political circles).
"Historically, being caught is not a deterrent. If you can control it, maybe marijuana is not as dangerous and not part of another world of harder narcotics," she says. "To have people in the park outside my house trying to sell me stuff when I'm pushing a stroller -- that’s not awesome. [But] anything that’s going to lessen crime in any small way is a good idea, and what they’re doing now just doesn’t work."
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