Like much of the cast of “RED 2,” Mary-Louise Parker isn’t the first person you’d cast in an action film. She’s a Tony-winning Broadway star, an Emmy-winning (for “Angels in America”) and Golden Globe-winning (for “Weeds”) TV star and generally not the person you’d hand a big gun. For the sequel to “RED,” Parker reprises her role of Sarah, an innocent who dates her way into a world of globe-trotting, explosion-heavy intrigue.
This is your first movie sequel.
This is the first movie I’ve ever done that had a sequel. Most of my movies don’t even go to the theater. They usually make it to DVD. Usually I do the kinds of movies where you change clothes in the ATM, because they can’t afford trailers. I like those kinds of movies, because you tend to work more, and everyone collaborates. And there can be quite a lot of sitting around on big budget movies and waiting. That’s not my favorite part. But I’m not complaining.
Your character was the moral compass in the first film. But here she’s a bit darker.
She goes a little darker, yeah. I mean, not dark enough for me. [Laughs] She’s supposed to reside in a area between dark and light. She’s Midwestern, ingenuous, just a good stock kind of girl. She’s not like a drug addict, hanging out in back alleys.
Is trying to deliver a strong performance on a big budget production in some ways more difficult than a difficult play?
In some ways it’s harder, because everyone’s focused on the lighting, and there are the crew and producers. When the actual acting comes it feels almost superfluous. And those moments on set are the shortest part of the day, between “action” and “cut.” It’s hard sometimes to summon what you need in those moments when people aren’t fully focused on it. There are film actors who are just brilliant at shutting everything out. That’s why some actors stay in character the whole time.
It’s a different kind of acting.
It’s just your audience is in a different place. Your audience is the lens, really. I prefer theater, because it’s easier to lose yourself and forget about yourself, and put your own persona personality problems aside and just go into someone else’s reality. That magic can happen there. You can’t really do that on film. I’m sure the super-gifted film actors can do it. But I can’t really do it. I’ve felt it a couple times, but not in the way I’ve felt with stage.
Do you watch your own films?
Not often. I haven’t seen one in years. I watched my TV show [“Weeds”] because I gave notes on it, and they would let me contribute a little bit. But I would watch cuts, so I didn’t see the end show.
What’s your reason?
It’s a bunch of reasons. It’s mostly that I don’t want to be disappointed. I probably wouldn’t do it anymore if I watched it. I get disappointed in me, disappointed in how they cut it together. Nothing is ever good enough for me. Which is what makes me work hard as an actor, but makes me tiresome to be around. I wouldn’t want to see the final product and bitch about it for a year. So you know, I just let it go and try to do my best next time. I’m sure at some point I’ll get curious about certain things and want to see them. It will give me something to do when I’m older. I’m probably not going to do film for that much longer.
If there had been internet when I started acting, I would have probably become a kindergarten teacher. It’s such a mean-spirited culture. It just brings out the ugliness, the insidiousness in people. It’s an arsenal for the bored and bitter.