In a mother and daughter reunion fraught with angst and guilt, Ricki finds her arrival to help her daughter deal with her new situation, decidedly unwelcome.
Wearing leather and lots of black eyeliner, Streep belts out approximately 20 cover songs for which she learned to play guitar. It’s a hot summer’s afternoon in New York City and the mother-daughter duo has joined forces to promote the movie.
You chose to forfeit many roles in your career for the sake of your family. What do you think about Ricki who left her kids to pursue a dream?
MS: I don’t know if you could really frame it as if it were a template for all women. This is a story of Ricki and her choices and who she was. So for me, I felt like Ricki made the decision that she had to make because she was who she was.
Would you have done this movie if your daughter wasn’t in it?
MS: Well, I have done a lot of movies without my daughter, (laughs) where Renee Zellwegger or Claire Danes was my daughter and Claire Danes is a good friend of my daughter. Actually, Claire Danes was my daughter in the movie in The Hours and Mark Platt, the producer on this movie was the one who said, ‘I don’t want to suggest this if this throws a monkey wrench into anything, but I just can’t stop thinking about Mamie in this part.’ The minute he said that I thought, ‘That’s what I had been thinking, and I think she’s like perfect for this. It’s a fabulous part and I know she can knock it out of the park.’ So I was glad he came to it because I would never have suggested it, never, never, never, if he hadn’t said to me, ‘This is what I want to do.’
Mamie, your character is on a rough journey to recovery and acceptance. What gets you back on track when you’re feeling down? Your character takes to her bed for lengthy period of time, is that something you do?
MG: Well, if I stay at home in bed for a day because I am blue, I feel that’s enough to make me go stir crazy and so very quickly I need to get out of the house. Luckily for me, I have a great family and I have wonderful friends so I don’t think they would let me stay on the couch for too long. I have been able to pick myself up and then get on with it.
I know that your mother is not only ‘the world’s greatest actress’ but she’s also a great mum. It must have been difficult for you to be her adversary in this film which called for you to say some pretty cruel things to her?
MG: Yeah it was really disorienting and challenging. The hardest thing was to not allow it to feel punishing. But we got over that pretty quick when I realised that she is a professional and she does this for a living. She knows how to discern what is real and what is not. And the second that cut was called, you could tell that she wasn’t holding onto anything I had said and we just broke out of it. That was a great relief to know that I wasn’t wounding her in any way.
As an actress, what are the advantages and disadvantages of being the daughter of Meryl Streep?
Well the advantages are that I have a wonderful mother and a great source of wisdom and advice and also a great model in terms of balancing life and career. I guess she has taught me the most about balance and keeping what really matters sacred and important. And the disadvantages? I guess they are quite obvious, aren’t they? It’s the pressure of this idea of like following in her footsteps which is not possible. That’s not really a goal of mine to have the kind of career that she has and I don’t think that that’s possible and I just want to keep working.
There’s a scene in the movie where you and your mum are at a nail salon getting a mani-pedi. It made me wonder whether there was anything like that in real life that you and she might have done together? Perhaps as a routine thing?
MG: Yeah, I guess at various points in my life. But then again, nothing in my family has been very routine because we have been all over and in this business it’s not a solid 9 to 5 kind of a thing. I would say that as much as she could she always made sure she would be home to put us to bed. I think singing in the car, there was always a lot of singing in the car I do with my mom.
Anything in particular?
MG: A lot of Joni Mitchell.
MS: And Rick Springfield (laughs) Jessie’s Girl – but I’m not as good as him.
How was it working with him? He’s a national treasure in Australia.
MS: Oh he’s an amazing and I think a great gift to the film because this was a very tough casting slot to fill. This person is talked about all through the film being an awesome shredder, and you can’t fake that. He had to also be a wonderful actor and to deliver a sort of a very passionate, wounded tender performance. We had people who could do that but couldn’t kill on the guitar and we had people who could kill on the guitar but couldn’t quite manage the other requirement. And then Rick walked into the audition and it was just no question. (laughs)
Mamie, you and your sister Gracie are both acting, Louise is in marketing and your brother is a musician – nobody followed in your father’s footsteps as a sculptor?
MG: I think the difference is that, that profession is a very solitary one. I think that if anything, my brother’s was the closest to that in that he spends a lot of time alone writing his music and recording. He’s got this little shed in the back of his house that he just goes every day which is sort of similar to what my dad does in the studio. But I have kind of always been more social person; I like people. So that suits me. But in terms of his influence I think he has a big heart and he’s actually the worst actor that I know. He’s incapable of lying and I guess that has maybe kept us all very honest.
Is music important to you?
MG: Music is huge to me and especially songwriting. I think if I wasn’t an actress I would be a poet. I really prize great lyricism and I think it’s changed over the years. I was a big Lilith Fair and Sarah McLachlan fan and Ani Difranco was also really formative and huge. When I was melancholy I would put on a sad song and kind of indulge in that but now I have grown so much older and wiser that I have figured out that if you are feeling crappy you should probably put on some hip hop. (laughs)
Meryl, can you compare singing in this movie to Mamma Mia?
Well Mamma Mia was a sound that was established so clearly, the ABBA songs by the women of ABBA, and especially that great iconic song at the end. So I felt a responsibility to the sound that Benny and Bjorn had honed over the years and so that was sort of singing to a song already in my head. Whereas in Ricki, that had to be her voice, specifically to her singing everybody’s music, a lot of different kinds of rock and roll but filtering it through her own sound. So that was fun and they also very different eras mostly. And which one was harder to nail? They were both equally challenging I would say. I loved both experiences.