Martha Plimpton: Bad Mama
By Michael Martin
Photography by Christopher Dibble
“ I thanked my lucky stars and bought a new mattress,” says Martha Plimpton. The occasion for this unbridled display of hedonism? The renewal of FOX’s Raising Hope, the sitcom sleeper story of the past year, which has begun to surpass its more hyped lead-in, New Girl, in laughs per minute. Largely responsible for that is Plimpton, who plays the dimwitted former teen mom of a current teen father. Her partner in Simpletown is Garret Dillahunt, perhaps the GILF-iest GILF in TV history.
“Yes, he’s hot! It’s no surprise people fall in love with him,” says Plimpton. “Not only that, he’s one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with. It takes a really smart guy to play so dumb.”
Raising Hope’s endearing crazy-family antics shun controversy; not so Plimpton, who has prominently spoken out against antigay remarks made by Kirk Cameron, ’80s sitcom star and Christian fundamentalist. “First of all, this is a person who has primarily made his living in an industry that is full of gay people,” she says. “If you’re going to go out there and decide to denigrate these people who were your colleagues for much of your life, you can expect to hear back. And it’s important for us to respond to hateful speech. It’s important for us not to pretend that that’s normal. Everyone has the right to spew garbage; that doesn’t mean it’s not garbage.”
Plimpton also has a recurring role on The Good Wife as a lawyer on the other end of the sharpness spectrum from her Raising Hope character; she’s a current Emmy nominee for the role. Social mediaites would do well to follow Plimpton’s highly entertaining Twitter stream, in which she opines on matters both frivolous (on the reality show Stars Earn Stripes: “Well, that’s the end of the world. Again.”) and political. In one recent week, she tweeted links to a Gore Vidal piece on gays and religion and an op-ed on gays and feminism.
Are gay issues particularly on her mind? “Human rights issues are particularly on my mind,” says Plimpton, who has written professionally for Slate and for the women’s rights organization she co-founded, A is For.
“I think there are some interesting parallels going on in the country right now,” she says, “in terms of the backlash and hysterical fear about the advances of the gay rights movement and the extreme efforts to curtail women’s rights. When one group gets their civil rights taken away, it’s not that far down the line for the next group, and the next group. If there is a limitation for an employer to claim their right to contraception -- to deny a woman some aspect of her health care because of their religious beliefs -- I’m not sure how far a leap it is to deny someone with HIV/AIDS medication.”
“It affects me personally when my friends can’t marry,” she says. “I think we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t see ourselves as personally affected when another’s rights are taken away.”