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Margaret Qualley

Margaret Qualley Talks TV Show Maid With Margot Robbie

From her captivating breakthrough in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood to Netflix’s next big thing in Maid, MARGARET QUALLEY is one to watch right now. And watching especially closely is her former co-star and now executive-producer MARGOT ROBBIE. Here, the Hollywood powerhouses talk about relinquishing control, following their instincts and why their latest series is a family affair

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This image: dress, Jil Sander; earrings, Isabel Marant. Opening image: tracksuit top, Totême; top, Balenciaga; earrings, Jennifer Fisher

Within moments of dialing into Zoom, Margot Robbie and Margaret Qualley are swapping enthusiastic travel tips; Qualley is currently on set in Panama City, where Robbie shot The Suicide Squad. They are 10 minutes deep into a discussion about the capital’s best coffee shops and rum bars before Robbie – in the role of “professional interviewer” – deftly steers the conversation back on track.

The official topic of today’s call is their new Netflix drama, Maid. If Qualley is not quite a household name yet (despite her utterly enthralling breakout role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, alongside Robbie, and an Emmy nomination for her part in the FX miniseries Fosse/Verdon), then her dazzling turn as Maid’s protagonist is sure to change that. She plays Alex, a young mother navigating an abusive relationship and the nightmarish US welfare system, as she struggles to make ends meet cleaning houses. If it sounds heavy, it is – but it also has moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity.

Adapted from a bestselling memoir by Stephanie Land, the making of Maid has been a family affair. One of the show’s most compelling storylines is the tumultuous relationship between Alex and her artist mom Paula, who is played by Qualley’s real-life mother, Andie MacDowell. What’s more, it’s produced by LuckyChap Entertainment – the company co-founded by Robbie and her husband Tom Ackerley that’s also behind Oscar-winning movies such as Promising Young Woman and I, Tonya.

From the intuitions that have shaped their careers, to taking their talents behind the camera (Qualley recently acquired her first production credit on the forthcoming biopic Fred & Ginger, in which she also stars alongside Jamie Bell), the two Hollywood powerhouses have much to discuss – not least their mutual adoration of Qualley’s mom…

Jumpsuit, and boots, both Bottega Veneta; earrings, Isabel Marant

“I’ve made MISTAKES; there have been misses – but, at the same time, the MISSES don’t really feel like misses because I ended up LEARNING so much”

Margot Robbie: “Hi, honey! I’m so happy to be speaking with you today because I get to ask all these questions that I’ve never had a chance to ask you.”

Margaret Qualley: “I was talking to my dad this morning and he asked me how my day was. I was like, ‘I have an interview with Margot Robbie’, and he was like, ‘Margot Robbie? Like Once Upon a Time… Margot Robbie? She’s interviewing you?’, and I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s weird, I know. Should be the other way around.’ [Laughs] I’m stoked.”

MR: “I know I’ve said this to you before, but I remember when I saw Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood in its entirety for the first time at Cannes. For me, you stole the whole show. Obviously, we didn’t share any scenes and I just kept thinking, ‘I have to work with this actor in some way.’ Your mom was in Cannes, too – I saw her at the airport and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s Andie MacDowell’, and then I was like, ‘Holy shit, that’s Margaret’s mom!’ – I wasn’t going to say anything, but then I thought any mom would want to hear how I’m feeling right now. So I went up and told her.”

MQ: “I know because my mom called me after and was like, ‘Margot Robbie is the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen!’”

MR:Novitiate was really the performance that solidified you as one of my favorite actresses. You were playing a nun and I thought you were so incredible. Then the next time I saw you was in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, where you [were] playing this promiscuous hippie. Now you’re in Maid, playing a single mom who is homeless and cleaning houses to survive. Is versatility something that you’re consciously striving for in your career?”

MQ: “It’s just about that feeling in your gut, you know? We share a manager, Chris, and he knows how much I idolize you! When I’m debating a role, he talks about how you’re often like, ‘Oh, this is just not me.’ I think that’s really beautiful – that sense of intuition and knowing deep in your bones whether or not something’s right. I’ve made mistakes; there have been misses – but, at the same time, the misses don’t really feel like misses because I ended up learning so much.”

“The cool, MYSTERIOUS girl in the corner is always ROMANTICIZED in film. I very much wanted to be that GIRL, but it’s just not who I am”

Trench coat, MM6 Maison Margiela; bra, Calvin Klein Underwear; shorts, Jil Sander; leggings, AZ Factory; earrings, Sophie Buhai
Blazer, Deveaux; top, Helmut Lang; pants, Jil Sander; sandals, The Row; earrings, Sophie Buhai

MR: “I think the most underrated and overlooked sixth sense that human beings have is our instincts. It’s taken me so long to trust my instincts, and not just in the acting world – in life, generally.”

MQ: “Right – I feel like the dial of those voices was louder when I was a kid. Now I’m an adult, I’m constantly working on trying to maximize the volume.”

MR: “Has there ever been a word people associated with you, and you were like, ‘That’s so not me’?”

MQ: “I think it’s more that I gave myself adjectives that didn’t necessarily align with my person. I tried on the idea of being shy when I moved to New York at 16, but it’s not really true to my nature. I didn’t want to be an actor growing up – I was a dancer – but I’d go to the movies and sprint down to the front at the end and start dancing while the credits rolled. For those five seconds, the audience would be forced to watch me dance. I was just a total attention [seeker]! I guess I felt ashamed about that. The cool, mysterious girl in the corner is always romanticized in film. I very much wanted to be that girl, but it’s just not who I am. Like, I’m not cool! I’m very goofy. So, it’s more about trying to get back to the unfiltered version of myself.”

MR: “I totally get that. What was it about Maid that made your instincts think, ‘This is what I want to do right now’?”

“I’ve ALWAYS wanted to work with my MOM, I just didn’t think it would be this early on in my CAREER”

Tracksuit top, Totême; top, Balenciaga; shorts, Jacquemus; sandals, Gucci; earrings, Jennifer Fisher

MQ: “You’re not going to believe me, but the first positive sign was just seeing LuckyChap on the email. Anything that you put your name on, I’m going to take seriously. Then I read the script and I’d never read a character like [Alex] in my age range. It seemed like a real challenge to try to be somewhat believable as a mother. I also read the book and was just really moved by [Stephanie Land’s] account.”

MR: “The book is incredible and it’s part of the reason we wanted to make this project. It’s important to recognize all the shortfalls in the [welfare] system and how it’s really set up to not help people get out of it, but it still felt hopeful. [Showrunner] Molly Smith Metzler brought that element of comedy and lightness from the beginning.”

MQ: “Those moments are often the funniest. When you’re falling on your face, you have to laugh to get through it.”

MR: “The show completely hinges on the relationship between mother and daughter. I love the role of your mother in [this] show; it’s such a messy, complicated, hilarious, meaty role. I’ll never forget you calling and [saying], ‘I’ve never acted with my mom before, and I feel like this is the time to do it.’”

“I feel like the PANDEMIC really brought to the forefront how important FAMILY is for a lot of PEOPLE – and I’m one of those people”

Jacket, Totême; sweater, Coperni; shorts, Isabel Marant
Swimsuit, and boots, both Bottega Veneta; pants, Proenza Schouler; earrings, Isabel Marant

MQ: “I’ve always wanted to work with my mom, I just didn’t think it would be this early on in my career. At the same time, I feel like the pandemic really brought to the forefront how important family is for a lot of people – and I’m one of those people. [But] that element is also just a side note, because my mom’s so incredibly talented and to have the opportunity to work with her is an honor.”

“I moved to NEW YORK when I was 16 and I’ve only ever had, like, a mattress on the FLOOR and one lamp from Ikea. I felt like after 10 years of doing that, maybe it wasn’t so CUTE anymore”

Jacket, Khaite; bra, The Row; pants, Tom Ford; earrings, Rosantica
Dress, Jil Sander; sandals, See by Chloé; earrings, Isabel Marant

MR: “It was a lovely moment. So, can we please talk about Rylea [Nevaeh Whittet, who plays Alex’s daughter, Maddy, in Maid] for a second? Because she’s so freaking incredible and the relationship on screen is the heartbeat of the entire series.”

MQ: “We hung out all the time. On set, there’s a lot of people around; everything’s really new, everyone’s wearing masks. It’s a weird environment for a four-year-old. Rather than pass her back and forth to her mom, I was just her person on set – I’d carry her around all day and have crayons in my backpack, and vegan snacks because she’s vegan. We’d hang out every Sunday and I’d make her breakfast before certain scenes. My vegan pancakes were awful, but she ate them anyway because she’s very sweet!”

Jacket, 3.1 Phillip Lim; bra, Baserange; earrings, Sophie Buhai

MR: “My favorite part about watching back the [footage] was seeing the moments before action and after the cut. You’d be doing something incredibly sweet and strategic to make sure that she could be buckled into the car for the 20th time. I was in awe of you! But you’re currently in Panama shooting Stars at Noon – tell me what else is going on in your life right now.”

MQ: “Well, I moved to New York when I was 16 and I’ve only ever had, like, a mattress on the floor and one lamp from Ikea. I felt like after 10 years of doing that, maybe it wasn’t so cute anymore, so I finally made myself buckle down and get domestic for the first time. That’s been my little accomplishment of late!”

MR: “I really like this question: what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started out?”

“I know less every day. I have more QUESTIONS and less ANSWERS the more that TIME goes on”

Jacket, 3.1 Phillip Lim; bra, Baserange; pants, Khaite

MQ: “I really feel like I know less every day. I have more questions and less answers the more that time goes on. With acting, my whole thing has just been reckoning with the fact that I have no real control. It’s a small example of the way that everything in life works. Coming from a ballet background, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things; a certain amount of work will get you [to] a certain place. But with acting, it’s so not that way. Like, the harder you try, it might be the worse that you are. And the harder that you try to force something to happen that shouldn’t happen, the more impossible it all is. Reckoning with the fact I have no control is my big thing in life, in general. I’m an insomniac and forcing myself to be asleep is no way to fall asleep, you know… but I don’t have any answers. Margot, maybe you should just be giving me the answers!”

MR:[Laughs] I don’t know, either. I’m figuring it out as I go.”

Maid is available to watch on Netflix from 1 October