Emmy Winner Mare Winningham on Her Fellow Brat Packers: ‘I Love Them’

Mare Winningham holds her upcoming project in high regard.

After years of television and movies, the two-time Emmy Award winner, Oscar and Tony nominee, and accomplished singer/songwriter/actor has found her sweet spot in the theater. A Man of No Importance, which opens on October 11 at Classic Stage Company in New York, is a show that Winningham says she will look back on for a long time.

“It’s such a gorgeous piece of writing from the great late Terrence McNally and his partners Lynn Ahrens and Steve Flaherty doing the lyrics and the music,” Winningham told Newsweek.

After playwright McNally’s death in 2020, Winningham said director John Doyle was determined to put on McNally’s show, A Man of No Importance, as Doyle’s final production at the theater company.

“It’s such a loving testament to what it means to be working in the theater,” she said. “It’s the perfect piece he says for him to go out on.”

75th Annual Tony Awards - Arrivals
Above, Mare Winningham attends the 75th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 12, in New York City. Winningham can be seen off-Broadway in the musical “A Man of No Importance.”
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Winningham said that working with Doyle, who has directed Broadway productions of Sweeney Todd, Company, The Visit, A Catered Affair and The Color Purple, was an entirely unique experience. “He’s a director who lets you into the peace and the world by letting you into his world…He’s very inspiring. The way he just says, ‘get up, let’s start’ on the first day. We didn’t have a read-through, we didn’t have a sing-through, we just got up and started.”

“It’s a really special way of working that I’ve never done before, and I will always wish to go back to this in the future because it’s a great way of uncovering something. For everyone to bond but also to find your way through a piece, it’s really fun,” Winningham said.

A Man of No Importance is a musical that features Winningham and The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons as brother and sister. Parsons’ character, Alfie Byrne, leads an amateur theater group in Dublin in the 1960s to stage a production of Oscar Wilde’s Salome, becoming a testament to the power of the theater.

On working with Parsons, Winningham said, “He’s a dream, everyone who’s ever met him says that, and it’s true. And he’s tireless, I’m really admiring him as an actor and an artist. He’s just so open and fearless about the material, and he’s a creature of the stage, I think.”

Winningham, too, is a creature of the stage, though she took a break from theater for a while to raise her family. “I would do two or three TV movies a year and I could spend a lot of time as a mom,” she said. After she became an empty-nester, Winningham moved back to New York to work in the theater again. “It seemed a little bit presumptuous of me that there would be an opportunity just waiting for me,” she laughed, “but it kind of went smoothly.”

And by smoothly, Winningham means two Tony nominations for her roles in both Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina in 2014 and the musical Girl From the North Country earlier this year, as well as several off-Broadway productions.

But more than that, Winningham was also recently nominated for an Emmy for her role in Dopesick, a Hulu series released late last year.

“I was very surprised,” she said of being nominated for best supporting actress in a limited series for the role. “Dopesick was a special project and a meaningful project that was filled with brilliant actors, and so I was not surprised at all by the amount of nominations that it got.… But I did not expect to be in there.”

Winningham said that she took a break from A Man of No Importance rehearsals for the Emmys, and she and her husband, Top Gun‘s Anthony Edwards, had a “wonderful date night” at the award show in early September.

74th Primetime Emmys - Arrivals
Above, Mare Winningham and Anthony Edwards attend the 74th Primetime Emmys at Microsoft Theater on September 12 in Los Angeles. Winningham spoke with Newsweek about her upcoming play, her Emmy nomination and her former Brat Pack co-stars.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

She and Edwards were married last year, having quietly eloped after 30 years of friendship, a testament to the true love and connectivity of Hollywood in the 1980s; but she also holds a special place in her heart for other members of the Brat Pack, including her St. Elmo’s Fire cast members, including Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Andrew McCarthy, Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson.

“It reminds me of sixth grade, where it doesn’t matter how many years go past when you don’t see certain people from certain years in your school life. When you see them again, it’s like: Oh, you’re right back,” she said.

“So I am not really in touch with anyone, but I’m not willing to say that I’m out of touch with them,” said Winningham. “I love them, and it’s one of those experiences that, when we see each other again, it’s always wonderful.”

She also reflected on the differences between being a young actor in the 1980s as compared to the current day, especially with social media’s presence in the acting scene.

“I don’t want to be a fuddy-duddy and say, you know, ‘Elvis is shaking his hips. We don’t like him,’ I really would rather be the one that’s like, ‘It’s rock-and-roll. It’s new, go for it.’ But I do think it is challenging,” she said.

“There are costs as well as expediency. So I’ll leave it to the world to unfold and let’s see what happens with all of it, but I feel for young actors who might be competing against a following… I do like the good old days of: What do you bring into the role, what’s your audition like, or what’s your approach to the role? And not, how many people like you,” said Winningham.

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