Skip to content

Entertainment & People


10 Quick Questions for Martha Plimpton

Versatile actress talks life, career and the movies that shaped her

Martha Plimpton headshot

Zoe McConnell/AUGUST

Martha Plimpton caught the acting bug early. Her parents, actors Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton, met while performing in the original Broadway run of Hair and, growing up, she often accompanied her mom to rehearsals. Soon, she was insisting on tackling her own auditions, and at 15, she landed the role of Stef in the iconic 1985 film, The Goonies.

Now 51, Plimpton is starring in the Amazon Freevee series Sprung. She plays the matriarch in the unconventional family comedy about a group of former inmates who team up to use their criminal expertise for good. Sprung reunites Plimpton with her Raising Hope costar Garret Dillahunt and the show’s executive producer Greg Garcia.


As the child of actors [Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton], and granddaughter of one [John Carradine], was it inevitable that you, too, would act?

There were certainly other options, but I don't know if I gave my mother any. My mother was working in the theater in New York, and rather than stick me with babysitters, which we couldn’t afford to do all day, I was with her backstage. I don’t know if I was kind of a show-off or I just like to perform; that’s how it came to be. 


You had a pandemic reunion with your ‘Goonies’ colleagues. Do tell.

It was really fun, really lovely. We were all on Zoom reading the script again and that was kind of a riot. It was lovely to see Dick Donner before he passed [The Goonies director died in July 2021]. That’s what made it really special for all of us, was having him there and getting to entertain him again and drive him crazy again one last time.


Martha Plimpton and River Phoenix in the movie Running on Empty

Everett Collection

Martha Plimpton and River Phoenix stared in the movie "Running on Empty" in 1989.


Is there a master plan for choosing roles?

No. It’s hard to plan things out when you’re a jobbing actor. I’m a character actor, so I go toward what interests me, what I think is going to be fun, what is going to be something different for me, something I haven't done before. And obviously, in the case of Sprung, toward people who I love and know are going to be a blast to work with, who bring me joy and make me happy and make me laugh all day.


What’s your go-to movie when you need some inspiration?

One of my favorite movies is Gloria, the original 1980 version by John Cassavetes. I can watch that movie — and I think I do watch that movie — about four or five times a year. Gloria energizes me. To me, it’s the first action movie I ever saw with a woman at the center. I love Gena Rowlands’ performance in that film so much. It’s iconic. It’s got that kind of action aspect to it, but it’s also so real and so gritty. And also her fashion, her outfits, her Ungaro skirt suits are so spectacular — and her hair.


Is there a movie you made that you wish more people had seen?

There were a couple of them. I made a movie with Tim Blake Nelson that he wrote based on his play called Eye of God in the late ’90s that I’m very proud of. Another one is a film I did a couple of years ago that came out last year called Mass, which I hold very close to my heart. I hope that it will have a long life and many many people will see it.


Watching ‘Sprung’ made me think it might be fun to have a criminal mind. Truth?

The fun thing about this show is it sort of turns on its head who’s a criminal mind and who isn’t. I think of Barb, the woman I play on Sprung, as an opportunist. Jack, played by Garret Dillahunt beautifully, turns out to be more of a criminal mind at least from experience — from his time in prison — than Barb is. Barb would just go in there and get busted in an instant, but Jack’s got the know-how. Barb’s just in it for fun and to get hers. If you’re going to get packages delivered and they’re just going to be sitting there on your porch, well …


‘Sprung’ was filmed in Pittsburgh. Impressions of the city?

It’s a really, really great town. It is an incredibly photogenic city — it’s practically another character in the show. There’s also endless variety that makes it just a fascinating location to film in. It’s also so rich in history and culture and the food is so fantastic.


Martha Plimpton and Keanu Reeves in the movie Parenthood

Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

Martha Plimpton and Keanu Reeves stared in the movie "Parenthood" in 1989.


Do you mind all the travel that acting demands?

That’s pretty much all I’ve done all my life. I don’t even know where I live anymore. I live in London. I live in Brooklyn. I live in L.A.


Do you bring anything to make each new place feel like home?

My dogs, both COVID orphans I adopted during the pandemic when I was in isolation in Brooklyn and thought I was going to lose my mind. Jimmy Jazz is a little poodle-terrier mix of some kind and Walter is a Chihuahua mix.


You turned 50 during the pandemic. How did it feel?

Fantastic. I loved it. It was like a switch was flipped. I’m extremely happy being 50 and above. Even though I may not enjoy the odd waking up in the morning with a sore finger — like, why is my finger sore? — those mysterious things. The rest of it is fantastic. Doing whatever I want to do when I want to do it. I love my life.


Renew your membership today and save 25% on your next year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal. Get instant access to discounts, programs, services, and the information you need to benefit every area of your life.