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9 Quick Questions for Mary McCormack

Actress gears up for Season 2 of Starz wrestling drama, ‘Heels’

spinner image mary mccormack standing in white shirt and green pants; hands in pockets; pink background
Steve Granitz/FilmMagic

Although her character is the brains and not the brawn in Heels, the Starz drama about the outrageous world of independent professional wrestling, Mary McCormack, 54, would still gladly step into the ring. The Tony-nominated actress reveals if she’s stayed in touch with her former West Wing castmates, if she’d return to Broadway and how she would spend the perfect day off.

Are you a wrestling fan?

Well, I am now. I’m interested in it because it’s a world I know so much more about. It is extraordinary how popular it is. It’s massive; people love it. It’s a little like Friday Night Lights, in that I have friends who watch it and love it and don’t care at all about [football].

If you were a wrestler, would you be a heel [a villain] or a face [hero]?

I would rather be a heel. It’s definitely more fun. I don’t know that they’re going to let a woman my age in the ring. I dare the writers to do it. I’m ready. I would like to and I think I can. I’m athletic, and I work out, and I’m limber, and I have some tricks up my sleeve. I would like to do that. I don’t know that they’ll let that happen.

spinner image words family will face off, heels, a starz original; cast of heels underneath words
McCormack stars in the wrestling drama “Heels,” which returns for Season 2 on July 28.
Courtesy Starz Entertainment

When did you know you wanted to be an actress?

I always wanted to do it. I grew up in New Jersey — my dad loved Broadway — and for my birthday, he would take me to a show. It was enough just to see it, to go, Well, those are adults, and that must be a job. That seems doable. You’re just close enough to have it be part of your fantasy life. I started doing local theater — plays at church, plays in the park and things like that. That was enough. I thought, This is fun — hanging out with adults at night and applause and storytelling. It was an activity that suited me. I could kind of sing, so musicals became doable. That was fun.

You’ve done two Broadway productions — Boeing-Boeing, which earned you a Tony nomination — and Cabaret. Would you like to act on Broadway again?

I wish I could do more. Unfortunately, you have to do a six-month commitment. The last time I did it, my kids [now ages 18, 16 and 11] were still small enough to travel. Once they started schools that mattered, I couldn’t really pick up and leave L.A. I didn’t want their friendships and their teams and their grades and all of it to sort of go off the rails. So we just stayed put.

What’s your go-to TV show of the moment?

We’re [watching Bravo’s] Below Deck. I know I should be watching The Bear and Heels Season 1 to prep for Heels Season 2, but my middle daughter and I right now are deep — neck-deep — in Below Deck.

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When our conversation began, it sounded like you were multitasking?

I was doing dishes and trying to get to a quiet place in my house so I could actually talk to you. Remember before cellphones? Now, we have to be functioning at all times. At red lights, I’m rescheduling a piano lesson —  even [at] red lights, there’s no time to just be. My oldest daughter, she was traveling, and her phone broke in the last few days while she was away. And she came home and she was like, “I just read three novels in three days. It’s so wonderful.” It’s the joy of a broken phone.

If you could take a day off from work, dishes and multitasking, what would you be doing?

I love a garage sale. I like a treasure hunt. I’m not looking for one thing.  A good day off would be having my whole family in one house, which for us is not always the case. All of us together, and then maybe we [all do] garage sale-ing. And then stay in and cook and watch Below Deck.

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Have you made any changes in your 50s?

Definitely my workouts changed. I’m not running on the street anymore. … It’s definitely more about strength and lengthening and flexibility. In terms of aging, I always think of Nora Ephron. She said it beats the alternative. I do think about that quite a bit. Because if I ever look at my hands — and the skin is sort of like my mother’s now — and I look at my neck, and you think, like, Oh. But it does beat the alternative. There’s no two ways about it. I’m a little more careful with my time. Time becomes more precious, and you become more aware of it as a limited resource. So I’m a little bit more selective with what I do and how I spend my time and who I spend it with. That’s probably a fair assessment of my awareness of my own mortality now. My dad passed away last year, and my first daughter is leaving the house, going off to college. I think the combination of the two has made me just aware that this is not forever, and it’s precious.

spinner image dule hill as charlie young, martin sheen as president josiah "jed" bartlet, mary mccormack as kate harper, john spencer as leo mcgarry walking in hallway a in still from the west wing
McCormack played Deputy National Security Adviser Kate Harper on “The West Wing.”
NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Do you keep in touch with your West Wing colleagues?

I do. I’m writing a book on The West Wing right now. Melissa Fitzgerald — [who played] Carol Fitzpatrick, C.J. Cregg’s (Allison Janney’s) assistant — and I, we're writing a book about the history of The West Wing, the making of The West Wing, and also its legacy of service. [Fitzpatrick] transitioned her life after The West Wing into a career of service. She and I are great friends. It’s been a real joy. We’re all really close. Allison Janney and Brad Whitford are two of my best friends, and Richard [Schiff]. We all get together, a lot of times for service, actually. Sometimes socially, too. But often, because one of us — Dule [Hill] or Allison or one of us — will say, “Hey, I’ve got this thing. I need everyone to show up, or everyone to make some noise.” And we all come. We all sort of hear the Bat-Signal and come running for each other, which has been really nice. We’re all in a text chain together, and so [for] any big events in our lives, we’re all together. Often on a show, you get one friend or two friends, but we are really like a family. It’s just been a complete blessing.

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