It’s a simple equation: FX + Margo Martindale = Emmys. The veteran character actress won her first Emmy at the tender age of 60 for a scene-stealing supporting turn on the second season of “Justified.” Four years later she followed up with a guest star win for “The Americans” after two prior nominations. She returned to “Americans” this year and recurred for over half of the final season of CBS’ “The Good Wife.” Next up she’s filming the first season of Amazon’s “Sneaky Pete,” reuniting her with “Justified” showrunner [and “Americans” exec producer] Graham Yost.
Had you ever been to the Emmys before you won?
Never. I was a complete virgin at 60. It made it beyond exciting, just coming off that fabulous part, it was such an incredible ride. Everything was kind of just perfect — I don’t know it’ll ever be like that again — because it was my 60th year, and I had been working in this business for 100,000 years. It was like I flew on an airplane for a year.
Two years before Jennifer Lawrence tripped on the way to collect her Oscar, you tripped on the way to the Emmy.
I got there first and a lot bigger. [Laughs] Those steps aren’t easy, I’m surprised more people don’t fall. I’d like people to just start falling so they’ll put a damn rail up there. But I wasn’t flustered, I didn’t care. I would’ve crawled if I had to. I would’ve, no kidding. I would’ve gone on all fours up those stairs. I kind of wish that had happened.
What was going through your mind on stage?
You start shaking because your adrenaline is shot into the heavens. I tried to take it in and think of all the years that I’d been going at this. Whatever came out of my mouth was organic.
You did thank John Landgraf. You’ve had a charmed run with FX, winning two Emmys.
And my first series as a regular was [FX drama] “The Riches.” John Landgraf I’m crazy about him. He’s an interesting and deeply thoughtful man. I think he has a great eye for programming. It’s not all on the nose, that’s certainly where I belong.
How much did “Justified” change your career?
At many times in my career I thought I was at a turning point. But that was a major turn. It was the first time I got to build something on television that had such a great arc. There are many, many actors who have the ability and the talent given the opportunity. I was given this opportunity with this incredible part that fit me perfectly. I could use all of my insanity and originality in it. I didn’t have to march to anybody else’s drum because it was so off the center.
It looked like you had a lot of fun on “The Good Wife.”
I had a blast. That was like a luxury job. That pot has been cookin’ for a long time and it was easy to step into. It does the best area of comedy I do, comedy and drama together.
Despite your wins, both “The Americans” and “Justified” have had little Emmy attention. How does that happen?
I just find that insane. I don’t understand that for either of those shows. Timothy [Olyphant] and Walton [Goggins] at least were recognized in nominations. Keri [Russell] and Matthew [Rhys], who are brilliant, and all the people on “The Americans” never have. And that show. I think it’s sensational. I don’t get it. I know it seems that it’s very hard, in my experience, to get recognition if you’ve not been recognized before. I was fortunate I think because that part on “Justified” was so unique — a female villain, older, smart, and weird — everything came together. It’s a hard thing to break through. I see these incredible performances and I go, “What is wrong?”