“Mind blowing,” she tells Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast. “I mean, it’s so gratifying, truly mind blowing for me. I just didn’t expect that at all. I don’t really think anyone making it did. We thought it was going to be kind of quiet. It’s about a woman who’s crying a lot, her daughter, and she’s cleaning homes. Who would imagine that to reach so many households?”
But it clearly resonated with viewers. On this episode, we talk to Qualley about making “Maid,” which required her to be in virtually every scene. Plus, we talk about her bond with her young co-star, Rylea Nevaeh Whittet, and also the treat of getting to work with her mother, Andie MacDowell, who also plays her mom on the show. Listen below:
Inspired by Stephanie Land’s memoir “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive,” Netflix’s “Maid” stars Qualley as Alex, a young woman who escapes in the middle of the night, with her young daughter in tow, after her emotionally abusive husband turns violent. To make ends meet, she tries to earn money as a housekeeper, but with a child who needs care, no home of her own and a bureaucractic system stacked against women facing such a predicament, Alex faces setback after setback in trying to find a better life for herself and her daughter.
“Maid” also stars Nick Robinson as Alex’s husband Sean, Billy Burke as her estranged father, Anika Noni Rose as a wealthy woman who Alex befriends while cleaning her home, and MacDowell as Alex’s troubled mother.
Qualley has received nominations from the Golden Globes and Critics Choice awards, and most recently was nominated for the SAG awards in the female actor in a limited series or TV movie category.
“It was so hard,” Qualley said. “But it was great to have the opportunity to do that kind of work. I very much felt that weight, but I felt so supported by the crew. That was the thing that just kept me pushing myself because, it’s the middle of COVID. All these people are risking their lives so that I can tell this story. It’s based off of Stephanie Land’s memoir, and Stephanie land has gone through some of the worst experiences imaginable. And I’m just doing a pretend version. So I want to make it as authentic as I possibly can because I’ve got the love of all of these people around me.”
The crew got so close that they even all got a matching tattoo at the end of production. Also during the chat, Qualley discusses bonding with young Whittet: “We still FaceTime and we send each other little gifts or handmade cards, and we’ve got him hanging up on my refrigerator,” Qualley says. “She’s a real cutie, she’s growing really fast. It was at once the most rewarding scene partner on the planet. And the most challenging, because when she’s sleeping in your arms, you really have a baby sleeping in your arms, and it just does something to you.”
Qualley also discusses the serendipity of ending the show in Montana — where she grew up with MacDowell — and how she wound up working with her mom. (Plus, she reveals her favorite Andie MacDowell movie.)
“It was one of the coolest moments in the world when towards the end of the season, and my mom, as Paula is telling Alex that she’s proud of her,” Qualley says. “She’s kind of crying. And my mom is really just crying, looking at me at the end of this eight, nine months shoot, telling me that she’s proud of me. And we both choked up and gave each other a huge hug after. It was really is such a special experience. Yeah, I’m so lucky.”
Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast is hosted by Clayton Davis, Michael Schneider, Jazz Tangcay and Jenelle Riley and is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in movies. Michael Schneider is the producer and Drew Griffith edits. Each week, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week.