Warning: There are minor spoilers at the end of the interview! Do not read if you wish to remain spoiler free!
Richard Castle may run circles around serial killers and sociopaths, but there’s at least one person he can never outwit — his mom, Martha Rodgers. TV icon Susan Sullivan, who plays Nathan Fillion’s mother and Molly C. Quinn’s grandmother, spoke to us about the ABC hit series. In Part 1 of our exclusive Wetpaint interview, Susan tells us about Molly’s on-set Sweet 16, the joy that is Fillion, and the shocking season finale that’s sure to leave fans gasping for more.
Wetpaint: Do you relate to Martha at all?
Susan Sullivan: [Laughs] Yes, unfortunately. Part of the joy of being an actor is that you usually find — if you’re any good in a part — elements of yourself that really resonate with the character. The character as originally written, I think, was a little bawdier and a little more Elaine Stritch-ish. That was the voice I heard in my head, but what writers do with actors as they get to know them, they find the qualities that work for the character they want to create. So there’s been a nice meld. And a lot of her issues — you know, feeling a little marginalized, wanting to stay in the game, wanting to be active, wanting to have something to do, wanting to have this connection with her son and her granddaughter — all of those elements I can certainly identify with, and I think most women can.
What’s it like to work so closely with Nathan?
Well, I adore Nathan. I absolutely adore him … We are sort of melded together in some ways, and Molly too. We’re really the essence of what it is to be a family. I know everybody always talks a big game about how great everything is and sometimes it’s true and sometimes it’s not, but in this case I can tell you it really is true. It’s a delight. He’s very intuitive and sensitive man. And I’m a very intuitive and sensitive woman. We have a lovely relationship — and Molly’s right in there.
Do you have a favorite Martha moment or Martha quote?
I have a definite favorite Martha quote, because part of Martha is a bit of an homage to my own mother, who has a lot of Martha qualities. And of course I have become my own mother. My mom is 94 and they used one of her lines in the show. She would say all the time, “You is who you is. If you ain’t who you is, who is you?” When Martha was being a life coach in the first season she would have clients come over and she’d be telling them in her own way how to live your life, which of course is what she does with Castle and with her granddaughter. She’s great at telling people how to live. My mother would do that on a park bench — God forbid you sat down next to her!
One of my favorite moments was when I was worried about my son working in a police station and being vulnerable to being shot. He asked me, “What are you worried about?” and I said, “Think about how much you love Alexis and that’s how much I love you. And don’t you dare ask me where this is coming from.” I like that moment because it was grounded in the truth of her deep love for her son.
What tidbits can you give us about the end of the season?
Oh yes, there’s going to be a big surprise at the end of this season. No, seriously, there is. The actors were all surprised when we heard about it. I couldn’t even begin to give you a hint because it would ruin it. Every once in a while they do something that’s — I don’t know how they’re going to do it. But I do know that it’s going to involve love and loss.
What other TV shows do you watch?
I’m not a big TV show watcher. I do like, and I don’t know how we started watching this, American Idol. I think this season is really interesting because it’s fascinating to see and to understand how many talented people there are out there, and what it is that makes the public respond to you … This season J-Lo is particularly good. She’s very good at talking to these young people about how to move forward in their art, because that’s really what she’s interested in. I mentor young actors, so I find it interesting. How do you push someone without diminishing them, frightening them? … And of course that’s part of Martha’s character. She’s always dealing with Richard to keep him grounded and not flying away with his ego.
What has been your favorite experience on the Castle set?
I kind of like the dynamic of this little family, because it’s an extended family of my own. When you don’t work all the time and you come in once a week, it’s this constant catching up and reuniting. It’s like visiting your parents for Easter, or if you’re fortunate enough to live close to them, it’s like once a week coming to the house for dinner.
There isn’t a specific incident other than maybe Molly’s 16th birthday, which was really sort of lovely. It happened on a day when we were shooting. They brought her a big cake with balloons and she blew out the candles. There she was, moving into womanhood right there in the middle of our lives. She started out on the show 15 years old and now she’s 17. She’s going to grow up on this show, which is an interesting opportunity, and they’re more or less having her do that. She’s going to grow up and I’m going to grow old. But I’m going to fight it with tooth and nail.
Want more Castle dish from Susan Sullivan? Come back Monday for Part 2 of her interview!