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Why Mother Superior From Mrs. Davis Looks So Familiar

Over the last 20 years, Damon Lindelof has emerged as one of television's most interesting and provocative showrunners, beginning with "Lost," then "The Leftovers," and most recently, HBO's "Watchmen" series. Now, along with co-showrunner Tara Hernandez, Lindelof has created his wildest ride yet: Peacock's "Mrs. Davis."

"Mrs. Davis" follows a nun named Simone (Betty Gilpin) who's on an unlikely quest to track down the Holy Grail. Unlikelier still is that she's completing the quest at the behest of her nemesis Mrs. Davis, an all-powerful algorithm that taps into our tech anxieties. The part sci-fi, part satirical series' trailer also promises to include magicians, ex-cowboys, and the ever-expanding scope of artificial intelligence.

It's the sort of swing-for-the-fences premise that a less seasoned showrunner might not touch with a ten-foot pole. But in Lindelof's hands, "Mrs. Davis" is a highly anticipated outing for Peacock. Furthermore, it's attracted a bevy of stars, including Gilpin, Jake McDornan, and veteran actress Margo Martindale, who plays Mother Superior at Simone's convent. Here's where you may have seen Martindale before.

Margo Martindale got her start as a prolific character actress

Not many performers can ride their character actor glory to household name status. Margo Martindale got her flowers when she appeared as "Character Actor Margo Martindale" in "BoJack Horseman." She even delivered one of the animated series' greatest lines: "When you go to heaven, look up Margo Martindale. I won't be there, but my movies will."

Martindale's long road to character actor-turned-full-fledged star began when the Texas native moved to New York. "I came to New York in '74," Martindale told The A.V. Club. "All I thought about was theater. Theater, theater, theater, theater, theater. Getting the job. Getting the Equity card." Early theater roles — including originating the part of Truvy in "Steel Magnolias" — led to film, and in the 1990s she appeared in films like "Lorenzo's Oil," "The Firm," "Nobody's Fool," and as a doctor in the Meryl Streep-starring "Marvin's Room."

"Meeting Meryl for the first time was incredible," Martindale told Entertainment Weekly. "She was in character the whole time." Streep also provided career advice to Martindale, encouraging her to work on her craft by switching up deliveries during different takes. During that time, the actress was also a regular on television, including a requisite job for any New York-based actor: "Law & Order." Martindale has worked steadily ever since, racking up 130 credits on IMDb. 

She channeled her maternal instincts in Million Dollar Baby and Walk Hard

In the early aughts, Margo Martindale got a much-deserved career boost when she joined the cast of "Million Dollar Baby," which won the Academy Award for best picture in 2005. According to Martindale, director Clint Eastwood had sought her out for the role of Earline Fitzgerald, Maggie's (Hillary Swank) selfish and cruel mother. The performance was so believable, Martindale recalled, some viewers thought she was a Missouri local.

Following "Million Dollar Baby," Martindale would net other maternal roles, albeit for very different kinds of films. In 2007, she played Dewey's mother, Ma Cox, in "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story." Martindale's humor in the gonzo faux-biopic is so effective because she plays the character straight amid all the absurd jokes. She even did some light stunt work when the vertigo-afflicted Ma Cox danced her way out of a window. "It started hitting me in a funny spot that makes me happy," she told The A.V. Club. "And I knew John [C. Reilly]. We had done a movie together, so it was really, really, really fun." 

She flexed a similarly maternal muscle in the recurring role of Camilla Figg on "Dexter," and in 2009, Martindale graduated to the role of Grandma to Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) in "Hannah Montana: The Movie."

Martindale's Southern roots shined in Justified and August: Osage County

Though Martindale has proven to be capable of playing any role under the sun (Peter Travers once called her "one of the best actors on the planet") she seems to especially thrive in stories about dysfunctional Southern families, and her role in "Justified" was no exception.

For her 11-episode arc in the neo-Western crime drama, Margo Martindale channeled all her maternal roles that came before — whether they were hilarious, terrifying, or some combination — to play Mags Bennet, the tough matriarch of a Kentucky family drug ring. Mags might make a mean apple pie, but her motherly instincts are of a more ruthless stripe, especially when it comes to punishing her sons-turned-employees. The performance netted Martindale her first Emmy in 2011.

The family depicted in 2013's "August: Osage County" may not run a drug syndicate, but they're certainly dysfunctional, and Martindale's Mattie Fae Aiken could be just as relentless towards her son. For the Oklahoma-set film, Martindale reunited with Meryl Streep to play her sister. "It was a great group," recalled Martindale of the stacked ensemble cast, which also included Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, and Sam Shepard. "I would say that we were harder working than we were harder playing," she told Entertainment Weekly.

She played a Russian spy in The Americans

In addition to the aforementioned "Justified" and "Dexter," Margo Martindale's career has been peppered with memorable television roles, both in a recurring capacity as seen in "The Good Wife" and as Bella Abzug in "Mrs. America" or single-episode appearances in countless series.

Between 2013 and 2018, Martindale played Claudia in "The Americans," FX's spy series about two KGB spies posing as an American couple in 1980s Washington, D.C. Martindale's Claudia may come off as soft-spoken, but don't be fooled; the KGB handler is not unlike the other terrifying villain she played for FX, Mags Bennett. "Two smart women, really smart," Martindale said to Huffington Post of the characters' similarities. "Mags is more about business and Claudia is more about loyalty to the Motherland, I guess. Mags is a little more out for herself."

Indeed, it's Claudia's strict loyalty to Russia — carried out with menacing, icy austerity — that makes her so compelling. For her performance across six seasons of "The Americans," Martindale earned two Emmy Awards.

Martindale tangoed with a bear on cocaine

Margo Martindale is nothing if not prolific, and the actress is showing no signs of slowing. Indeed, in the last few years, Martindale has continued to appear in acclaimed series like "Your Honor" and "Impeachment: American Crime Story," and she's also taken on more genre work. In 2022, she appeared in seven episodes of Ryan Murphy's mystery thriller series "The Watcher" as a nosey neighbor.

Earlier this year, Martindale took on perhaps her ballsiest role yet with "Cocaine Bear." "I never thought at age 70 I would be doing an action movie," the actress told Entertainment Weekly. "But I guess I did!" Based on a true story, "Cocaine Bear" answers the age-old question: What if an apex predator did cocaine?

The bear comes across several people during her coke-fueled rampage, one of whom is ornery park ranger Liz, played by Martindale. The actress had no problem with the physically demanding role. "When I would have to crawl around on the ground, or through the bushes, or be dragged by my feet, there'd be two very strong men waiting to help me up off the ground," she recalled. "It was fine. I was very well taken care of."