Mamie Gummer 'recalibrates' her career, returns to stage
Oct. 13, 2015
NEW YORK (AP) — It takes about an hour to thoroughly disfigure Mamie Gummer.
The willowy daughter of Meryl Streep is starring in a new play as a badly burned Afghan war veteran, and Gummer endures a lengthy process to get ready.
Two specially made pieces of silicone are glued onto her face and right shoulder with medical-grade, pressure-sensitive adhesive. Then makeup is blended in to resemble third-degree burns over 30 percent of her body.
"It's very disturbing," said Gummer, who recently starred in the film "Ricki and the Flash" with her famous mom. "It makes it feel really vital in a way that nothing else I've done has."
The play is the moving "Ugly Lies the Bone" by Lindsay Ferrentino, centering on a soldier returning to her Florida home after being hit by a roadside bomb on her third tour.
The role is another interesting choice from an actress who has lately added plenty of complex characters to her resume. She also appears as a sly lawyer on CBS' "The Good Wife" and a street-smart spy in "Manhattan" on WGN America.
"I was never really The Girl or The Ingenue," said the 32-year-old Gummer. "Me in my 20s didn't really make sense. I just kind of always felt like things were going to start making sense or becoming clearer when I hit 30."
Back then, she was told she looked too sophisticated or too self-possessed for some roles. "Now to be able to start playing women as opposed to girls has opened up a lot," she said.
Her new part as an Army vet has her coming to terms with her injuries and the constant pain from skin grafts while also struggling to reconnect with family and friends.
"She's looking for someone to really look at her and let her know that she's still there," said Gummer, who wore masking tape on her face during rehearsals to get into character.
Playwright Ferrentino hasn't made Gummer's job easy, asking that she use a walker and explaining in the script that "everything hurts; skin, muscles, heart, bones."
The play, produced in a 62-seat off-Broadway theater by the Roundabout Theatre Company, also explores immersive virtual reality therapy used to distract burn patients during painful procedures.
Gummer personally tested the equipment when she put on virtual reality goggles and traveled down a virtual river while her own hand was dunked in a bucket of ice water. She endured the cold far longer with the goggles on.
Her appearance in this particular theater is something of a homecoming for Gummer, who also starred in the TV series "Emily Owens M.D."
"I've definitely recalibrated significantly in the last year or two years what it is that I want to do and what makes me happy and to basically just follow my own lead."
She recently sat down and asked herself what jobs have made her excited. The answer was doing "Mr. Marmalade" 10 years ago in the very same theater complex she is now doing "Ugly Lies the Bone."
"The kismet of the fact that it's here felt kind of nice," she said.