This edition of Talking With focuses on actress Margaret Curry, who mixes comedy and skepticism as Susan Baker in the dysfunctional family holiday movie, “Merry Good Enough.”
Margaret appears in the film along with Raye Levine Spielberg, Joel Murray, Susan Gallagher, Sawyer Spielberg, Comfort Clinton, Neil Casey, and Sophie von Haselberg. Currently streaming on all major platforms, “Merry Good Enough” comes just in time for the holidays from Byron Allen’s Freestyle Digital Media.
An award-winning actress, producer, director, and singer, Margaret has also recently been entertaining New York audiences with her live solo cabaret show. Some of her other credits include the films "Starfish" and "Diamond Ruff," as well as over 300 performances in the Off-Broadway show "Fools in Love, The Musical" and two national tours of "Church Basement Ladies." She has sung with the likes of Leslie Uggams, Carol Channing, Billy Stritch, Amanda Green and Ann Hampton Callaway, and at some of New York’s best venues, including Lincoln Center.
To learn more, we are Talking With Margaret Curry:
What can you tell us about “Merry Good Enough”?
MARGARET CURRY: It’s a wonderful dark comedy that revolves around Lucy Raulie, who has always had a complicated relationship with her dysfunctional family. But when her mom disappears on Christmas Eve, it’s going to be up to Lucy to bring her family together again, whether she knows it or not. I play the tightly wound longtime family friend, Susan Baker, who keeps popping up at inopportune times. It’s about the expectations that get stirred up at the holidays for things to be perfect, different, better, than they are, and how we all struggle with those expectations when we go back home to visit. The joys and struggles navigating those complicated times. As Raye Levine, who plays Lucy, has said: if you love Christmas, this movie is for you, if you hate Christmas, this movie is for you.
As an actor, what helped you the most in bringing Susan Baker to life?
MC: Oh, boy, have I known Susan Bakers. I grew up in Houston, Texas, and I was in a sea of Susan Bakers much of the time. I think we all recognize her, both in others and in ourselves, maybe, as well. I have a soft spot for finding the humanity underneath any character that comes off as the villainous one in a story. And Caroline Keene the writer maintained such a fierce love and commitment to all of the characters throughout shooting, working towards them all being very grounded in reality. She did not want Susan Baker to be a caricature, but a real person that we can identify with and perhaps find some understanding or at least compassion for despite her bad behavior. She and Dan Kennedy, our Director of Photography and co-director, were both fully committed to this, and it really made all the difference. I have a theory that people do what they do because they believe it will bring about some positive result – their choices may not make sense to other people, but they make sense to them. Susan Baker means well, at least in her own mind. I was so glad that we were all invested in fully realizing these characters as complex and human as we all are.
There seems to be great chemistry with all of the cast. Was the film as fun in-between takes and it appears on-screen?
MC: Absolutely. It was so much fun. Lots of laughter, sometimes tears. It was a very creative and collaborative set. The way Caroline and Dan directed and filmed, we were given opportunities to explore and discover unexpected moments as we shot, which is such a gift. Plus, when I arrived on set, I discovered that I actually had been in a clown/physical comedy workshop with the actress playing Lucy, Raye Levine, and Lucy’s love interest in the film, played by her real-life husband Sawyer Spielberg, a few years before! So there was an immediate connection there that lent itself to be able to play in our scenes on a high level having been in that class together. Once you go through a class like that, you’re sort of bonded forever. It was a happy coincidence.
Do you have a favorite scene from the movie? And, was it also your favorite to shoot?
MC: My favorite scene to shoot was the ice rink scene. I had practiced and taken skating lessons in order to be able to resonate truthfully a woman who thinks she is a great skater, which I had decided Susan Baker thought of herself. And Daniel Desmarais, the actor playing Lucy’s brother, has the most wonderful, responsive facial expressions. It was especially fun to affect him in the ways my character gets to. On top of that, I got to skate into the arms of Joel Murray over and over. He is an effortlessly hilarious man and a terrific improvisational performer. It was just hilarious. My favorite scene in the movie, though, was the scene near the end with Lucy and her mother. My character had felt like such an outsider the whole time because she is. To finally get to be in the Raulie family circle for just a little while was surprisingly significant and moving for me as we filmed it. I still get moved watching and remembering how it felt to finally “get in” a bit.
Do you do anything special to celebrate the holidays personally?
MC: My husband and I usually go to Texas to be with my family there. We just enjoy being all together, lots of laughs and food. Before we go there, we do also go to his sister’s in New Jersey to be with his family. He is from Ireland originally, and though most of his family still lives there, we are close with her and her family. That makes the holiday complete for me – being with our families.
Where do you start when preparing for a role; and does that change depending on the genre?
MC: It really all starts with the first read of the script, no matter the genre. I usually fall a bit in love with the character or the situation and from there, the questions start. With great writing, it becomes a journey – a continual discovery as the layers within the writing start being revealed as I analyze the script and dive deeply into the world of the film or play or song. It just begins to unfold, the questions lead to more questions, and over time, things begin to fill in and click, and then shift again as revelations continue throughout rehearsals. Never-ending and so fascinating. Every role ends up changing, expanding me in ways I could never have imagined.
You’ve also been performing in your solo cabaret show; tell us about that.
MC: This question is music to my ears. “The Space In-Between” was a total joy to create, and it continues to be a deep joy now in the performing of it. This show has been 20 years in the making! I’m fascinated with the spaces that are “in-between.” Those moments between the ending of one thing and the start of another. Those spaces that are…unknown. I have some ideas about the space in-between. Through both song and story, I unwrap it all with music, lyrics and distinctive rhythms. From compositions by Johnny Mercer and Yip Harburg all the way to Chaka Khan, Roy Orbison and Jimmy Webb with the musical aid of Award-winning arranger Gregory Toroian at the piano, Skip Ward on bass and David Silliman on the drums and directed by Lina Koutrakos, the show is a wonderful exploration of those spaces, and the music is incredible. I cannot wait to do it again: Saturdays, April 6th and May 4th, 2024, at The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC.
What inspires you the most creatively?
MC: Life. People. A deep love of life and people and a never-ending quest to examine and understand human behavior leads me to material in all areas of performing…or maybe those stories find me. Whether through song or spoken text, I’m drawn to works that explore and celebrate the human spirit and love, that reveal the stories of how people rise above the problems of life and the human condition to make change and follow their hearts. I’m especially interested in attempting to reveal the beauty and the heroism in the seemingly ordinary moments and people in life. The underdog, the ordinary, unsung heroes; the quiet, small moments that can sometimes hold a lifetime. Those people, those voices, those unspoken longings and overlooked moments of courage and kindness and perseverance keep me ever-awed and ever-curious and eager to explore, to dig deep, to go to the difficult places, to find the life that wants to break through the cracks.
Finally, is there anything else you’re working on?
MC: Yes! I’m currently co-writing, co-starring in and co-producing an original web series with producing partners Burke Adams and Lindy Rogers.
And in February 2024, I’m producing and starring, along with Geoff Stoner, in the New York City production of two one acts in monologue, “The Moonshot Tape & A Poster of the Cosmos” by Lanford Wilson, to be performed at The Flea Theatre in Tribeca, NYC, directed by Mark Cirnigliaro.