Behind the Curtain with Mary McDonnell: Reddit, Product Placement, and Her Message to Millennial Feminists

Mary McDonnell is a busy woman. The second season of her hit show on TNT, Major Crimes, was just extended to 19 episodes. She’ll be shooting through Thanksgiving of this year, leaving her little time to join her fellow BSG alums on the convention circuit. She’s finding new ways to stay connected with her fans, however, through Facebook, Twitter, and an upcoming Reddit IAmA session on June 2.

This weekend, she took advantage of a small break in shooting episode six of Major Crimes to jet to Houston for Galacticon III. During her two days at the convention, she answered audience questions at a panel discussion with her former co-star, Edward James Olmos, posed for photographs, and signed hundreds of autographs for long lines of eager fans. Despite her packed schedule, she ducked away from the crowds for a few moments to speak to MostlyMary.com about her new social media presence, product placement in television, and why young women need to “rage against the machine.”

How has your life changed since you joined social media?

The greatest part of it is that I am so much more aware of how interesting and wonderful the fans are. It’s actually got me kind of inspired. It’s created a much greater awareness.

How did the idea to do the reddit IAmA come about?

The idea came from this wonderful person named Tyler Burton. He helped me get my social media a little bit more into focus. That’s what he does. He’s really kind of a genius. He proposed reddit to me and I think it’s a great idea. We’re all on board.

We’re a little nervous!

Okay, why?

Well, it’s ask me anything. You might really get anything. But you’ve seen it all.

Oh my god, I’ve seen crazy. But I’m not going to be by myself or anything. Three people are going to be sitting with me. I can handle it.

Are you a fast typer?

I won’t be doing the typing. All I’m doing is talking. Reading and talking. I can’t do it by myself, are you kidding? I’d be, like, “aahh!”

There’s a lot of product placement on The Closer and Major Crimes. Do you find it hard–

Yes.

Does it distract you from the actual acting? 

It doesn’t. It doesn’t distract me from the actual acting but I do have mixed feelings about where we’re headed in general in the business with product placement and corporations. It’s all sort of advertising, marketing, and where the actors fit into it and what we get back for it. Sales — we’re doing a lot of sales for free. I have mixed feelings about it, not towards TNT in particular, or Warner Bros. or anybody. Just in a general sense, I’m not sure how I feel about it these days.

That makes sense. It’s pervasive too, I think. Everywhere on the internet now, there are ads where people don’t want ads. 

Yeah, I know. It’s true, very true.

People praise you all the time for playing strong women or strong female characters, but your younger, feminist fans really hate that description of what you do because the implication is that women aren’t strong at the baseline, or that a strong woman is more masculine, maybe. How do you feel when people say that to you? 

I feel good about it because I’m not of your generation; however, I look behind me and understand that we need to stop thinking about that as unusual. That’s the thing. How do we help the culture understand that the feminine in the universe is essentially really stronger. It is, in my opinion, the strongest element. It has the most elasticity, it’s the most nurturing, it has the most “warrior” potential in a global sense. But we’re so used to the aggressive element of the masculine that we’ve gotten very mixed messages about the whole thing. So I say to the younger women, yes, rage against the machine. Let’s redefine how we see it: women are strong. Women are strong. A “strong woman” — hopefully that will disappear someday.

It’s redundant.

Yeah.

You’ve talked about Roslin influencing your politics, or broadening your understanding of politics. Has Raydor done that for you in any sense?

Raydor is teaching me all kinds of things about justice, about the justice system, about the politics and the economy of employing justice, and how complex it all is. Especially in season two, she’s teaching me a lot about the innocent in society and how brutally we treat them. One doesn’t want to always think about that. But in Raydor’s case, I must.

Is Raydor going to fire a gun in season two?

I don’t know!

You haven’t yet? 

She hasn’t yet. I’ve had one in my hand, though.

Do you like that? Does it make you nervous?

It doesn’t make me at all nervous, I’ve done it in almost every movie, ever. I’m not a really big gun advocate, so that’s kind of a funny thing. But I don’t have any trouble with it, no. It doesn’t really bother me.

Thank you for your time!

You’re welcome, thank you!

Season two of Major Crimes premieres on June 10 at 9 p.m.

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