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Q&A: Mary McCormack of 'In Plain Sight'

Posted 10:26am on Monday, May. 16, 2011

Mary McCormack sometimes has the feeling that she's playing "the boy role" on USA's In Plain Sight. Her character, a U.S. marshal attached to the Witness Protection Program, is salty, tough, headstrong. "She acts like a man in many, many ways," McCormack says. Change the character's name from Mary Shannon to "Marv" or "Mark" and make only a few other minor revisions, she muses, and the role could be played by someone with a Y chromosome. At least that was true until this year. McCormack is expecting her third child this fall — and her pregnancy is going to become part of the storyline. "Mary Shannon's is not someone you think of as maternal," McCormack says, "so it makes for some interesting story stuff and character stuff." That said, don't expect Mary to get soft on us. "Even knocked up, I'm still pretty butch," she says. In Plain Sight airs at 9 p.m. CT Sunday.

This is the fourth season of In Plain Sight. What is it about the show that keeps you engaged?

"I just love the character. David Maples, who created the show, wrote a really great part. I love that Mary Shannon's really good at her job and not so good at her personal life. I like that she's cynical and sarcastic. It's fun to play someone so grouchy. I can be a little grouchy myself, so it's a comfortable fit."

The guys Mary works with are one of a kind too, don't you agree?

"Fred Weller's part (as U.S. Marshal Marshall Mann, Shannon's partner) is great. I love the relationship between Marshall and Mary. We have a lot of fun with it, Fred and I, and we aren't too far from our characters. The way we tease each other, we should hate each other by Season 4, but we love each other. And Paul Ben-Victor's character (Stan, Mary's boss) is a total surprise. Usually the boss on a cop show is like, 'You have one day to close this case or you're fired!' But he's not that guy at all. He has no control."

How will the pregnancy be worked into the storyline?

"Well, we're writing it in. It's as simple as that. I did what I had to do to get pregnant first. And now we're dealing with it. I think it's interesting to see someone play pregnant who actually is pregnant. It's not as pretty as when someone all chiseled up does it."

Does the pregnancy fit neatly into what the show is doing this season? Or is it merely shoehorned in?

"I think it actually provides for an interesting development, instead of being a sort of wrench in our plans. Thematically, Mary's whole life is changing: Her mom is sober, her sister's engaged and going to be married, Marshall is in a relationship that seems to be working. Then, all of a sudden, she has this enormous change in her own life too. I think it's going to be really rich for stories."

Mary's comments during the voiceovers are always fun and interesting. Do you enjoy doing them?

"One of my favorite things about the voiceovers is Mary Shannon is a person who doesn't let people in. She barely lets Marshall in and he's the closest person in her life to her. So it's an opportunity for the audience to know the real her. What's nice is the audience has a really intimate relationship with her, even though she doesn't really allow anyone else to."

If In Plain Sight could do a crossover show with any show on TV, what show would you want to be on?

"If it's a USA show, I would do Psych. If it's any show, which is never going to happen, I would say Tina Fey's 30 Rock. I can't cross over onto Survivor, but I would like to, because I love reality TV."

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