If any new role last TV season screamed "Emmy!" it was nominated actress Margo Martindale's Mags Bennett on the FX crime drama "Justified."
On one hand, Mags was an apple-pie baking mama with unconditional love for her children. On the other, she was perhaps the most menacing, maniacal mob matriarch to come along this side of the late Nancy Marchand's legendary twisted sister, Livia Soprano.
Yet Mags wasn't really a stretch for veteran Martindale ("Million Dollar Baby," "Secretariat"), a Tony-nominated character actress who mostly has played parts like her true self: a sweet Southern gal with a touch of class — and sass.
"(Mags) came so easily to me that it was scary," noted Martindale in a recent interview. "It fit me like a glove. I felt at home, like a child again. Now, that sounds insane. But it felt like play-acting in my backyard: cowboys and Indians, you know?"
Among the many atrocities Mags committed onscreen: punishing her own son by pulverizing one of his hands with a hammer. When Martindale would head home after shooting, "I was so much nicer because I was completely satisfied," she joked.
Mags got hers by the end of her one and only season on the series. (She poisoned herself before Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, played by star Timothy Olyphant, could get to her.) Problem was, the powers that be at "Justified" never let Martindale know Mags was going to be killed off until after Martindale read her final script.
"Graham (series creator Graham Yost) had called everybody that was being killed," recalled Martindale. "And he called (costar) Linda Gehringer. He called (costar) Brad Henkey. And when I got my script, I go, 'Oh, OK.' And then somebody ran to the phone and said, 'You forgot to call Margo.' I will never let him live it down. He's apologized so much, but anyway."
But don't cry for the 60-year-old Martindale, who quickly landed a key role on CBS's new supernatural medical drama "A Gifted Man." "I am back to being a supporting character to a beautiful man, who is fantastic, Patrick Wilson," Martindale said.
She has segued from one hunk to another. "Well, Timothy is slim-hipped, and long and lean, which is making my mouth water right now. So I better watch out. Patrick has that all-American, Texas kind of football-captain sort of thing, which of course, has always been my style. On the other hand, Timothy is really beautiful in an exotic way."
In other words, we would not kick either of them out of bed, would we?
"No," Martindale replied, laughing. "We would not."
The Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sunday in Los Angeles.