Note To HBO Drama Viewers:
I wrote this for you. I wrote this for those going through winter withdrawal. For those anxiously awaiting the coming of the new season of Game of Thrones. For those not thinking about the weirdness the next cycle of True Blood might bring. For those addicted to the Home Box Office, hour-long, blood and gore that makes Treme seem boring. This is for you. It's for anyone who followed season four of Boardwalk Empire, the award-winning gangster series, nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
Ladies and gentlemen: I bring you, Daughter Maitland.
Fans know her as the infamous chanteuse with the sassy attitude and molasses voice that made Chalky White lose his damn mind and forget his entire family. But in real life, she's actress Margot Bingham. Pittsburgh, PA native, trained dancer and singer who toured with pop star Jason Mraz and performed off-Broadway in Rent. This year she splashed into the Atlantic Ocean, and dived deep beneath the best and blackest seasonal layers of Boardwalk Empire. Her abusive, dysfunctional, twisted relationship with Jeffrey Wright's evil character, Dr. Valentin Narcisse, made us cringe in disgust. And we rooted for her home-wrecking, love affair gone wrong with Michael K. Williams' Chalky White.
On a cold day in December, Margot whizzes into the Shadow League offices. Unassuming, professional and ready, she's full of girlish looks and bubbly smiles, while carrying a quiet seriousness that silently speaks of maturity and intellect.
In this candid interview, Margot Bingham shares the realities of newfound fame. And the death threats that sometimes come with it.
Raqiyah Mays: People notice you on the street. You're famous from Boardwalk Empire. But some don't know you've performed and sang all over the country. Do you consider yourself a singer first?
Margot Bingham: I wouldn’t say I'm a singer first. My musical career started to take off first. I have been studying musical theater my whole life. I started taking classes when I was 2, 3 years old singing and doing extra curricular activities as a child like group singing, group acting. But I had an athletic body, and I was tall for my age, so my parents thought basketball was the best thing for me until they saw me skipping down the court. So I went back to dance and kind of never left arts. I went to a performing arts high school. I went to college for musical theatre and double major in dance.Then I switched to music management and entertainment to learn more of the managerial and contractual agreements, because I wanted to learn how to manage myself better and know what’s going on. But I got older and my body aged and that was when I knew I couldn’t dance well anymore. So that was when singing and acting become more precedent. So I’m blessed with those two.
RM: Playing Chalky White’s mistress, I can only imagine what you are dealing with in the streets. When people see you, what do they say?
MB: During the season it was hard, because people love Michael K [Williams]. They loved him in The Wire. But I get a lot of comments on twitter like, “You better not mess with my man, Omar.” Or, I'll come after you myself!' Like death threats. Like if I were to do any harm to their Omar, which number 1...
[She looks at the camera]
MB: Is not the same show people!
RM: Right! Omar was on The Wire.
MB: And number two, your man Chalky... I can't do anything about it. I’m not a writer. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m an actress. I’m just trying to do my job. After the death threats stopped, I was trying to enjoy it. But yeah, it was rough though.
RM: Wow. Well, you and Jeffrey Wright had this really dysfunctional relationship on screen. What was that experience like?
RM: So my main question, let's just get to the point: Will you be back next season?
MB: Isn’t that the question?
RM: (Laughs) Oh, so you can share?
RM: (Sucking teeth) That sucks. So, you don’t know what’s going to happen with Valentin and Chalky?
MB: Yeah. No one knows what was going to happen. I was really supposed to be there for a couple of episodes, sing a couple of songs. And they just kept revising the script and writing me in more and they kept calling me to hold and then the season happened and I never got a chance to sit down and think about what that meant or how that was going to affect me, my character, the story line, or how that was going to affect other storylines. Or if it was going to turn in to a whole season for me becoming a mainstream character in the whole scheme of things. It was a pleasant surprise. I never had that much time to let it sink in.
RM: And now that you've marinated, how does it feel today?
MB: I’m actually happy that it didn’t sink in then. If they had told me from the beginning.... You know, going in to any kind of job that you want, you put it on such a pedestal and you would give up anything for it. Put all of those eggs and energy into that one particular basket and you can ruin it, because you can end up [not] letting yourself go and do the work that you need to do. You put stress on yourself and you can kill it before it really happens So when I went into the audition knowing I was going to be a jazz singer in a nightclub singing background music and I was like, 'I got jazz music. I got this.' And I saw a lot of beautiful women come in and all these amazing actresses and singers that I knew from the theatre scene. And I remember going up to this one girl. And she was so nice and she had this wig on. And I was dressed in normal clothes. I didn’t know I had to get dressed up. And she kept talking about her family. And she seems like this lovely gal. And I just looked at her and I said, “I hope you get it.” And then I [got it and] was like 'Whaaaaaat?' But it was just a singing role, and I was like, 'If I get it cool. If I don’t, cool.' When I got it, they just kept on calling. So life changes.