BY DONNA FREYDKIN
"I tend to speak my mind and shoot from the hip. I'm not a shrinking violet," says Martha Plimpton.
No kidding. And that's only been to her benefit. Plimpton surmises that that's one of the reasons she was cast as Eileen O'Neal, in ABC's Tuesday sitcom "The Real O'Neals," about a devout Catholic family dealing with some inconvenient truths. One kid is gay. Another is a thief. And the parents are breaking up, with dad living in the basement.
Suffice to say, superficially at least, she has nothing in common with her character, matriarch Eileen, a woman whose love is as fierce as is her sense of right and wrong.
"We may be opposite in external ways. I do believe that there is a common humanity in all of us, which is easily accessed if we just quiet down for a minute and listen. For that reason, I really wanted to play this part. I have no objection to playing someone who thinks the way Eileen does. And I have no interest in mocking her. That was a concern that many people had, that perhaps we'd be making fun of people of faith. That's not the case," says Plimpton.
The actress has been doing lauded stage and screen work since breaking out in 1985's "The Goonies," following that up with her turn as a surly, rebellious daughter in 1989's "Parenthood" and most recently, earning an Emmy nomination for playing a grandma (yes, really) on the series "Raising Hope." And when she's not working, Plimpton is a vocal advocate for abortion rights, co-founding the organization A Is For....
Her goal is to connect with people in the center. "They may not believe abortion is right or good, but they're still not comfortable with women being prevented from making their own choices. They're still uncomfortable with the state getting involved with people's personal medical decisions," she says.
The comments she gets on social media are about what you'd expect: "It's the standard feedback. It's either total haters or total supporters."
Plimpton is well-informed, fluently discussing the complex and emotional issues involved in abortion rights. "Education is a huge part of it. Having frank discussions about it is critical. The silencing and the shame that's inflicted on people who want to talk openly about it is completely inappropriate," she says.
And here's a look at our other beloved ABC series, "Modern Family."