I interviewed William H. Macy about life n stuff!
The What I Know About Women/Men column is a little odd in that there’s no editorialising or prose; it’s a straight “oral history” type interview. But of course the key is being able to converse at such a level that you end up getting the goods! This was my first crack at What I Know…, and “Bill” was ace. Here it is:
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William H. Macy
Actor, married, 62
Neither my dad nor my mother were religious, but my grandmother was extremely religious; there was a lot of pressure on my dad, and on me as a kid, when my grandmother was alive. So I was confirmed, and went to Sunday school, all of that stuff.
I was raised Lutheran. The guy teaching Sunday school, who was a certified idiot, drew a circle on the board and said, “This is the earth.” Then he drew another circle, and said, “This is purgatory.” “And this is heaven.” And he walked away and I said, “What’s on the other side?” And he said, “God.” And I said, “No, beyond that.” And he said, “God.” And I said, “Is there nothing beyond God? Is there space?” – and he threw me out of class. And I went home and my father said, “Did you sass the Sunday school teacher?” I said, “I didn’t, I didn’t!” And he said, “Tell me exactly what happened.” So I told my dad the story and he looked at me for a while and said, “You don’t have to ever go back there again.”
I think I was closer to my dad than my mother. My dad was about the most moral guy I’ve ever met, and if there was another one, it might be my grandfather; he was a Quaker, an absolutely straight-up-and-down guy. And he was kind.
My dad was the most honest guy I’ve ever known, and really moral, but he had been pressured by my grandmother to become a minister – and indeed, he went to Princeton [Theological Seminary] for two years, but finally couldn’t do it.
This is something I discovered early on: if you love the way your parents raised you, then don’t do anything – everything will be fine. But if you don’t like the way your parents raised you, you’d better make a plan. Because the second you have a child, you open your mouth – and your mother speaks out of your mouth! It’s her voice, her tone – it’s the exact words she used. And you shut your mouth, and you have horror, because you’ve been possessed. She’s in there; every time you open your mouth, she talks.
My wife [actress Felicity Huffman] is a great mom, and not naturally. She learnt it, and she really schooled herself on raising children, and educated herself. And I, by extension, got some of that.
We’re talking about writing a children’s film. Our household is, to a large extent, “You know what would make a good movie?” We do that a lot. And now my daughters [Sofia, 12, and Georgia, 10] do it, too: “What if …”
It’s fine with me if they want to get into acting or writing; I’ll do everything I can to help them. I’ve got no problem with nepotism. I don’t understand actors who say, “I would never let my child do it.” I mean, it’s been great! I love my life! And I can help them; I can make sure they get seen, and if they’ve got any talent for it, it’s a good way to make a living. I sure like doing TV; maybe I’ll have had my fill in eight years, but I really like it. I really like to act, and I get to act almost every day. Best people in my business – I mean, they may be full of shit, but they’re never boring.
I’m the luckiest palooka, because I married really well. We’re lucky. We grew up in the theatre together, and we love acting, and we actually talk about it a lot – it’s dinner-table talk. We help each other, and we’re gloriously uncompetitive. I wouldn’t recommend everyone try this, but it’s really good for us.
We talk about religion a lot as a family – we’ve been to Protestant and Catholic churches, we’ve been to synagogue. My wife prays, and believes in God, and is rather spiritual. She talks to the girls; I talk to them, too. We just tell them what we think – that it’s important everybody be free to think what they want, that we don’t all have to agree.
I sometimes marvel that guys don’t work just a little bit harder. Women are so easily manipulated! They like shiny things – all you gotta do is pull out the chair, call them “ma’am”. I mean, just do these little tiny things and you can lead them anywhere you want. I don’t know why more men don’t know that. That’s it: stand up when she comes to the table – you’re golden, you are golden.