If you’ve turned your television on anytime between now and let’s say 1997, odds are you’ve seen the likes of the beautiful and talented actress Melinda Page Hamilton, who has been gracing our small and silver screens for the past decade and a half. I’m sure even those who’ve been living under a rock for the past 16 years have made sure their rocks were cable-ready, but for the people out there who have never heard of movies like “God Bless America”, “Sleeping Dogs Lie”, and “Driftwood”; or shows like “True Blood”, “ Law & Order”, “Star Trek: Enterprise”, “Numb3rs”, “Nip/Tuck”, “CSI”, “CSI: Miami”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, or “Modern Family”; you have been seriously deprived. Melinda Page Hamilton has starred and guest starred in some of the hottest films and hit primetime TV shows in the entertainment industry to say the very least, and is best known for her roles as Sister Mary Bernard in “Desperate Housewives”, Malinda on “Big Love”, and Anna Draper, polio survivor and widow to the ‘real’ Don Draper on AMC’s “Mad Men”. Melinda was gracious enough to make some room on her full plate for Splash Mag, sharing about her life, what first inspired her to pursue acting, and how her new role as a domestic has her slightly anxious.
It’s always interesting to find out when actors and actresses first discover their affinity for their talent and what inspired them to pursue acting. The New York native revealed that her original aspirations were at the opposite end of the career spectrum, and that as a child she wanted to be an investment banker. Ironic on a few levels, Melinda’s father was an actor and loved his craft, but at the time she was mortified by the fact that he wasn’t a business man. Melinda didn’t get bitten by the acting bug until she was in high school when a teacher encouraged her to pursue theater; later adding film and television to her resume. What would Hamilton be doing if she weren’t acting? Not managing large financial portfolios that’s for sure, laughing and assuring that her investment banking dreams were long behind her, Melinda confides that if she weren’t acting she’d either be teaching or helping people solve their problems as a therapist.
Hamilton has a new show on Lifetime called “Devious Maids”, which premieres Sunday, June 23rd, and is inspired by the Mexican telenovela “Ellas son la Alegría del Hogar”, which translates to English as "They Are the Home's Joy". Written by creator of “Desperate Housewives”, Marc Cherry, “Devious Maids” follows the lives of four maids who work for the wealthy, famous, and powerful in Beverly Hills, CA but have a lot more on their minds than feather dusters and Clorox®. Hamilton plays Odessa Burakov, the Russian, militant house manager that oversees all of the domestic staff and employees who work on the sprawling grounds owned by her famous Latin pop star employer, Alejandro Rubio, played by soap opera stud Matt Cedeño. Things are going just fine for the incredibly handsome, international singing sensation and his fiercely devoted employee, until Carmen Luna, played by the heartbreakingly beautiful Roselyn Sánchez, enters the picture as the new maid. Odessa is suspicious of Carmen and her motives from the start, and it’s almost guaranteed that that colossal mansion will be nowhere near big enough for the both of them.
Keep in mind that this is only a quarter of the drama, and that there are many more backstories and characters to obsess over. When you pair that delicious scandal with Marc Cherry’s witty, indulgent tendencies, and a phenomenal cast including the talents of “All My Children” star Susan Lucci, “Pretty Little Liars” Drew Van Acker, Ana Ortiz, Judy Reyes, and Grant Show among many more, one can only hope that “Devious Maids” will be the new guilty pleasure for Sunday evening viewers. In celebration for the series premier, Hamilton kindly answered a few questions about her new show in order to keep our anticipation in check; the following is edited for content and continuity.
You’ve starred and guest starred in hundreds of roles, who was your all-time favorite character to play and why?
The character closest to my personality is Anna Draper (on “Mad Men”), but honestly of all of my roles, I’d have to say Odessa (on “Devious Maids”) is my favorite character. She has a limp and a physical comedy aspect to her, and I really love the relationship she has with each of the people in her household. Although I do have to say Odessa and I share similarities in our cleanliness and panache for organization and running a household. (laughter)
What can viewers expect from “Devious Maids”? Especially with the high expectations America now holds for Marc Cherry and all of his projects post “Housewives”.
The show does share similarities to “Desperate Housewives”, Marc’s humor and his sensibilities are so present, making the two shows kind of cousins to one another. The show (“Devious Maids”) has everything, there is a strong comedic tone throughout it with compelling drama, households and nasty secrets, satire; pretty much everything for everyone.
Are there any spoilers that you’re allowed to dish?
You’re going to find out a lot more about my character’s backstory and why she is the way she is, both physically and mentally and emotionally. You’ll also get to see the relationship between Odessa and Carmen (Sánchez) evolve throughout the season in a really interesting way; that’s pretty much all I can tell you.
Your character Odessa is not really portrayed as a nice person, she’s described as cold blooded and controlling. Is it difficult getting into character?
Not at all! Two things are helpful when it comes to becoming Odessa, remembering her physical life; she has a very pronounced limp, and mastering her Russian accent. I drew on some training I had in grad school and worked with a coach to perfect Odessa’s Russian accent. Once I had the limp and the accent I was able to draw on my nasty side that I don’t really get to use all the time in my real life, and just had a lot of fun with it.
The cast for the show boasts some pretty huge names, what’s it like working alongside such talented actors and with Marc Cherry and Executive Producer Eva Longoria? And of course Erica Kane…I mean Susan Lucci!
(laughter) It’s pretty phenomenal, she (Lucci) is one of the most gracious and lovely people you will ever work with. It was wonderful to work with everyone, it’s a phenomenal cast, and the supporting cast is amazing. I just feel extremely lucky and privileged to be in the group.
Working on so many dramas in your career, you’re no stranger to a little scandal, what’s the most devious thing you’ve ever done?
I’m a pretty square peg, so I haven’t done anything really devious or scandalous. I’ve thought of a few things, never actually did them, but I’ll just keep that to myself; don’t want to get in trouble! (laughter)
This show seems like secrets and lies are going to play a major role in the plot, have you ever kept any big secrets? What’s something a lot of people don’t know about you?
I’m a pretty open book, I don’t think there’s too many things that the people I know don’t know about me. One thing that people don’t know about me is that I have an innate shyness and an innate fear of being exposed. I know that probably sounds funny because of my profession, but I’m a lot shyer than I pretend to be. Oh, and my husband is the only one who knows this, but I also sing a mean show tune in the shower; but only in the shower! (laughter)
Watching the promo trailer for the show I had to blink a few times before confirming that those maids had on Louboutins, which makes for a seriously swanky uniform; does fashion play a large role in this show? I know your character on “Mad Men” didn’t get a chance to get glammed up very much; do you get to have a bit of fun with fashion in this show?
Yes, fashion plays a definite role in the show; these are probably some of the most fabulous looking maids you’ll ever see! (laughter) My character is one of the least fashionable on the show, Roselyn (Sánchez) will walk in with something gorgeous on, and I know I won’t be in anything like that, but it’s nice sometimes because you don’t have to sit through hours of hair and makeup to get all glamorous; I come to work and I’m pretty much ready. I would love to have a glammed up role one day, but the roles I play now are really fun.
Do you have any other upcoming projects?
Not right now, this is it and being a full time mom to a 20 month old (daughter). She’s pretty rambunctious, she’s sitting up now, and dancing and walking; a lot of work!
“Devious Maids” is set to air June 23rd, do you have any plans for that night? Will you be watching along with the rest of us?
I will definitely be watching, but I’m debating whether I want to invite family and friends over to watch or if I want to watch by myself, it’s always a little nerve-wracking!