Mamie Gummer had little clue growing up that she and her siblings were different to the other kids at school.
“We were raised well outside of Hollywood,” she recalls, “and I had a really normal upbringing playing soccer, doing school plays and my homework. I only got wise to the fact that we were different when we got to cut the lines at Walt Disney World!”
But while her mother – 19-time Oscar nominee Meryl Streep (66) – managed to keep her out of the glare of the media spotlight, Mamie couldn’t help but fall in love with the acting world. That’s perhaps unsurprising, given that her first role came when she was just 20 months old, playing Meryl’s daughter in 1986’s Heartburn – a job her mother insisted she be credited with a fictional name to hide her identity. Since then, Mamie’s established a career on the stage and screen, including a stint on The Good Wife, as well as playing a younger version of her mother in Evening.
But now Mamie (32) has taken on her biggest role yet – starring opposite her mother in the tale of a dysfunctional family in Ricki and the Flash. And while she may be sharing the screen with her mother, she’s ready to step out from her spotlight. When you hear her distinctive, slow, soothing voice as she speaks exclusively to the Weekly on the phone, it’s near impossible to not think of her famous mother.
“It is one of our many similarities,” she concedes, admitting there’s also a number of mannerisms they share. She’s unsure if it’s just the fact she’s an actress or if it’s a trait she’s inherited from her mother, but Mamie says she finds herself mimicking others at the drop of a hat.
“I’m not quite as bad as my mom – my mom is insane,” she laughs. “She’ll be talking to our Chinese accountant on the phone and take on a Chinese accent without even realising she’s doing it!”
Then, of course, there’s their strikingly similar physical appearance, which must add another layer of pressure, but Mamie says it’s more of a blessing than a curse. “I’m really very lucky, it’s given me a leg up in some respects,” she admits. “But yes, there are some unique challenges that come with it! But in terms of being compared to her, that’s just impossible. I just try not to think about it as much as I can. I’m in denial.”
And she says she could hardly bemoan their similarities in her latest film, which had a number of benefits, including taking the leg work out of having to convince the audience they truly were mother and daughter. It really was a family affair, with her brother Henry earning a credit on the film’s soundtrack. In Ricki and the Flash, Mamie plays Julie, a woman reeling from the demise of her marriage – something she has also experienced after splitting from her husband in 2013 – who seeks refuge at her father’s house. Unable to change out of her ratty pyjamas and unwilling to shower – a wardrobe that Mamie says was “the dream!” – her worrying state prompts her father to call in her mother. Enter Ricki, a checkout operator and jaded lead singer for a pub house band.
“Obviously Julie’s upbringing was very different to mine,” notes Mamie. “Mom made sacrifices and chose projects based on their proximity to our home so she could spend as much time as possible with us – we were her priority.”
The hostility between the pair was “a lot of fun” to play for Mamie, who says it was Meryl who gave her the script to read.
“It felt right to do this now. I don’t think – as much as she loves me – that Mom would stake a film like this on any actress that she didn’t believe could stand up and deliver.”
And indeed her mother, whom she describes as “tenacious, respectful and does everything with such great heart” has waxed lyrical about Mamie’s performance in the film. Mamie – the eldest of Meryl’s three daughters with husband Don Gummer – says another bonus for Meryl was the fact she could just get on with things rather than spend time trying to put her co-star at ease.
“I think I’m one of the very few people on the planet who is not intimidated by her,” laughs Mamie.
Now she’s looking forward to her next stint back in the theatre, although she wouldn’t say no to another big film or TV role – it’s just that fame isn’t something she wants to chase.
“We were raised not to put a high premium on that stuff,” Mamie says. “I learned everything from watching my parents and what I saw mostly was they were able to make a living doing what they loved, and the satisfaction that came with that. It’s that satisfaction I do this for.”
WATCH: Mamie Gummer reveals what it was like acting with her mum
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