Secrets And Lies is, without question, one of the most gripping TV shows around right now with much of its audience interest being driven by its stars, including McNally Sagal. As Series Two continues to delight fans on both sides of the Atlantic, Sagal spoke to PopWrapped about first auditions, dream roles and future projects.
PW: You’re now one of the most recognizable faces on TV, but at what age did you first realize you wanted to be an actress, and did you have any other career ambitions?
McNally Sagal: I did a lot of plays at my high school, and it was the most fun I had ever had up until that point. When my high school theater director told me NOT to major in it because the road would be too long and hard and that I was an excellent student and should not waste my talent on a career that would most likely flounder, I had the epiphany: “You mean I could major in this and try to make a career?” I was completely dumbfounded when my parents told me that I should do whatever I liked. My dad’s motto was “Convert your hobby to your job and it will never feel like work.” He was a plastic surgeon and absolutely loved his work in reconstruction. He really wanted his children to find their passion and go for it. I never seriously considered any other career. It has been hard sometimes and up and down. But I love what I do and am grateful for the opportunities I have had.
PW: Were there any particular actresses, actors, films or TV shows that influenced your career path?
MS: I loved Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner’s Daughter and Carrie! I was a gawky red headed dork and thought, “Wow, she is so great, and she looks like me, and she gets to act for a living ... maybe I could, too.”
PW: You've got an impressive body of work including Sons of Anarchy, Criminal Minds and Scandal, but what can you recall of your very first audition?
MS: While still in school at Boston University, I went to an open call for a John Sayles movie called Baby It’s You. There were hundreds of girls waiting in the lobby of this hotel. I thought of turning around and bolting, but I stuck it out. I could not believe that I made it through many, many rounds and, eventually, was brought to NYC for a screen test. After the test, the director asked me if I would cut my waist-length auburn hair and dye it dark brown because the role was Jewish, and he thought I screamed Irish from the screen. I was 20, and I said no because I thought I would be cutting off my greatest asset. Well, the things we do when young ... that was not the best decision I have ever made! The role went to Rosanna Arquette instead, and I went back to school.
PW: For those who have never seen Secrets And Lies, what's it about?
MS: Secrets And Lies tells the story of one mysterious murder per season. All 10 episodes are about the same crime, and Season 2 is a completely different storyline from Season 1. Season 2 centers on Michael Ealy’s Eric Warner, who plays a man accused of pushing his wife Kate, played by Jordana Brewster, off a 12-story building. There are many characters involved, and it is up to the brilliant but flawed Detective Cornell, played by Juliette Lewis, to solve the case.
PW: How would you sum up the role your character plays in the show? Is she much like yourself or the total opposite?
MS: My character is May Stone. She is a career executive assistant who, after years of working for Eric, played by Michael Ealy, and John, played by Terry O’Quinn, has become like family. She's warm, efficient, takes charge, a real rock in a time of crisis. Also, because she has worked so closely for the family all this time, she may -- out of loyalty -- keep their secrets safe.
PW: Season 2 has just premiered, so what can fans of the show expect this time around?
MS: It is a really fun, exciting ride of a show. There are unexpected twists and turns at every corner. One of the fun aspects of the show is that, last season, Cornell convicted the wrong man for the crime, so that mistake hangs over her choices as the story unfolds, adding lots of tension for her character and the audience!
PW: If you could appear in any TV show or film, which would it be and why?
MS: Well, not that I have major fantasies about going to prison, but I would really like to be in Orange is the New Black. I really enjoy seeing so many fabulous character actresses letting loose and having a field day with their roles!
PW: Which actor/actress, who can be living or dead, would you most like to star alongside and why?
MS: Well, even though I don’t think I could pull off being Italian American, I would really like it if I could just be added into the Godfather trilogy with a significant role. It doesn’t matter what part. If it's on the TV, if I am scrolling through channels, I stop and watch ... always! I would love to have been a part of that world!
PW: Are there any other projects in the pipeline you can tell me about?
MS: I have always been fortunate to supplement my income acting in commercials. I have a national commercial for Geico coming up where I co-star with a cuckoo clock.
I also had a great time playing a ‘Screaming Banshee’ on Teen Wolf for MTV. I don’t know when that is going to air, but I enjoyed all the special effects and stunts I got to do. I screamed in a young girl’s face, and she was thrown across the room into a wall with my powers!
PW: Finally then, what advice would you give to those just starting out in the industry, and where would you like to see yourself a few years from now?
MS: My advice would be to simply begin the process. Put yourself out there. Give it your very best shot, and, then, if nothing goes your way, you can rest easy knowing that you left nothing in reserve.
In terms of the future, I would absolutely love to be a series regular on a show like Transparent, Orange Is The New Black or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. All three of them are shows that can and do push the boundaries with characters and storylines that are harder to do on network TV.
Secrets And Lies airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on ABC. You can keep up to date with McNally Sagal via her Twitter.