Marcia Gay Harden On New Beginnings And Her New Series Uncoupled - Exclusive Interview

Entering back into the dating scene after decades away certainly isn't easy. Now, the new Netflix series "Uncoupled" is diving deep into both the hilarity and the heartbreak of it all.

"Uncoupled" tells the story of a man named Michael (Neil Patrick Harris) whose boyfriend has broken up with him out of the blue. Up until that moment, everything in their 17-year relationship seemed to be going smoothly — so Michael is determined to find out exactly what went wrong.

Just when Michael thinks his life couldn't possibly get any worse, he's seated at a singles table with a woman named Claire (Marcia Gay Harden). It turns out that she's also in desperate need of some guidance herself. She was recently left by her husband, too, and is still hanging on tightly to her past.

Holding onto hope after heartbreak is something anybody is able to relate to, but this theme, in particular, is something that resonated with actress Marcia Gay Harden. In an exclusive interview with The List, the Academy Award-winning actress gave us a behind-the-scenes look at "Uncoupled," shared why she believes this story is so important to tell, and even revealed if we'll see her return to her Emmy-nominated role as Maggie in "The Morning Show."

Why she wanted to star in Uncoupled

What was it about the series "Uncoupled" that initially made you want to be a part of it?

There's real big factors. It came down from the side land with a strong plop. One is: [creators] Darren Star and Jeffrey Richman. You know when they're behind any show, you want to take a first look, second look, third look at it, because it's going to be fun.

Then it was shooting in New York City, which was fabulous for me. Then it had Neil Patrick Harris and Tisha Campbell and all these other glorious New York actors. All of those things, before you even read the script, invite you into a place that you want to be.

Then, you read the script, and you're like, "Okay. Who do I have to kill? Because I will. Who do I need to shove off one of the expensive real estate buildings that we're representing here? Because I will do that to be in this." [My character, Claire] was so incredibly fun.

Women my age — maybe any age, but certainly my age — are always looking for roles that are fun, smart, sassy, well-spoken, fleshed out, [and] taking risks. We're always looking for that, and it is rare. It's few and far between that we find them.

Her character, Claire, is relatable for a lot of women

Did the role of Claire feel different from any other role that you had played before?

It felt richer. It felt more fleshed out. It felt recognizable, and it was funny in a way that reminded me ... of some of the ways that — I don't know if you saw the play "God of Carnage" on Broadway, but it was a way that would use a woman's anger as funny. They weren't afraid of it, so I could express myself, knowing what it needed to be. It's like a bull snorting through her horns, and it was funny. It was so skillfully written that that stood out as different to me.

The interior motives of Claire, and the world that she's about to inhabit, were something that is familiar to a lot of people — and I'm sad to say a lot of women — because I literally feel like divorce is a pandemic for women between their forties and sixties. It's like the age, and there's a whole anthropological theory behind that I won't get into.

What I will say is that the heartbreak for women at that age is profound, and they have suddenly lost everything they've spent their life building, and many of them gave up work and careers to raise the family and to be a partner, and they lose it. They're met with this moment of, "I need to protect myself." Hopefully, they're met with a moment of anger, because 9 times out of 10, he's leaving over someone 20 years younger.

Then they're met with ... Tisha Campbell [who plays Suzanne] beautifully says, "It's a devastating beauty." They're met with this opportunity to discover themselves. That's what Claire's storyline had: this beautiful, disguised gift that she'd been with this man for so long. She'd been in this philanthropic world for so long, this Upper East Side world for so long, that I'm sure she was one of those people who's like, "I don't cross below 57th Street if I [don't] have to." I know people who are like, "I'll never go above 14th Street." We all become part of our neighborhoods and our family and the world [in] which we're ingrained.

Suddenly [Claire], in this beautiful friendship with Tisha Campbell or Suzanne, has an opportunity to open her eyes and discover herself and make friends in a world that she never would've. It's fun.

A behind-the-scenes look at filming the Netflix series

Was there a specific scene you were most excited to work on?

Oh, every one. You don't know them until you're in them; you don't know the script. I don't know all the episodes I'm going to be in until I'm in them. Then you see it, and [you're] like, "Oh, my God. This is so great. Oh, my gosh. She gets to do this. Okay, she has a sledgehammer. Okay, I'm in." [Laughs] They're fun.

The guys, [creators] Jeffrey [Richman] and Darren [Star] — I feel presumptuous to say, but I feel like after they met me, they could write to me and tailor to things they thought I could do. But they also pushed me to try things that were new for me and could bring me to different levels, and that is a gift for an actor. It's a gift to know someone is writing to what they perceive your skills to be. It's such a gift.

It's like Neil [Patrick Harris]'s part. Neil's part is so finely crafted, and he delivers it so beautifully, and it looks easy. He makes it look easy, but he is delivering that split-second timing, that comic timing, that deflection. He throws a lot of stuff away. Brooks [Ashmanskas, who plays Stanley] does the same thing. Tisha [Campbell, who plays Suzanne] nails everything, and she has that rhythm. She's all about rhythm, rhythm, rhythm, and she also makes it look easy. It's a gift to be able to be involved in something like that.

That's so special. I'm glad that you brought up that sledgehammer scene, because how much fun was it to be able to break things in that scene?

It's fantastic. They built special trophies for me to break, and you get to figure out with the writers how not to give away the very first moment. I haven't seen it yet, so I'm not sure how it ended up being shot and how it looks, but in the shooting of it, at the end of it, was actually quite a poignant moment of connection between Michael and Claire, Neil [Patrick Harris] and myself.

I thought, "You see, that's what's beautiful." They've written something that starts off in such a large, dramatic, fantastically over-the-top tragic way, but it ends on this real note of connection between the two who thought they were so different, and they're really not all that different.

What's next for the actress

You always seem to always play such strong and powerful women on screen. What are you looking for when you search for a new role?

Right now, I've looked for comedy. I look for something that's recognizable to other women or to people. You could play the strongest, boldest, baddest-ass woman in the world, but if she's not recognizable, then it's maybe more of a cartoon character. Even the cartoon characters, the Marvel characters — they try to make them recognizable to people so that we relate to them, because that's really what it is.

You want people to see themselves in you, even as you bring them to another world or another neighborhood or another type. Claire is an Upper East Side art philanthropist, and she's very wealthy. Her experiences aren't what someone's from the Midwest are, but her heartbreak is, and her anger is. That's where we realize how we're the same — we are through emotions.

I also wanted to congratulate you on your recent Emmy nomination for "The Morning Show." Have fans seen the last of your character Maggie?

I hope not. I definitely hope not. I'm doing a show right now with CBS that may be somewhat demanding on my time, but I'm hoping if they want Maggie again that we can work something out with my show so that I could do it.

"Uncoupled" is available to stream Friday, July 29, exclusively on Netflix.

This interview has been edited for clarity.