She was Marge, plain Marge, to her assistant, standing 5′ 10″ in caramel leather stilettos. She was Margaret on the marquee posters. She was Margey to her friends. She was Morgaret on the tenant list outside her apartment building, because the print had worn away a little and it made the first ‘a’ look like an ‘o’. She was Hilary on the dotted line, due to some complex money laundering stuff I was asked not to bring up. But in my interview she was Margarita, even though she repeatedly asked me to call her by her real name.
On our screens, Margarita is a creature of contradiction: sultry yet reserved, silent yet verbose, the girl next door and the pen pal on the other side of the country, a sex kitten and an abstinent iguana, Caucasian and African American (at least when she wore blackface to play Nina Simone). In person, Margaret was delicate yet dangerous, like a swastika embroidered on a doily by your racist grandmother, around whom you feel awkward but are too uncomfortable to call her out on it because you know she’s from a different time and thinks her behaviour is totally fine. Looking directly at her was a spiritual experience usually associated with taking a pilgrimage to Tibet, or seeing Jesus’ face miraculously burned into the back of a pop tart. She’s the kind of sexy that makes you want to open an online thesaurus and find synonyms for “sexy” ;a libidinous, titillating, voluptuous, sensuous kind of sexy. Her piercing green eyes seemed to scream “take me right here on this table”, even as her mouth said, “can we please get started on this interview? I’ve got twelve more to blow through this afternoon”.
I met with Margaret in a fried chicken joint next to an industrial plant. It’s a celebrity haunt, a place where white rappers and former Disney stars go to buy cocaine, which the servers will tape to the bottom of a variety bucket if you give them the secret handshake. On her way over to me, she stopped at various tables to tell people that she didn’t have any spare chance. Her clothes were simple. A T-Shirt promoting her latest film that she was contractually obligated to wear during photoshoots. She pointed at me with those delicate fingers and asked if I was a real journalist, because the venue didn’t look legit to her, and I told her that she could check my business card if she wasn’t convinced. “Show it to me”, she said, and I joked that I could print that quote vastly out of context in the article, which I don’t think she liked.
But what good would a beautiful face be if it wasn’t attached to an equally fuckable brain? After graduating from Juilliard in 2007, Margaret landed the lead role in the Nickelodeon sitcom My Dad’s a Sudanese War Criminal!, in which she starred as Sasha, an average teen struggling with the typical problems of fitting in, dealing with bullies, and getting her vlogging career off the ground – with the twist being that her dad just happens to be a former tyrannical militia leader hiding out from the International Criminal Court in a sleepy Michigan suburb. Despite being a cult hit, the show was cancelled prematurely by Nickelodeon standards – after 14 seasons and 6 direct-to-DVD movies. For Margaret, this was a blessing in disguise, as she was then free to set about shattering her wholesome child star image, starring in Michael Haneke’s Cannes sensation Complacent, Upper-Middle-Class Liberal Arts Professors Get a Kick Out of Seeing Poor People Suffering, And You Probably Will Too, Ya Asshole. Preparation for the role infamously required great dedication and physical transformation. “I had to lose three stone in a month”, she told me, “I followed a very rigorous diet plan which involved eating what I’d usually eat, except spitting it out instead of swallowing it. That way I’m pretty sure I got all the nutritional value without putting on any weight”.
Margaret was raised in Australia, which is a lot like America, but more like a barbaric post-apocalyptic wasteland in which large groups of citizens are enslaved by monstrous dictators – at least if the Mad Max movies are to be believed. Since arriving in Hollywood, Margaret’s face has been adorning billboards non-stop, looking down at us minuscule humans like a God – but hopefully without all the genocide stuff – as she’s appeared in a lengthy line of summertime blockbusters, most of which have drawn from the increasingly narrowing well of 80’s nostalgia objects yet to be remade – her credits include high-profile roles in the gritty reboot of Chip N Dale: Rescue Rangers and the all-female re-imagining of Mac and Me. Speaking of her well-publicised humanitarian work, she revealed “spending a summer in Sudan taught me just how deeply we’ve lost our connection to the land. It’s like, even though our drinking water is clean and refreshing, our souls are murky and polluted. Sometimes I wish I could just leave everything behind and move out there for good. Then I could spend every day singing and dancing and running around with my critter pals”.
Speaking about her new film, she told me this: “Working with such a famous, brand-name director was a great opportunity. I’ve been a huge fan of him for such a long time, so it was a little intimidating at first, but pretty soon everybody on set was like a family”. Then she said something about the male gaze and how it transforms female beauty into a fetishised commodity, but I wasn’t really listening because I was too busy staring at her breasts, and it was at that point that I became convinced that Margaret was coyly coming on to me. I realise that claim might sound presumptuous, arrogant even, but I hadn’t felt that way since that morning, when my waitress asked me if I’d like extra sugar on my waffle, which I could only assume was some kind of Los Angeles slang for casual sex… though admittedly I haven’t been in the city for long. Could it have been the case that her excessive smiling and arm-touching were, in fact, motivated by a genuine longing for me, rather than the heavy pressures placed on her by her publicist to make a good impression on me for the sake of the piece in this high profile entertainment magazine I landed a gig at somehow?
When I started listening to Margaret again, she seemed to have said something she was quite proud of, so I nodded and pretended to write something down. Despite there being eight minutes of our interview left, Margaret said she needed to leave, to make it to a dentist appointment she’d forgotten about. Of course, I wasn’t buying this excuse for a second, and could immediately tell the true reason for her exit. Surely, she was afraid of her own burning attraction to me and, knowing that our romance would inevitably fall due to vast differences in social circles, lifestyles, interests and economic standings, decided to cut contact then, to spare herself the heartache.