The Natural Aristocrat spoke with Ray Donovan’s Sandy Martin about her extraordinary performance as the multilayered, true to life Sandy Patrick.
There’s a family member in all of ours hidden somewhere in the soul of Sandy Patrick on the sixth season of Showtime’s Ray Donovan. Actress Sandy Martin’s portrayal was so effectively comforting that Mickey and Bunchy weren’t the only ones who let their guard down, it was us. Close your eyes and you can still visualize the iconic sizzle of a lit cigarette as Sandy rides off a heist as a presumed millionaire. Ice Cube’s “Drink The Kool-Aid” roaring in the background with the thumping heavy bass of the car’s audio system. A Donovan in every sense of the word.
Martin told The Natural Aristocrat about the grand experience of working on the series this past season. The juxtaposition of a character longing to escape her loneliness while robbing herself of the opportunity by taking the money bag. Only to realize it wasn’t impressing others that she was after… It was having a family to call her own again. Having a purpose instead of just a home.
Interview with Sandy Martin on Ray Donovan’s Sandy Patrick:
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Was it decided early on that you’d have the same first name on Ray Donovan? How did that happen?
Sandy Martin: All I know is by the time I was shooting my third episode, one of the producers said to me, “We wrote this role for you because you auditioned for us once before. You were so funny and great, we never forgot you!” I think because of that, they used my first name Sandy.
How often did you get to ad-lib on the show? I’ve seen a lot of fans, myself included, love the “Cop Kebab” bit!
(laughs) They have a little bit of wiggle room but mainly the reason I was attracted to the show is because the writing is so, so fantastic! And it’s up my alley. I mean, of course, I ad-libbed here and there. Like when I’m telling him all the jokes in the living room and they all rush out the front door, and I go “Wahh, fun buster!” That was definitely something I buttoned down the scene with. But you know the writing is fantastic, I love the writing on the show. I trust it!
Speaking of Ray Donovan’s writing, how do you feel the show depicts Sandy Patrick’s story arch relative to the Donovans? It seems like Sandy is riding in euphoria after she takes the money, only to discover there’s no one to show it off to. That all her old friends have passed.
I just think they need a hideout and remember that their long lost brother Cormac had a widow and she was a live wire and a lot of fun. But that’s not their first reason for looking her up! The first reason is that nobody would ever think to take the house of a widower from the Vietnam war which was so many years ago. They were smart to figure out to go to her house.
She mentions once or twice that she’s been a bit lonely and that’s why she’s playing horrible comedy nights at horrible bars. Making stupid jokes that she thinks are funny. She needs to meet some more friends because she’s lost quite a few of friends, as we find out later. The tricky part about Sandy Patrick is why would she run off with all their money when she finally has some family in her life? But I guess money talks, bullshit walks! (laughs)
Would you like there to be flashbacks showing Sandy and Cormac’s relationship next season?
Well yeah, but I don’t know what plastic surgery we’re going to need to have to make us believable! (laughs) Sandy Patrick is dedicated to every kooky aunt you’ve ever had that danced in a party bombed out of her mind, with a lampshade on her head. I just think that they stumble into coming to her house and then realize that, “Hey, we can relax around here!” I’m like a scammer myself. You know? I get in this nun’s outfit and he says, “Well, what are you doing?” And I said, “Haven’t you ever heard of a clerical discount?”
I’ll go out and pretend I’m a nun and beg on the street, I’ll do anything. So they hit gold when they arrived at my house… Because I’ll do anything to have all those hunky men around for me to put the make on! (laughs)
I thought whenever they said, “Go to Sandy’s,” on the show you knew something was going down. It always delievered too, like in the season 6 finale when you chopped that guy’s head off!
(laughs) I’d like to say that I come from these people because I have a lot of relatives that are detectives and cops in Brooklyn and stuff like that. But certainly me and my family are not running around chopping people’s heads off! I think it’s just that New Yorkie, Boston attitude, and I’m originally from Philadelphia.
I’ll never forget Esquire magazine once ran a survey on all these popular towns in the United States and Philadelphia came up as the vendetta state! (laughs) So, I’m used to that kind of rowdy East Coast toughee stuff. It’s a pleasure to be back in those shoes after living in L.A. for so long.
What was it like shooting that dance scene with Jon Voight? It felt organic and really had a classic Hollywood feel to it. As if Sandy and Mickey were right there dancing in your living room.
Yeah, Jon’s very creative in that sense! In the last few episodes when Bunchy’s in the room he dances with him a little as well. When Sandy was dancing with Mickey, I was playing that I was so bombed, that it was just making me sad that my husband wasn’t there.
Mickey tried to cheer me up and I’m just trying to function because I’m not used to plowing one whiskey after another. But when Sandy’s in this crowd, she’s just letting it flow. So I sort of played it like, “Okay, you want to dance? Well, I can barely stand up but I’ll have fun with you for a minute!”
I thought your character had a interesting relationship with Bunchy. One second you’re taking care of Bunch in a grandmotherly fashion then the next, you’re openly flirting with him. How did you feel about the scene where Bunchy tries out the priest uniform with Sandy in the room?
I’m really flirting with him, I say from the minute he walks up to my front porch that he’s “well endowed for an infant!” That was the clincher line for me! I had a couple of people swimming around me for jobs and when I read that line, I went, “Well, I’m in!”
Then, I showed him the back bedroom and he’s gonna have to sleep on the floor but I tell him, “I’m happy to share!” So I’m trying to get one of Bunchy and Mickey into my bed… But I don’t know as Sandy Patrick, the back story of Bunchy’s traumatic experience with his priest. She can’t play that because she doesn’t know that, you know? So she’s just like, “Oh come on, put that thing on! Don’t worry!” She’s a little bit lighthearted about it because she doesn’t know what the poor guy is going through.
I thought that was a really fun scene to do because I act like, “Come on, we’re going to take pictures! You’re just going to wear that.” I think he’s just uncomfortable wearing something different. I had no idea about his past history and that’s why I go, “Okay, come on you can put this on!”
I thought one of the most memorable scenes, if not the most memorable, this season was right after you stole the money. When you see Sandy smoking in the car and listening to Ice Cube rapping, delighted. It was just a really fun scene! When you were reading the script did you think she’d get away with it?
Oh, she thought she was going to get away with it! She just has a whim, she’s bombed, everyone’s passed out in her living room, then gets up and sees all that cash there and loses her mind! She stuffs the cash in her bag and takes her bottle of vodka and hits the road in her crappy car. I don’t think she thinks of the consequences too much at all. Her plan was to get together with her friends and wave some money around, take them for big dinners, and buy them things that they needed. She was gonna play God for two seconds.
In the back of my mind, in my back story… I think after I’ve spent some money, I’ll go back and return it, because I miss them. You know? The key to this character to me is how lonely she’s been and now she has a house full of fun. So when Bunchy catches me, chokes me, and is yelling “Where’s the money?! Get in the car!” Daryll is like wait a second, ‘This is a really old lady! Why are you tossing her around like that?’
And next thing you know we’re in the car and I’m telling this story about two guys, the snap monologue. One of my favorite pieces of material! Big Peter and Peter the painter, they were playing a game of snap and suddenly two 10s come up. Then Bunchy, even though he was so pissed at me and he’s lost so much because of me… He couldn’t help but think, “Christ what a funny old lady she is.” Dash Mihok had this kind of sneaky smile on his face after I finished that monologue.
My favorite Sandy joke this season was the cannibal clowns saying ‘You taste funny!’
(laughs) That was one of my favorites too! I love it! That’s one of my favorite jokes because it worked better than, “Did you know that pigeons die when they have sex? No. Well, the ones I have sex with do!” I think that’s one of the worst jokes I’ve come up with! But I’m trying it out because I want to do it a comedy night and Bunchy breaks my fun.
When you work on Ray Donovan, do they generally tell you your character arc ahead of time. Do you know if your character is going to make it into the next season or do you just go episode by episode?
They just tell you when you’re working and get over to Brooklyn because I live in L.A. now. You know I got very little direction. I mean, some people said a few little things to me but I just went with the rhythm I think is right for that character. Everybody was laughing so much that they didn’t want to mess with me as far as changing things up. But no you don’t really know what’s happening.
I jokingly said to show runner David Hollander, “Well… After chainsawing somebody’s head off I guess I’m not going to live very long!” (laughs) He goes, “Oh don’t worry, don’t worry! That’s not a problem at all.”
I thought your performance was incredible this season and you had great, seamless chemistry with the entire Donovan family. Especially with Mickey, all your scenes together felt so effortlessly natural on-screen.
Thank you! Jon Voight is a wonderful actor and he’s very thorough in his approach. One thing David Hollander told me is he couldn’t believe how easy it was for me to just sink into this family, and get all the different people. All their different jokes and rhythms. He was impressed by that. I said, “Well, these are my people. What are you talking about?!”
Do you feel your acting method has changed significantly since you started?
I’m very lucky that I can do drama and comedy believably. I go from ridiculously different roles. A couple of years ago I played this really sad sack, goofy, losing your mind, mother of Tennessee Williams in the last play he wrote called, A House Not Meant to Stand. It was in a renowned theatre here in L.A. called The Fountain Theatre and people just couldn’t believe that I went from Mac’s mom on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia where I’m this weirdo who doesn’t speak, just grunts to very believably this sad old woman who’s just lost her son but has a sense of humor.
But now, Sandy Patrick to me is so thrilled to have people back into her life because she never remarried. And these are her people. Now they’re in, thick as thieves. I mean, they’re in it so deep, they have to stick together. They’re not going to just pull away from her house and say, “See you! We’re going to stick you with three bodies in your backyard!” I’m really glad I can switch gears and play different kinds of roles, where it’s a certain caliber of a person. Where you can say, ‘They’re not that awful yet!’
I feel that’s what makes Ray Donovan’s characters so special because they all have their own flaws but they’re still extremely likable. Every single one of them really, even dangerous ones like Sam Winslow.
Yeah, that’s true about Sam Winslow. I’m sad to see her go actually, I was like, “What?! Woah…” I unfortunately had no scenes with her. I have my own little pack back in the house of sin! (laughs)
In-between seasons of Ray Donovan, you’re playing the role of Verna The Secretary in Disney’s upcoming reboot of Dumbo! How did you go about becoming part of the timeless franchise?
I used to hang out with Tim Burton back in the Beetlejuice days because a friend of mine, Glenn Shadix, was playing the Interior Decorator (Otho). The big guy with the crew cut hair. He unfortunately is not with us anymore but he had a lot of parties at Tim Burton’s and his own house, so I knew him. And the DP on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was also the DP on Dumbo.
They were saying, “Where are we gonna get somebody who sounds real New Yorkie or East Coastie or whatever to play Michael Keaton’s (V. A. Vandevere) henchwoman?” The one guy (Ben Davis) who was the DP said, “Well, we had this funny old lady on Three Billboards, her name is Sandy Martin,” and Danny DeVito was sitting there and goes, “She’s on my show!” Then Tim Burton says, “You mean Sandy Martin from the 80s? Yeah, she is New Yorkie… Okay, let’s fly her out!” (laughs)
So I was given that job and it was great to see Tim again. I don’t have a very large role, but Tim Burton works magic with little funny characters bobbing in and out of his fantasies. I was thrilled to be there! I play the head of the secretarial pool and I have a bunch of secretaries that I bark at. They run around and help me!
Check out Sandy Martin’s official website to watch some artful moments in her Drama, Comedy, and Combo acting reels! Be sure to catch Dumbo when it arrives in cinemas across the U.S. on March 29, 2019.