As the star of CMT’s “Sun Records,” Margaret Anne Florence has charmed us all. While the music of that era continues to inspire and elicit toe-tapping happiness, it’s the Charleston, South Carolina native’s irrefutable on-screen charisma that has entertained us well beyond the shaking of Elvis Presley’s hound dog hips.
We recently sat down with Florence to discuss the series, the bittersweet arrival of the season finale, and getting the songs of “Little Shop of Horrors” stuck in our heads.
TrunkSpace: In reading your various tweets about “Sun Records,” it seems like you are genuinely in love with being a part of the show. Is that a fair assessment?
Florence: Oh yeah! I love it! It has really been a dream job and I couldn’t be working with a better group of people. I’m just really proud of the show and excited for people to see it every week. I wasn’t big into Twitter until, really, the show started. It’s really fun to interact with people while they’re watching and kind of give some behind-the-scenes tidbits. It’s been cool. We’re so lucky to have had such a great response, so that’s been really nice.
TrunkSpace: It does seem like the show has found a fanbase that has embraced the classic TV model and tunes in every week, as opposed to waiting for it to stream.
Florence: Yes. Exactly. I kind of still think it’s fun to watch TV live and not binge. I mean, binging is good too, but I feel like there’s something fun about waiting until the next week to see what happens.
TrunkSpace: The season finale is set to debut this Thursday night. Is it bittersweet knowing that with a renewal yet to be announced, that the season finale could also be the series finale?
Florence: Yes! It’s very depressing! (Laughter) This journey… something is happening every week, so it feels like it’s a really sad thing to end, but hopefully we’ll get the chance to keep going. It’s been so much fun and I’m excited… I mean, I think the last episode’s great, so I’m excited for people to see that. But it is sad. I thought about it this morning. I was like, “God, it kind of feels like somebody dying or something.” (Laughter) But, hopefully it will just be the beginning of even better things. Regardless of what happens, again, I’m just so proud to be a part of it and it was so much fun and such a great experience. It’s all good whatever happens after this.
TrunkSpace: Have you been given any indication when a decision will be made on a second season?
Florence: I think soon. I know CMT really loves the show and is proud of it, so I hope they’ll be able to give us another season, but, you just don’t know. Especially with so much television content out there with all of the streaming and everything, so it’s a lot. It’s a lot of competition and a lot of different shows in the marketplace. I know it’s not because they don’t love the show if it doesn’t move forward. I think it would be purely just a financial decision, so we’ll see. They’ve been super supportive of us and that’s all you can ask for, so… hopefully soon. We’re kind of all waiting. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: Does your character Marion still have a lot of story left to tell?
Florence: Yeah, she does. Marion was a really fascinating woman in her own right in history. We’re certainly taking liberties with the stories, obviously, but she had her own really successful career in radio and kind of what was sort of being bounced around was Sam Phillips and Marion also started the first all female radio station, WHER, so there was some talk about bringing that in in the second season to do that with my character. She really started that and it was run by women. Only women were on the air. I think that’s kind of a great thing to highlight if they decide to do that. So, there’s plenty more for Marion to do. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: We spoke to your costar Keir O’Donnell last week and asked him this question.
Florence: I love Keir.
TrunkSpace: Is there more pressure from an acting standpoint portraying somebody who actually walked this earth as opposed to a fictional character?
Florence: Yes. Definitely. And I know that’s what Keir said… I read his interview. (Laughter) But it is. Luckily I’m not Elvis. I’m not Johnny Cash. Those people are so well known and so identified publicly and everybody’s got their opinion on how that should be played. The great thing for me is Marion was a real person and there was some history available about her, but not a ton. I definitely was able to sort of take what I read about her and with what the writers created and make her my own person, which is nice. You do feel that responsibility because this was a real person that had life and a family and you definitely don’t want to do anything that would not highlight them in the best way for their contributions in what they did. I feel like we’ve done a really good job of that with Marion… and the writers have too, just from what I’ve gathered talking to some people who knew her while we were shooting in Memphis. She passed away in the late 80s. I just think that she was a really special woman and I hope that we’ve sort of highlighted those things about her.
TrunkSpace: So as you look back over your involvement in the show, from production to now, what for you has been the biggest highlight and the thing that you will carry with you throughout your life?
Florence: Oh my gosssssh! Wow.
Really, the cast and just everybody who works on the show. You don’t always have that, you know… on a movie or on a TV show or whatever. We just had all that time living together, basically, in Memphis, to make those friendships. It’s not like we were going home to our separate lives. We were all living and breathing together 24 hours a day, so you kind of become fast friends that way. And I think you also build a good show that way. I feel like that is really reflected in a lot of the episodes… the relationships we all have. So, certainly the people are the best part of the takeaway from everything because you can always have that going forward. But, just being part of a show that takes place in an era that I love and working on something that’s about Elvis Presley who I’ve always loved since I was a child and teenager… it’s just been kind of a crazy experience for me. This has sort of been one of my bigger jobs, so to have something that has such a personal meaning to me… I don’t know if I’ll ever find something like that again. It could be a once in a lifetime. It was just so special to be a part of it.
TrunkSpace: The show takes place during such an iconic time period and to a lot of viewers who didn’t live through that, it must seem like an almost fictional era. Everything looks so different right down to the wardrobe and the microphones used. So much visually has changed between then and now.
Florence: I love that about it. That is so fun to me, especially to play something different than yourself and to look different than you normally look every day… I feel like you can just, I don’t know, have more fun with it and do such a better job when you’re kind of outside of yourself. So that was so much fun, to play all of that and wear those clothes and the hair and makeup. It gives you that sort of Marion sass, I like to call it. (Laughter) That was such a great part of making a show like this, was to be in a different time period and play a whole different life. It’s really fun.
TrunkSpace: Has your career been impacted as result of your performance in “Sun Records?” Have you seen increased audition opportunities or been offered roles based on the exposure Marion has brought?
Florence: Yeah. I’ve been really lucky to have some really nice positive feedback from people that have seen it and certainly my agent and manager are showing people clips from the show if they haven’t seen it. Somebody made me an offer on a film. I think it’s definitely leading to auditions. I’m actually prepping for two auditions I have tomorrow. I certainly think that this is a definite positive effect on my career and I’ve certainly got a lot of great footage and scenes for people to see. It’s been really exciting. You’re really just only as good as your last job, they say. You’re still an actor at the end of the day and if this job ends, you’ve still got to find another job. That’s just the nature of the business. You just keep going forward. I’m very lucky to have this and hopefully it will lead me to some good things.
TrunkSpace: You’re based in New York City. If these other opportunities expanded further and you were asked to relocate to Los Angeles, would that be something you’d be open to or are you an East Coast person at heart?
Florence: Well, I’m originally from Charleston, South Carolina, so I do like to be East Coast just because we travel home quite a bit to be with family. That is not to say that if an opportunity came up that I’d be opposed to going to Los Angeles. I originally came to New York to do musical theater and I’ve kind of established myself here, especially in the business and with casting people and all that, so to go to LA without any real project happening would sort of be like starting fresh. I feel like I’m definitely a New York girl and I love the East Coast, but a job if it comes up, I’m certainly open to going anywhere really.
TrunkSpace: And it definitely seems that the industry has branched out well beyond the borders of Los Angeles with projects shooting all over.
Florence: Exactly. It’s funny, everybody in the cast (of “Sun Records”) is from LA but me. Everybody there was like, “I’m traveling for such and such.” I was like, “Does anyone actually shoot in Los Angeles?” (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: Tax breaks!
Florence: Exactly. Things are shooting all over. There’s even stuff that’s been happening periodically, on and off, in Charleston. I have shot a film down there before actually with Kevin Costner called “The New Daughter,” so, any time something pops up somewhere that I like to be, I’m happy to go. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: You’ve done a lot of musical theater and stage work, but we read that you actually once, many years ago, performed in “Little Shop of Horrors.” Tell us you got to sing “Suddenly Seymour?”
Florence: (Laughter) I did! I did that show in Charleston, actually. Yes, I did, I sang “Suddenly Seymour.” I had the whole blonde wig… talk about a character that’s not like yourself. Oh my gosh! (Laughter) That was a really crazy experience, but it was a lot of fun, so I was glad I got to do that.
TrunkSpace: It’s just one of those musicals where the songs infect your brain. Just watching the movie from the 80s, those songs stay with you for days.
Florence: Oh yes! When you’re in a show, you cannot get the songs out of your head. They just play continuously in your mind from the minute you wake up to the minute you go to sleep. (Laughter) So, hopefully it’s a show that you like because it sort of haunts you. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: Is there a particular type of role you’re hoping to play in your career… the kind of job that would be the ultimate dream gig?
Florence: Well, I have to say, if you were going to give me a dream gig, it was “Sun Records.” That combined, as I said, everything from my childhood… the music I loved, the time period I loved. It was really the perfect storm for me, getting this job. I think about that now as this last episode is about to air. As any actor has that feeling… “Will you get another job as good as being Marion Keisker?” You don’t always have the characters that you love like that and connect to and have that personal connection with. Sometimes you just have to hope that something else like that will come your way. Is there something else that I want to play? Oh sure, there’s a million things. I actually love doing comedy too, so I really might enjoy doing some kind of sitcom or something like that. I think that’s a lot of fun and I really enjoy that, so maybe change it up with a little comedy. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: Having such a perfect gig right now in “Sun Records” must almost be like a blessing and a curse because while it’s so great, you don’t want to peak too early!
Florence: No. (Laughter) You definitely don’t want to peak to early. I think it’s building in your career. I mean, I remember when I booked my first commercial. That was like the best thing that ever happened to me in the world. Obviously things have moved on from there. (Laughter) So hopefully as you progress in your career, the opportunities will continue to progress with you. Hopefully I’ll have plenty of other things that I’m just as excited and happy about.
The season finale of “Sun Records” premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. on CMT.