In the final episode of the Netflix limited series. Maid, protagonist Alex (Emmy nominee Margaret Qualley) confronts her mother, Paula (Qualley’s real-life mother Andie MacDowell), who is homeless and suffering from a mental health crisis. In this scene, Alex follows her mother to Walmart, where she discovers that Paula lives in her car. Emmy-nominated creator Molly Smith Metzler breaks down the harsh and emotional scene between mother and daughter.
“Alex comes into this scene emotionally destroyed and torn,” says Metzler. “It’s really hard for her to tell the truth right now and admit how screwed they both are.” There was too much subtext in Alex for Qualley to pass on as well. “Margaret brought this feeling that this was [Alex’s] Future: This is something you inherit when you’re someone like Alex. Mental illness is inherited. Homelessness and cycles of abuse can be inherited. Much of this moment is her looking at her own future and saying, ‘No.’ ”
I was nervous about writing [this scene] because every time you’re confronted with someone you love who has a mental illness, you’re forcing a reality that’s very hard to see,” says Metzler. The showrunner says that many things led up to this scene, which requires Alex to acknowledge the difficult time Paula is going through and also acknowledge how it negatively affects her own life. “Alex wants this scene to happen, and it’s a real sign of what she’s about to do to change her life.”
Paula’s overly cheerful demeanor here hardly belies her mental illness. “There is something childish in Paula [and] the way he has chosen to deal with his life,” says Metzler. “She spins everything to make it more colorful and brighter than it is.”
Metzler, who is also a playwright, says a dialogue-heavy scene like this is her favorite type to write. “Cornering the characters is really fun,” she says. “It’s my favorite place to write, especially in a scene like this where we’re upping the stakes for Alex’s final challenge.”
Paula’s joy increases the tension of the scene, forcing Alex to finally confront her and get her to admit the truth. “Alex is saying, ‘No, you’re going to see this for what it is. You will say these words: I’m living in my car,’” Metzler says. “Reminds me of saying goodbye to her son in college, except Paula is the girl and Alex is the one who drops her off at the dorm.”
Metzler finished writing this episode while filming was underway, and he knew that both Qualley and MacDowell would pull off the scene. “There was something really special about working with a mother and a daughter,” he says, “but they are extraordinary actresses and they would do whatever it took. He was very brave, and I learned a lot about the craft of acting by watching the two of them. [Those of us who were] standing in a Walmart parking lot in the middle of the night, watching this… we all knew something very powerful was going on between these two actors.”
This story first appeared in a separate August issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.