Merritt Wever’s Godless Character is the Western Hero Women Have Been Waiting For
The Emmy-winning actress on her new Netflix series, set in an 1880’s frontier town where women wear pistols, and all the men are dead.
Merritt Wever doesn’t know why she was cast as Mary Agnes in Netflix’s new Old West-set miniseries, Godless. “I was very surprised that the role came my way,” the Emmy winner candidly admits. “She’s so damn tough, and I don’t consider myself a tough person.”
Well Merritt, that’s acting. And I hate to break it to you, but you’re pretty gosh-darn good at it. (Can someone please hand this woman another award? The world needs another Merritt Wever acceptance speech.)
In the seven-episode series, which also stars Jeff Daniels and Michelle Dockery, Wever’s Mary Agnes is wearing the pants—literally. The show is set in La Belle, a town dominated by women after many of its men died in a mining accident. Mary Agnes, the former mayor’s wife and the sheriff’s sister, relishes in the rare opportunity to take up male space, and emerges as a leader amongst the strong community of ladies. She trades in her dress and corset for her dead husband’s cowhand chaps, and she reclaims her maiden name: “Albert’s dead; there’s no reason for me to keep carrying his name about like a bucket of water.”
Yup. That’s the kind of badass one liner you can expect from Mary Agnes. She’s definitely not a damsel in distress—but she’s not a perfect hero either. Wever brings a complexity to the character, showing that beneath the bravado is a woman with weakness; she’s tough as nails, but she’s uncomfortable in her own skin.
Introducing this vulnerability is how Wever says she approached her own self-consciousness with playing a gun-wielding, foul-mouthed matriarch. “I tried to solve [my own insecurity] by finding all of the ways that she wasn’t tough,” Wever explains, “or the ways that her toughness was defensive, or the ways that she was an emotional prickly porcupine. I tried to find all of the ways that she was vulnerable, because I think it was more interesting as an actor. But honestly, I personally wasn’t feeling very tough at the time, and I was scared that I wouldn’t succeed.”
Spoiler alert: she did succeed. Big time. Godless is a must-watch show, and Wever is a major reason why. Because after a (way too) long Jeff Daniels monologue, you’re rewarded with a scene where Mary Agnes pulls a pistol on a shopkeeper for threatening her niece. And frankly, it’s moments like those that kept me going through six long hours of desolate landscapes, blood splatter, and strong southern accents. Now, a Mary Anges spinoff series? That’s something I’d tune in for.
Godless is streaming now on Netflix.