The Margot B. Interview
Pittsburgh’s very own Margot Bingham has finally hit it big. After attending CAPA high school and Point Park, she decided to move to New York City. In 2011, she starred in the revival of Rent. But now, at the age of 25, she has scored her biggest role: Daughter Maitland on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. With her skills as a jazz singer and actress, Margot has secured a recurring role on the series. We got the chance to interview this rising star. Here’s what she has to say.
LindsayTay: What is your favorite place to perform in Pittsburgh?
Margot B: My favorite spot in Pittsburgh is Ava. Justin Strong built the Shadow Lounge and created a vibey music nest to call home from the ground up. I’ve never felt unwelcome there and you always feel like family when you walk in. Not to mention, the musicians that have residencies there will blow your mind.
LT: Every time you come home, what place do you have to eat at?
MB: It’s become a tradition to eat at Il Pizzaiolo. I’ve always been a sucker for pizza! But a nice glass of wine, easy listening tunes, good company and great food? That’s all I need.
LT: Where is your favorite place to listen to live music in Pittsburgh?
MB: I haven’t been back home to just hang for a while so I’m sure there’s plenty of new spots that have popped up on the music scene in the burgh…but my favorite is still Ava. When I want to listen to easy jazz, Ava. When I want to listen to spoken word, Ava. And of course soul, Ava.
LT: Are there any local artists who have influenced you?
MB: I would say every musician I’ve worked with out of Pittsburgh has influenced me to some extent. Let’s not forget, Pittsburgh is a steel town and I grew up on rock. So the Joe Grusheckys, BE Taylors, Rick Witkowskis really showed me the way in the music world. I remember sitting in the studio with Rick Witkowski; who’s been a part of so many Pittsburgh greats along side of BE Taylor and Crack the Sky. But I remember sitting in his recording studio and we would just create. He taught me everything from singing whatever spoke to me, better writing and production engineering. He has always been a huge mentor to me and I’m proud to call him family. And for my soul side? Well, you can thank Mr. Howie Alexander for that. 🙂 Don’t know who he is? Do your research, you’ll thank me later!
LT: There are a lot of well-known actors on the show, what is it like working with them? Who were you most star struck with? Have any given you advice or taken you under their wing?
MB: From the first day I got on set of Boardwalk, I was beyond nervous. Standing alongside of greats like Jeffrey Wright, Michael K Williams and Erik LaRay Harvey Wow. Shakin’ in my boots! Literally. But from day one, everyone was so kind and welcoming, they showed me nothing but love and most of all-respect. I never felt like the new girl. I was Boardwalk family right away. Most of my scenes on the show really just consisted of Jeffrey and Michael. I got the opportunity to work with Steve (Buscemi) and Jack Huston, both of whom were lovely and completely humble. But I was definitely most star struck by Jeffrey. I mean, I don’t need to list his resume but he’s a breathtaking actor. Every scene I had the opportunity to do with him, he elevated me just by allowing me to explore with him. He really let me in as his scene partner. I’m thankful every day to have had him there on my journey. Shea Whigham, who plays Nucky’s brother Eli, also took me under his wing. I never got the opportunity to do a scene with him but he would occasionally stay on set when we would film, and there was never a time when he lacked words of encouragement.
LT: How did you prepare yourself to play the character of Daughter Maitland? How did your character evolve from a guest role to a more prominent role on the show?
MB: When I first auditioned for the show, I was supposed to just be a singer with a possible two episodes, no biggie. I went into my audition, sang the jazz standard ‘St. Louis Blues,’ had a couple lines to say just so they could make sure I could read, and then walked out! Eight callbacks later, I knew this was the role of a lifetime, whether it was background jazz singing or whatever it was going to be. During the whole audition process, I just surrounded myself with 20’s music. I would put on Pandora and turn on the Bessie Smith channel, or the Ethel Waters channel. After I got the role, that channel didn’t change for close to a year. I was living in a different era from the end of March to October, found myself dressing a little differently, even some of the language began to seep into my everyday. But that time was so hypnotizing. I soaked it all in. I literally never wanted to leave set! Even when I had wrapped a 17 hour day, I just wanted to sleep there! I really fell in love with the set design, the characters, with Daughter. She was so sad, yet so strong and she was a survivor. To sell out a nightclub because people came to hear YOU sing and you still weren’t allowed to sit in the seats? I can only imagine some of the greats that had to deal with discrimination during that time. What a strong gal.