Molly Parker was barely four when the United States turned 200, so the details might be a bit fuzzy.
“I have a few memories of 1976,” the Pitt Meadows–raised actor tells the Straight. “But I have an affinity for that era, I have to say. I’m still a huge Fleetwood Mac fan. I can’t help that, and I really love Christine McVie. I remember my mom was young and beautiful and a hippie and had long hair, and we knew crazy people that lived in wacky houses full of artists and freaks, and it was good, you know? It was a good time.”
Calling from the Vancouver set of Lost in Space—Parker takes June Lockhart’s old role in the Netflix makeover of the classic ’60s sci-fi series—she’s lost in an altogether different realm in Weirdos, a bittersweet slice of nostalgia from Canadian renegade and sometime collaborator Bruce McDonald, opening Friday (March 17).
Shot in gorgeous black and white, Weirdos follows teenage runaways Kit (Dylan Authors) and his (sort of) girlfriend Alice (Vancouver’s Julia Sarah Stone) as they hitch from Antigonish to Sydney, Nova Scotia, during the U.S. bicentennial weekend. At the end of the road is Kit’s estranged mom, Laura, a bohemian sylph who once partied with Andy Warhol, now buckling under the strain of mental illness. The role—and it’s a showstopper—was written for Parker by another old friend, Daniel MacIvor.
“I was able to find her fairly easily,” says Parker, who showed up to the set with her own wardrobe after a day of thrifting in Halifax. “What I’ve learned over the years with small indie films, it’s good to bring as much of your own stuff as you think you might want. But that’s also the work of an actor and it’s fun, and I wanted her to have a costume that was really romantic and also incredibly fragile and falling apart—and inappropriate. She’s nude under that thing, and it’s see-through, and to be kind of half dressed with your teenage son just seemed really right.”
With a chuckle, Parker adds: “I mean, it’s wrong, but in her mind it would make so much sense.”
To McDonald and MacIvor’s credit, Weirdos is sentimental without being mindless about the era it depicts. Kit is marginalized by his sexuality, Laura by her illness, while a minor (and pissed-off) Cambodian character subtly reminds us that refugees and wars of empire aren’t exactly a new thing. While we’re asked to ponder how little or how much has changed since then, Parker—who landed an Emmy nomination last year for her work on House of Cards—can at least point to the advances she’s seen in her profession, some 20 years after her breakthrough in 1996’s Kissed.
“There’s something really great about getting older, about being in my 40s and seeing these young women coming up who are so smart and talented,” she says about her 19-year-old costar, Stone. “When I started I had a couple opportunities that put me in the realm of the kind of work I was interested in, but that was just luck. I just happened to meet those people here. These young women have opportunities that were there for me, but just barely, and they weren’t there for many other people my age. So maybe there’s a map now, a little bit, you know?”