Authors: Jules, Kenedi
We recently had the chance to sit down and speak with Emma Paetz, who portrays Martha Wayne on the HBO show Pennyworth, about that exciting season 3 ending and more. Check out what she had to say below!
This interview has been edited for clarity
Nerds & Beyond: In the season finale, Martha and Thomas are at a crossroads as her need to do what’s right clashes with his need for stability and normalcy after almost losing Samantha. And it’s hard because they’re both right in different ways and they’re also still dealing with the ramifications of all the secrets they’ve been keeping throughout the season. So how was it working with Ben Aldridge to get the right mix of loving frustration that they feel for each other in those moments?
Emma Paetz: Ben’s always great to work with. I think the two of us are, three years in, very comfortable with each other. So we have a lot of conversations around the more intimate scenes that we have. I think that the writing that is the best and that is present in a lot of Thomas and Martha’s scenes is writing that’s, “both characters are right.” There’s a conflict, but you can understand the perspective of both people because it’s how arguments usually are. That’s what the writers in the show are really great at. Ben and I in our respective roles, we just kind of understand these characters pretty well by now. We just really understand their perspective and you can just have a lot of fun three years in, it’s great.
Nerds & Beyond: Martha and Alfred team up to find Lucius on Level 7, and she really gets to show off her fighting and negotiating skills. How do you get into that confident, but not cocky headspace for the character? Were there any moments, either in this episode or in this season, that made you feel particularly badass yourself while playing them?
Emma Paetz: Martha is so often taking charge of a room storming in, and a lot of that is taken care of for me in the dialogue and the actions of what she’s doing, so I don’t have to worry about it too much. Alfred, and Jack as Alfred, has such a competence there that Martha can really rely on him to help her see things along, which is how I feel like with Jack the actor in the scene anyway. In terms of moments that I felt cool doing, I think the coolest I’ve ever felt in the show was [laughs] was in season two where it was in the middle of the Civil War and we were on the back lot and there was a big barricade and I had to run up to it and then fire this rifle. And that was pretty fun. And so there was, you know, whenever you’ve got a lot of action going on and you’re in the middle of it, it feels pretty much what you thought filming would be like when you were a kid [laughs].
Nerds & Beyond: The season ends on a major cliffhanger, with London being bombed in the midst of the Lullaby craziness just as the Waynes, Alfred, and the others escape. Going into a potential fourth season, do you see Martha feeling guilty about leaving when people needed help, especially since the attack was partially a result of their rescue of Lucius?
Emma Paetz: Yeah. I mean, Martha is nothing if not moral. I could definitely see that factoring in. As you said, she didn’t necessarily wanna go, but she made the sacrifice for the benefit of her family.
Nerds & Beyond: Pennyworth has always done a good job of walking the line between a comedy and a drama, with just enough lightness to balance out the dark. In addition, it really swings for the fences in terms of playing with comic book lore and adding kooky plotlines that somehow gel together. As an actor, what is it like for you reading those scripts and watching the madness come together? Was there a plotline in particular this season that stood out to you as a “wow, I can’t believe that happened” moment?
Emma Paetz: The scripts are always great to read. I never know where they’re going. I can never predict anything! Everything with Lullaby when people started going insane… I think that I didn’t realize how full on it would be until we were filming with extras running around. We were all on this bus filming and there were people running in front of the bus. That was pretty fun!
Nerds & Beyond: In these past three seasons, you’ve really managed to take a character that was mostly known in the popular consciousness as “Batman’s mother” and make her a dynamic, fascinating woman in her own right. Looking back over your time on the show (and hopefully, to a future season 4), what has excited you the most about bringing her to life? Is there an aspect to her character that you are the most proud of bringing to the surface?
Emma Paetz: I don’t know what I would say I’m the most proud of. The things that I’m proud of are actually things that I’m just proud of in the character. I feel like by season two she started to get a lot more comfortable in her place in the world. And as a result, I feel like there was more light and shade that Martha started find in herself. I guess that would mostly be in the writing because I wasn’t coming up with that stuff, I was just playing it. I do find it a really interesting storyline with her balancing her family and the expectations of being a wife and a mother and her passion for her career. I think that she’s been surprised by some of Thomas’ expectations that she would fall in line at some point when they had a kid, and that that hasn’t happened. So I think maybe going further with that would be pretty interesting.
Nerds & Beyond: The 70s setting is practically a character itself! How do the incredible sets and costumes help you get into Martha’s headspace? What has been the most fun aspect of playing in this time period?
Emma Paetz: I love my costumes, but I feel like there’s something about Martha and Thomas that is their own little world. They seem to be two characters that aren’t super affected by the trends of the time. Like even in season one, Martha’s never really felt particularly “of” whatever time it is. I think maybe part of that is by design, because her and Thomas are Americans in the middle of this British setting, so they are different. But in terms of the world, this season was so much brighter and more colorful. So to step onto the sets, that was pretty cool. It was just a way more visually vibrant set to be on. I know it looks different and it felt different to be on.
Nerds & Beyond: With twists seemingly designed to keep comics fans on their toes (like the Wayne baby being Samantha instead of Bruce as expected), the show has certainly inspired its fair share of fan theories. Do you have any favorites that you’ve seen, and have you ever had theories of your own while reading the scripts that proved correct in the end?
Emma Paetz: No, I’ve been really bad with my predictions! [laughs]. I was so sure with Dot’s [Dorothy Atkinson] character Mary Pennyworth, I was so sure that Roger, her love interest, was some sort of spy or something. And I was talking to her about it in the makeup trailer and I think I was basically telling her like it was a fact. I was like, “Well, yeah, because obviously,” and I was spelling it out. Which isn’t fair to Mrs. Pennyworth! Why wouldn’t he be interested in her, for her? And as it turns out he was! So I don’t have a good handle on that. I’m not very good at knowing what comes next.
Nerds & Beyond: Do you have a favorite memory from the season, whether it be filming a particular scene or moment behind the scenes with your castmates?
Emma Paetz: I think whenever we’re all together, which is very rare, that’s pretty fun. I think the second to last filming day was where we were all on the bus and then in the countryside. One, that’s pretty rare to all be together like that. And two, that it was so close to the end of filming, it felt really special. It was really fun being on this bus with everyone. It was just nice to be together.
Nerds & Beyond: And again, with fingers crossed for a season four, what do you hope to see for Martha’s character in the future?
Emma Paetz: I just hope she keeps sticking up for herself and what she believes in. And I always like to see Martha get sort of knocked off course a bit, to see her world sort of changed, and Bruno [Heller] has no problem doing that with her [laughs], so I’m sure there’ll be lots of that.
Nerds & Beyond: Something that we like to close out our interviews here at Nerds & Beyond with is asking our interviewees: what is something that you are nerdy about, whether it be inside the world of film or television or in general?
Emma Paetz: What am I nerdy about? My main nerdiness comes from how I just get really unabashedly into things. [laughs] I watched the new Top Gun movie twice this week and then I watched the old one and the new one in the same day. Right before this I was listening to the song “Danger Zone” song from it [laughs], which is pretty dweeby!
Nerds & Beyond: Well, your jacket’s on theme!
Emma Paetz: Yes! I think I was probably inspired [laughs].
A big thanks to Emma Paetz for speaking with us! Pennyworth season 3 is now completely available for streaming on HBO Max. For more of our Pennyworth coverage, check out our interviews with stars Jack Bannon and Ben Aldridge as well as executive producers Bruno Heller and John Stephens at New York Comic Con! As always, stay tuned for more updates.