Theatre veteran Jackie Hoffman has finally earned her due in the mainstream. Last week, she earned her first Emmy nomination for her work in Feud: Bette and Joan as Joan Crawford’s stone-faced housekeeper, Mamacita.
As has been her trademark, Hoffman knows how to turn bit roles into award-worthy performances. She won a Theatre World Award for her Broadway debut as the gym teacher/prison guard/Mrs. Pingleton in the Tony Award-winning Best Musical Hairspray.
But that came after Hoffman had already proven herself a grand comic talent in her eight years at Chicago’s Second City, creating and performing seven different solo shows. The actor won an Obie Award for her multiple roles in David and Amy Sedaris’ play The Book of Liz, and also performed in such plays as The Sisters Rosensweig and One Woman Shoe.
But after Hairspray, Broadway kept calling. She played alongside Tony winner Mary Testa in Xanadu—the two proving a powerhouse comedy duo; so much so they were tapped to host Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ annual Gypsy of the Year, along with Bob Saget (who was then starring in The Drowsy Chaperone) in 2007.
Look Back at Kerry Butler and Cheyenne Jackson in Xanadu on Broadway
Hoffman returned to Broadway as Grandma in the 2010 stage adaptation of The Addams Family and in 2014 with the revival of On The Town. Currently, she stars as Mrs. Teavee, the midwestern mom of screen-junkie Mike Teavee, in Broadway’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
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The “lemonade”-swigging mother from Middle America is a far cry from Mamacita. “Mamacita is German, and everything’s done with a sense of purpose,” said Hoffman in an interview with Variety. “There is very little info out there about Mamacita, but she is mentioned in Joan Crawford’s book, My Way of Life. When I was in college, I bought My Way of Life and I read about Mamacita. So it was life coming full circle. But all I knew about her was what was in Joan’s book and what I could find on Google. She sounds like a remarkably strong woman. She had nine freaking children! And she took a lot of crap from Joan Crawford. And she was middle-aged during the Second World War. Her maiden name was Hoffman, spelled exactly as I do.”
Her connection to the character is reflected in her definitive choices in small moments—moments that could have passed by with someone else in the role. Hoffman is nominated against Feud castmate Judy Davis, who plays Hedda Hopper, and come Emmy night we’ll see just how far she can go with a small, yet memorable role.