Mr. Rogers Talks To The Original Wicked Witch Of The West, Margaret Hamilton, In Revealing Interview
With her pea-green skin, sinister cackle and pointy hat, the Wicked Witch of the West undoubtedly frightened a lot of young Wizard of Oz fans over the years. And who can blame the kids — she’s a spooky lady. But in a 1975 interview with Mr. Rogers, the original Wicked Witch actress opened up about how the character is, in her eyes, misunderstood.
If there’s anyone who can coax out a little sympathy for a misunderstood witch, it’s Mr. Fred Rogers. Always clad in a comfortable cardigan and known for his calm, soft-spoken demeanor on the children’s television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which aired for the first time in 1968, Mr. Rogers would go on tours, play with puppets, address grown-up topics like divorce and interview friends of the show during the half-hour episodes, according to The New York Times.
The 1975 episode that features the Wicked Witch opens with Mr. Rogers greeting the actress, Margaret Hamilton, with the Wicked Witch’s iconic hat in hand. Shortly thereafter, he immediately starts to interview Hamilton in the affable, warm manner that fans have learned to love — and the actress opens right up. She begins by talking about the origins of the role, which she says she wanted to play ever since she was a little girl on Halloween.
But then Hamilton addresses the Wicked Witch’s character, which she argues isn't simply evil. And like many of Mr. Rogers's episodes, the answers that follow are incredibly insightful, even for an adult audience.
“Sometimes the children feel she’s a very mean witch, and she does seem that way, but I always think two things about her. She does enjoy everything she does, whether it’s good or bad, she does enjoy it,” Hamilton told Rogers. “She also is what we sometimes refer to as ‘frustrated.’ She’s very unhappy because she never gets what she wants, Mr. Rogers. Most of us get something, but as far as we know that witch has never got what she wanted.”
Hamilton goes on to emphasize that viewers, especially young children that find her scary, should try to see the Wicked Witch from her point of view, that we have to understand her unfortunate situation.
In one particularly interesting anecdote regarding the role, Hamilton also spoke to the difficulties of playing the infamous witch. Although Hamilton admits that playing the witch was a lot of fun, she said that simple day-to-day problems would make for a tough day behind the scenes. Take the actress’s makeup, for example. Since she had to cover her body in green paint for the role, she wasn’t even able to eat properly during her lunch break for fear of messing up the makeup on her hands, Hamilton said in the interview. In fact, it got so bad that she had to get “a little girl” who would feed the actress to avoid messing up her makeup. What’s more, if she touched her black dress at all with her painted hands, that would ruin the costume, too.
Though she complains about the costume, Hamilton happily obliges when Mr. Rogers ends the segment by asking her to dress up as the Wicked Witch just one more time for his viewers — but no annoying green makeup this time. Once she’s all dressed up, she even does the Wicked Witch's menacing laugh that we’ve all come to associate with the film. But the next time we think of the Wicked Witch of the West, we should try remember: maybe she’s not evil, just misunderstood.
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