There are no shortage of great characters in Feud: Bette and Joan, but if you just pay attention to the title characters you could end up missing some amazing performances. The character Mamacita in Feud, played by Jackie Hoffman, at first glance seems to only be Joan Crawford's maid. However, Mamacita is far more than a tertiary character. "Mamacita serves as Joan’s surrogate husband, friend, partner ... [she's] a lot more than a cleaning woman," Hoffman tells Bustle in an interview. And, while Mamacita may have been a footnote in Hollywood history, Hoffman has been familiar with the woman who helped Crawford for decades prior to filming Feud and has been preparing for a long time to bring the maid to life — even if she didn't realize it.
Not much is known about Mamacita, but Hoffman learned of the quiet and calculating maid long before Feud. "There’s not much out there on [Mamacita]. What little exists is in written in the book that Joan Crawford wrote, My Way Of Life," Hoffman says. It just so happens that his book had been in Hoffman's personal library "By astonishing coincidence, in my early 20s, honing my gay icon status, I did purchase a copy of it. I’ve had it and treasured it and I remember reading about her."
Hoffman's knowledge of Mamacita provided a lot of insight to the details of Mamacita's relationship with Crawford, harking back to a phrase that the famed actress would often say. "I would keep saying the phrase to Ryan [Murphy], 'handsies kneesies' because that’s what Joan said to Mamacita’s daughter when she went on her hands and knees to scrub the floor: 'Handsies kneesies.'"
Hoffman's admiration for Mamacita goes beyond having read about her in her own youth, for learning of Mamacita's personal life makes her professional accomplishments seem that much greater. As Hoffman reports, "God love her, she had nine children. She survived that. She just seems heroic. I mean, to work for Joan Crawford for all those years? That cannot be easy." Judging from the 'handseis kneesies' story and how Crawford treats others over the course of the show, it looks to be anything but easy to be employed by Crawford.
"[Mamacita and Crawford] were either lovebuddies or all the sudden she may throw sh*t and be incredibly cruel," Hoffman says, "I can’t say if [Crawford] was a total horrifying c*nt but she certainly wasn’t an angel." In whatever way Crawford treated Mamacita, it was never as diabolical as what she and Bette Davis would put each other through. Despite their feud, Hoffman has great respect and admiration for both of the legendary actresses, pointing out that "even after all these years, they would still be considered great businesswomen."
While on the surface Feud is about the clash between Crawford and Davis, the series tells a deeper story about how Hollywood treats women as they age and how these two aging stars pushed back against expectations. "They had knew how use their power, knew how to use their femininity, and then when they were older and were no longer at a f*ckable stage, they used their brains and their skill and their value to their advantage."
Hoffman sees that despite this show taking place a half a century ago, the sexism and agism in the industry hasn't changed all that much. "Still to this day if a woman isn’t somewhere that a man in power would like to f*ck her, her chances are slim-to-none," Hoffman says. "I auditioned for MadTV when I was in my early 30s, and I was told I was too old to play funny characters." (Bustle reached out to Fox for comment on Hoffman's claims, but has not yet received a response. MadTV ended its run on Fox in 2009.)
Hoffman also makes the point that looks and youth are still revered in the industry. The same emphasis on appearance that kept many Hollywood producers away from What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? still limits opportunities for women in Hollywood today. "In this business, I was bred to be 'the ugly one,'" Hoffman says "I think looks are so important. Much more important than they should be."
These issues plague Hollywood and entertainment today as they did in the 1960s, but Mamacita manages to take a stand with a storyline that is incredibly relevant to the world today. "In Episode 4, Mamacita gets some real action ... she’s a real feminist," Hoffman teases. "Episode 4 is all about women in Hollywood trying to sell screenplays and not being taken seriously and [Mamacita] has a great speech about what’s going to happen to women."
Mamacita's words sound as though they'll be brutally familiar for any aspiring woman in a creative field who has been put down or shut out in their career simply because of their gender. Hoffman's portrayal of Mamacita has been decades in the making, and it provides a fantastic perspective into the world of Hollywood as it's portrayed on Feud. Hoffman's kinship for Mamacita comes through in the character, even if the two aren't very alike. "I’m a slob, so it’s ironic," Hoffman jokes, "Whenever I pack a bag [I would ask myself] 'What would Mamacita do?'" Apparently, the answer is: Be a feminist badass.