01/10/2013 01:00 pm ET

They Call Her 'Mama'

There are those actresses -- no names mentioned, of course -- so eager to preserve their ingénue image that they bridle strenuously at the idea of playing a mother. Fine, so just give the part to Mare Winningham.

"I rather like growing old. I've been playing a mom for a while now," the girlish-looking Ms. Winningham, 53, forthrightly said, referring to her portrayal of a beleaguered matriarch—16 offspring—in the 2012 miniseries "Hatfields & McCoys," a guest stint as Ellen Pompeo's stepmother on "Grey's Anatomy," and her role last season as a wary mother of three emotionally stunted adults in the acclaimed off-Broadway play "Tribes." Between scenes and between takes, "I get called 'Mama' a lot by other performers and it's sweet," said Ms. Winningham, the real-life mama of a passel of her own. "I enjoy it."

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