Zosia Mamet Doesn’t Need Your Main Character Energy

The 'Flight Attendant' star has found success as an actor and passion as a writer, but the role she was born to play may just be the one of best friend.

zosia mamet sitting on a dock
(Image credit: Tommy Agriodimas)

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, Zosia Mamet’s tattoo collection is an extensive and intimately illustrated diary of her 34 years. “I call them my little charms,” she says, pulling up the sleeve of her navy sweater and taking inventory of the drawings on her arms, “and they're everywhere.” 

There’s the stick-and-poke dice she got in Charleston, South Carolina, during a cross-country RV trip with her husband: “I like that sentiment of sometimes you just got to fucking roll the dice.” There’s the delicate lightning bolt she got on a whim: “I was like, that would be cute.” And the paper airplane she got with the Flight Attendant costume department to commemorate season 1 wrapping. 

There are the ones she still wants to get: a song lyric from Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Going Back Again;” something dedicated to her dog, Moose. She keeps an ever-growing list on her phone to reference in case the opportunity suddenly arises. 

Then there’s her newest tattoo, the word “Boop” on the inside of her upper right arm, inked in Los Angeles 48 hours prior to our interview. She and her Flight Attendant co-star Kaley Cuoco got it to memorialize their meet-cute and make tangible the friendship they formed while filming season 2 of the HBO drama, which premiered last month.

“We've wanted to get ‘Boop’ tattooed for forever,” Mamet says. “I'm saved as Boop in her phone. She calls me her little Boop. It's all very cute and disgusting at the same time. I think everyone around us is like, ‘We get it. You love each other.’”

Getting the Boop tattoo that day was Cuoco’s idea. She dragged Mamet to her cousin’s best friend’s parlor under the pretense of errands and dinner on their last night together in California before Mamet headed back to her home in Hudson Valley, New York, where she’s Zooming me from now. They’re always doing this—leaving little surprises for each other in their rooms and things like that—so Mamet went along with it.

When Cuoco tells me the tattoo story over the phone a week later, I get a nearly identical recount. Not in the we-rehearsed-this-anecdote-for-our-press-tour way but in how they both get giggly and slightly weepy at the same parts of the story. The way two people who spend a lot of time around each other eventually pick up each other’s mannerisms and idiosyncrasies. 

“To [make] a new [friend] in your mid-30s,” Cuoco says, “who becomes one of your closest people in your life, I do think, is really rare. And so to find [Mamet] kind of later in life, and to learn so much from her, and to know that I have this lifelong friendship with her is... I'm just so grateful for her, and now I love that she's on my body for life.” 

Zosia Mamet black and white image

“Zosia is just like Annie, complete ride or die,” Cuoco says of her castmate. “She would fly across the country to give me a hug if I needed it...And I am also just a little crazy like Cassie, and Zosia has a way of grounding me.”

(Image credit: Tommy Agriodimas)

While The Flight Attendant is a show about Cuoco’s character, Cassandra "Cassie" Bowden—her alcohol addiction, her dysfunctional family, her sidegig as a spy—it is the relationship between that character and Zosia’s Annie that grounds the narrative, which often spins into surrealism, in real human connection. Their friendship is messy and subtle; consuming and empathic. And, above all, authentic.  

Talking to Mamet and Cuoco, it’s clear their off-screen camaraderie is what makes them click on-screen. In fact, Annie’s arc this season—moving cross-country to live in Cassie’s house—mirrors Mamet and Cuoco’s lives over the past year. While filming season 2, Mamet, like her character, moved in with Cuoco when she needed someone to lean on. 

“Once we are friends,” Mamet says, “I'll help you bury a body and no questions asked, zero judgment. I think that that's what ‘best friendship’ is. That word is thrown around a lot, but I take it really seriously. The people in my life that I love like that are my chosen family…When shit gets real with your friends, and they're in a dire state, whether it be circumstantially or emotionally, to me, if they call on you, it's the bat signal."

Let’s go back to the beginning; where “boop” was born. It was September 2019 and Mamet was devastated. She’d just lost out on a leading role in a “huge show” that has since been canceled. “I was so depressed… I was like, My life's over. That's it.” The next day, she was sent the pilot for The Flight Attendant

John Papsidera, the HBO series’s casting director, floated Mamet’s name past Cuoco, who serves as the show’s star and an executive producer. She had never met Mamet and was only somewhat familiar with her acting credits: Girls, Mad Men, Parenthood. The day of auditions, Mamet was one of 12 actresses reading for the role of Annie Mouradian, a savvy and straight-talking New York City lawyer. 

The actresses were told they could improv in the read. So as a greeting, Cuoco’s Cassie—a flighty and impulsive airline attendant and part-time CIA informant—booped Mamet’s Annie on the nose. Just a friendly little poke. Mamet didn’t miss a beat. Annie—tightly wound and matter of fact—smacked Cassie’s hand away in annoyance.

“We were just very touchy, very comfortable, and the scene kind of took on a life of its own,” Cuoco, 36, remembers. “The character was born right in front of me when Zosia walked into that room, and that's when our friendship started as well. It was an immediate girlfriend…[In auditions] we saw so many different women, so many different girls from different walks of life, different looks, and I was waiting for that moment in my heart where I met my best friend. And I knew it had to be that way. We could not fake this relationship… There was something about Zosia and the two of [us]... It was magic.”

Season 1 of the show, which aired in November 2020, was a critical and mass success—in March 2021 WarnerMedia reported the dark comedy was the most-watched series on the streamer. Audiences delighted in the show’s addictive pulp fiction-meets-Agatha-Christie tone, propelled forward by Cuoco’s and Mamet’s sharp performances. While the show was originally billed as a limited series (adapted from Chris Bohjalian’s novel by the same name) HBO ordered a second season the day after the season 1 finale aired. Then, a series of unfortunate events took Mamet and Cuoco from co-stars with great chemistry to real-life soulmates. 

zosia mamet hugs kaley cuoco in a scene from 'Flight Attendant'

Annie (Mamet) consoles Cassie (Cuoco) as she grapples with her sobriety in season 2, episode 6 of 'Flight Attendant.'

(Image credit: Jennifer Rose Clasen/HBO Max)

While on hiatus between seasons 1 and 2, Mamet’s beloved horse, Ten, got injured. She called Cuoco hysterical. Cuoco insisted Mamet bring her horse to Cuoco’s farm in Southern California. “There's a very deep, unspoken connection in the horse girl world,” Mamet says earnestly. Then, as production on season 2 was ramping up, Cuoco filed for divorce from her husband of three years, Karl Cook. She turned to Mamet for support, asking her to move in with her into her L.A. house. “I said, ‘I need you. I have never said that about anyone, but I need you with me,’” Cuoco shares.

The West Coast space Mamet was temporarily staying in had just become unavailable and her husband had to return to New York for work, taking their dog with him. Mamet was alone; Cuoco was lonely—it was another act of friendship kismet. During those months as roommates, Cuoco was nearly debilitated by the pain of her breakup, and Mamet was her willing support system and ally. She made sure Cuoco was dressed, fed, that she got to set. 

“I've never seen anyone soldier through the way that [Cuoco] does, but I think it's really important to also have people around you during those periods that see that and encourage you to fall apart a little, if that makes sense,” Mamet says. “There were mornings where she genuinely was like, ‘I can't do it.’ And I was like, ‘Not only can you do it, you're going to do it. You're going to ace it. You're going to go to work, and you're going to be the boss that you are, and you're going to be incredible in this scene.’”

When Cuoco looks back at the last year, and how their friendship grew as she leaned on Mamet, she says, “It's the most real on-screen, off-screen relationship I've ever been a part of …  and the cool thing is you really see it on screen.”  

Within Mamet’s inner circle, she’s affectionately referred to as a “Christmas elf” thanks to her obsession with gift giving. It’s her unequivocal love language. In recent years, she’s showered Cuoco with playful, child-like presents from kitschy sweatshirts purchased abroad to stickers to “a magical unicorn-[themed] birthday party.” I ask if the ideas were extensions of presents she gave as a child; if she were the type to be a repeat Claire’s shopper, picking out enamel “Best Friends Forever” heart necklaces.

She says no, she had no real close friends as a child, a result of being viciously bullied up to the point that she had to be homeschooled for a year in the seventh grade. She still has trouble understanding why she was so ostracized by her peers and remembers how hard school was for her, despite being a good student, because of the social aspect. 

“It always felt like I was waiting for my life to start,” she says of being a kid. She searched for friends wherever she could, even chatting up her parents’ dinner party guests to feel a sense of connection. 

Zosia Mamet stands near a lake

As a voracious reader, Mamet can't choose a favorite book, but she says Hemingway's An Island in the Stream resonated deeply with her. "It's a heartbreaking book...but for whatever reason [it] gave me great comfort."

(Image credit: Tommy Agriodimas)

Mamet grew up between Santa Monica, California, and Cape Ann, Massachusetts, with her father, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet, and her mother, Oscar-nominated actress Lindsay Ann Crouse. Some of her earliest memories were sitting with her mom’s lap in the makeup trailer on-set. She was always sure she’d pursue acting, too. 

After high school, she launched herself headfirst into her career, forgoing college and the relationships they can foster, and wound up in another kind of lonely existence: the one of an actor chasing auditions and scripts and not having a built-in community to lean on. It wasn’t until her mid-20s and early 30s when she began to develop a small group of close friends—each with “their own little apartment in my heart”—that she got to fully come into her power as a friend; as someone who gives herself, and her carefully curated trinkets, with their whole being. 

“I love to take care of people,” she says. “I love to love people. I love to make them laugh. I love to hug them when they're crying. I think because I had a lot of years of being alone and not being able to give that part of myself, once that opportunity presented itself, I opened up the floodgates and I was like, ‘Here you guys go.’”

That quality has spilled over into her career. Her most notable roles thus far could be billed as “the best friend”: in Girls, as Shoshanna Shapiro, the least toxic of Hannah Horvath’s besties, and now as Annie, the steadfast pillar for Cassie to spin around.

She plays the friend so well that she says she’s most often recognized on the street, not as an actress or even as her characters, but as a long-lost pal from camp or a sorority sister they lost track of. “They recognize me and think that we know each other on a personal level, and I think that's maybe part of it because I kind of fall into these characters.”

In Season 2 of Flight Attendant, Mamet delivers more nuances on the best friend role. Annie is still the rock for Cuoco’s Cassie, who has relapsed into her alcoholism. But we also get to see more of what’s happening when Annie isn’t by Cassie’s side. Annie is in the middle of her own downward spiral. She’s having a quarter-life crisis, re-examining her career and trying to accept commitment in the form of her doting (and equally espionage obsessed) kind-of-fiancé, Max (Deniz Akdeniz). “Season 2 is, in a weird way, a kind of a coming of age story for Annie.”

“She had this very clear, strong path for her life that she chose to blow up. And now she's lost her mojo and she doesn't trust herself…It was so fun reading the scripts and then getting to play this arc of someone who had been so together for so much of their lives, or playing at being so together for so much of their lives, [and be able to] peel back all of the layers. Essentially [playing someone] being turned inside out, having to find themselves again.”

Because I had a lot of years of being alone and not being able to give that part of myself, once that opportunity presented itself, I opened up the floodgates and I was like, ‘Here you guys go.’

While Annie and Mamet’s friendship styles are impossible to detach from each other, this seems to be where the character ends and the actress begins. Mamet seems too resolute and focused to ever have had a quarter-life crisis. She’s all for commitment—she wed actor Evan Jonigkeit in 2016—and has never second guessed her career path.

But it was through her career choices, and living the life of an artist, where she was able to find a common thread with Annie. “There is no level of stability as an actor…I think it was the feeling of fear of not knowing what the future was that felt relatable to me, and I think relatable to so many people.”

Speaking of the future, there’s no official greenlight yet for a third season of Flight Attendant. When asked about the show continuing on, Cuoco says she’s “getting rejuvenated again for a possible season three” but nothing is set in stone. Mamet would love to do another season, and while she says she could never guess what kind of twists and turns the writers have up their sleeves, she and Akdeniz often joke that Annie and Max should eventually open their own PI company, named “Shades of Gray.”

Since wrapping on season 2, Mamet has moved back to her New York home, but it’s clear the distance doesn’t matter for her and Cuoco’s friendship. After all, they’re bound by ink. 

Today, Mamet is getting ready for the fall 2022 launch of her first book, My First Popsicle, which examines the relationships between food and feelings. It’s part cookbook, part compilation of essays from a smattering of bold-faced names including another Flight Attendant costar, Rosie Perez, along with Patti Smith, David Sedaris, and Patti LuPone. Mamet wrote the foreword as well as one essay and edited it—an experience she describes as “wrangling 50 cats.”

Zosia Mamet looks into the camera

Mamet describes Annie's arc this season as a "coming of age" story. 

(Image credit: Tommy Agriodimas)

She’s also been working on a collection of personal essays to be published in fall 2023. She’s still figuring out the details but promises that her brand of accessibility and sincerity will be reflected on the page. “If it makes someone feel seen or less alone or I can help them in some way or make them laugh, I don't need to hide anything.”  

Though Mamet has most recently been focused on acting and producing, this turn as an author has direct roots to her childhood, too. Back when her father would surprise her by leaving Ernest Hemingway books on her bed. 

“Those books were my friends. Whether I was feeling sad, I would open up a book and I would just fall into that world, or I would watch an old movie, and the same thing would happen,” she says. “And they would, for however long that lasted…take me out of my reality and put me into another one where I felt less lonely.” 

Despite her lifelong love of literature, she surprisingly has no tattoos dedicated to books. She admits it’s one she still agonizes over. She’s toiled over a few ideas but nothing has felt like the perfect ‘boop’-like tribute. “Because it's so grand, I don't know who I would go with or what I would get.”

She rattles off a list of influential authors in her life—Austen; Bukowski; Wharton—who may inspire a quote or concept that could end up inked on her body. But she just hasn’t been able to choose. 

“I wouldn't want any author to feel left out.” 

Photographer: Tommy Agriodimas | Stylist: Thomas Carter Phillips | Hair: Anthony Campbell | Makeup: Lisa Aharon

Entertainment Director

Neha Prakash is Marie Claire's Entertainment Director, where she edits, writes, and ideates culture and current event features with a focus on elevating diverse voices and stories in film and television. She steers and books the brand's print and digital covers as well as oversees the talent and production on MC's video franchises like "How Well Do You Know Your Co-Star?" and flagship events, including the Power Play summit. Since joining the team in early 2020, she's produced entertainment packages about buzzy television shows and films, helped oversee culture SEO content, commissioned op-eds from notable writers, and penned widely-shared celebrity profiles and interviews. She also assists with social coverage around major red carpet events, having conducted celebrity interviews at the Met Gala, Oscars, and Golden Globes. Prior to Marie Claire, she held editor roles at Brides, Glamour, Mashable, and Condé Nast, where she launched the Social News Desk. Her pop culture, breaking news, and fashion coverage has appeared on Vanity Fair, GQ, Allure, Teen Vogue, and Architectural Digest. She earned a masters degree from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2012 and a Bachelor of Arts degree from The Pennsylvania State University in 2010. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and dog, Ghost; she loves matcha lattes, Bollywood movies, and has many hot takes about TV reboots. Follow her on Instagram @nehapk.