The NBC series Parks and Recreation has such a vivacious cast of characters. They are all so exquisitely memorable in their own way. Mara Marini fits perfectly in the false-Pawnee environment as the porn actress and politician, Brandi Maxxxx. She competed against show lead Leslie Knope, played by acclaimed Saturday night Live affiliate Amy Poehler, for a spot in political office.
But before she ever openly welcomed comedy on such a cult show, Mara Marini has starred in a string of sensational indie horror films, including the polarizing Gothic Vampires from Hell. Her recent embrace of comedy has her starring in an anticipated comedy film alongside comedian Ahmed Ahmed. She is also a mainstay in a series of popular digital shorts known as Inside Dating. Her talented skill sets makes her a notable presence in both comedy and horror features. He range makes her a personality to watch out for in the coming years.
I sat down with Mara Marini to discuss some of her most memorable roles in television and film. We also got around to talking about the value of online distribution, and never selling yourself short.
Parks and Recreation is one of the most steadily entertaining, humorous, and heart-warming shows on television. What is it like being part of a cast and crew that are so talented in just about every area of production?
“The most amazing experience ever. Words can’t really describe how wonderful it is being on that set and working with all of those wonderful people. The cast is so insanely talented – it just pushes you to do your very best too. Everyone is so encouraging and generous that it makes for such a ripe stage to play on. Everyone is so happy to be there and it permeates into everything that they do. The writers are phenomenal, the directors (I was lucky enough to be directed by Amy Poehler in one episode too!) are brilliant, the wardrobe dept is fabulous and the hair and makeup department are so talented and fun…it’s like everybody’s favourite day, every day, over there. It’s magical.”
Your role in the show as Brandi Maxxxx is so ironic but charming. What is it about the writing and what you put into the character that makes her so memorable?
“I think that Brandi works hard and although not everyone may approve of what she does, she is earnest and a go-getter and has a heart of gold. She genuinely adores and looks up to Leslie Knope and she aspires to be like her. The writing is gold, so becoming Brandi felt very natural. It would be easy to make her character just a ditz or just a “promiscuous lady” and very one-dimensional…but there are so many more levels to her, that people – women and men – warm up to her character and end up liking her.”
Many young actresses, like yourself, break into acting through horror films. Is there something inherently attractive about the horror genre, or is it more it being an easier genre to break into?
“Well, I did love horror films growing up and I do have a really great scream…but the honest answer is that the sheer number of horror films that are pumped out every week in Hollywood is massive…and when trying to submit for projects with no representation (which was what I was doing when I first moved to Los Angeles) – horror films are aplenty. So, I think one just sort of falls into it. It was a great “boot camp” of sorts – I’d had a lot of training, but not a ton “on set”, so it really made me learn some technical things fast, which I appreciate. But, I’d love to not have to spit up fake blood again for a long while…”
Do you see yourself embracing Hollywood big budget pictures?
“I love everything about making movies and television shows. There is something so magical and fun and exciting about all of it. I really enjoy making people laugh, so I tend to gravitate towards comedy, and would love to continue going down that path. I do see myself embracing big budget pictures, but I also adore theatre, indie films and tv, so I don’t see those going away either.”
Your new digital comedy series, Inside Dating, is fantastic, but also kind of bizarre. No offense, I love it! What was your experience like doing that?
“Thank you for watching! It was a lot of fun! I had been online dating for a while and the messages I would get and the profiles men would post were jaw-dropping! I thought I could help in a cheeky way by showing guys what “not to do” and make a funny little series. I used to post the three funniest messages I would get every Friday on Twitter and also created this picture blog: You’ve Got 99 Problems and Thank God I’m Not One. After a while, I thought that I needed to create something around it, hence Inside Dating. I am actually beginning another web series that I wrote/created and star in where I reveal my most ridiculous real-life experiences in the online dating world…I have just been on too many hilarious dates that you wouldn’t believe actually happened that I decided to create a web series about it. I am really excited and we will have some really fun cameos as well.”
The Internet and digital distribution really makes things interesting for budding actors. Do you see a real future in digital-only shorts or exclusively web distributed content? Or is it more of a temporary gimmick but will be inferior to traditional TV?
“I think things are really moving towards digital and web. I think TV will still be around for quite a while, but I think the two will eventually merge. How and when and what it will morph into, I am not exactly sure, but I don’t think it is a gimmick and do think web content is here to stay.”
Social media seems to hurt some people because it allows actors to be too transparent. Does this ever concern you?
“I have been yelled at by my close friends to stop posting SO much. lol. My home was actually robbed a couple years ago because I tweeted that I was out of town filming. Since that incident and the whole court drama that pursued, I have tried to be a little more careful with what I put out into the Twitterverse. It’s hard, because I do love social media…a LOT. I joined Twitter in 2007 and coerced all my friends to join. Twitter sent me “I’m wearing my Twitter shirt” shirts and I won a Twittie Award in 2008 (I still have the s hirts and the plaque.) My peers all thought I was crazy and condescendingly told me that no one cares what I’m doing…cut to three years later and they were all tweeting up a storm. Being connected to everyone like that is something I enjoy and I hope I can continue to do without over-saturation. So the short answer is yes, it concerns me, so I try to edit myself a smidge, but I do genuinely enjoy it, so I won’t be stopping anytime soon.”
You are in the entertainment industry, so you are automatically qualified to answer this last question. How do you manage self-esteem, self-image, and all the annoying reflective things that make acting, modeling, and the entertainment industry so overwhelming for so many?
“That is a great question and quite challenging to answer. I think any female in this industry has a lot on her plate. Not to belittle men by any means, but their path in this industry is 100% different from ours. Never mind the work and the business side of it all (or else this would become an essay) – they will never understand the extent to which our youth and our bodies are under a microscope. I think when I first moved out here it was a really big battle for me because “making it” to me meant you had to be stick thin. There were the Kate Winslets (whom I constantly admire) of the world, but they were few and far between. I am not a big lover of reality tv or some of the pop culture associated with the reference I am about to use, so please excuse me, but I do think that Kim Kardashian and some of the curvier celebrities Hollywood is embracing now, really helped a lot of women feel better about themselves. For me, personally, I am very much a woman. I workout 6x a week, but I have curves. I have never been stick thin and now I am actually happy about that. Don’t get me wrong – I think Kate Moss is beautiful but I also think Marilyn Monroe is beautiful. Everyone is so different, and no one can be you. Realizing that, which for me, came with experience and age, has made me feel so much more comfortable in my own skin. I will never be the girl next to me at the audition and she will never be me. We are all different and we all bring something unique and special to the table. I think that is hard to remember when you are in Los Angeles and there are gorgeous, young models left and right, but if you practice it, it comes easier. To answer your question (sorry for all the tangents! lol), it has become much easier to manage as time has passed. At 17, it was over-whelming and terrifying and I thought I would never be enough or fit the mold of what casting directors/directors wanted. Now, I don’t want to fit a mold because I am different and that is what is going to make people notice.”
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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