Exclusive Interview : Tina Majorino

From TV’s “Veronica Mars”

Success at such a young age can be a mixed bag. Yes, you can possibly get yourself a new stout college fund going – or in Macauley Culkin’s case, a couple of houses on the Riviera, a set of wheels for all your friends, and enough cash to pay-off a insatiable parent – and conspicuously, all those new wiz-bang toys you desire, but it’s also – especially if you’re an actor – quite a hard slog. Just ask Tina Majorino. From the age of 9, the young actress was essentially making-back-to-back movies, earning herself not only an ‘it girl’ tag but one dreadfully bushed pair of storks. CLINT MORRIS delves deeper.

The actress born Albertina Marie Majorino first came to attention in an early 90’s American television series called “Camp Wilder”. Pretty soon after, she caught the attention of film producers and was snapped up for roles in such notable films as “When a Man Loves a Woman” (1994), with Andy Garcia and Meg Ryan, in which she stole our hearts as a young girl caught in the middle of a family falling apart due to repercussions of alcohol abuse.

Soon after – very soon, we’re talking weeks – she was hired for “Corrina,Corrina” (1994) playing a motherless child who forms a bond with an unconventional housekeeper (Whoopi Goldberg), and later, and most notably, played a pivotal role in the expensive Kevin Costner blockbuster “Waterworld” (1995).

Then in 1999, after headlining such films as “Andre” (1994) and “Alice in Wonderland” (1999), the actress walked away from her burgeoning career.

Majorino, now 20, says it was a conscious choice to put her acting career on pause for a while. “I took time off from the time I was 13 until I was 18. I wanted to take that time to be a kid and make sure that acting was really what I wanted to do”, she explains. “I don’t like doing things or committing to things when I don’t feel that I can give one hundred and ten percent.

The Californian-born actress, also a gifted singer, says she’d just the lost the passion to act.

“I lost the passion for it at 13. I had been working on back-to-back projects since I was 3 so I was happy to get to spend time with friends and family. I’m either all in or it doesn’t feel right so taking that break gave me a chance to get to know myself better and make the decision to act again.”

Such overexposure isn’t good for anyone, says Majorino, and the break, she feels, did the public just as much good as it did her. It also “allowed people to kind of forget me a little bit. It was also good to return to the business as an adult. I got to re-introduce myself to people as who I am now”.

Majorino’s first film as ‘who I am now’ was the breakout independent film hit, “Napoleon Dynamite” (2004).

“I definitely didn’t know that Napoleon would blow up like it did. I just signed on to do it because I thought it was funny. My family didn’t think the script was funny at all but I loved it and after they saw it they got why I wanted to do it. The characters are very genuine and sweet and it has such great messages in it too. And besides that, it’s got the best one-liners of all time”, she says of the film, which tells of a forthright frizzy-haired school geek whose family put the D in dysfunctional.

Still, because Majorino has been out of the loop for a while, it has been tougher to get work.

“Everyone has been great, but even when you’re famous it’s hard to get work – so you can imagine. Things that are worth it take work and patience and those are two strengths you have to have to survive in such an intense business. I try to just remind myself that what’s meant to be will be and there’s always enough work out there for everyone. As long as I still love it and I’m still having fun acting that’s all that matters. One problem is that people still think I’m 15 but its only because I look young. Personally, I love that though. Looking young is something most women are obsessed with. I don’t have to be I just got good genes”, she smiles.

One role Majorino didn’t have any trouble getting was the role she currently plays on TV smash hit “Veronica Mars”.

“Getting the opportunity to work with (creator) Rob Thomas was awesome. I’ve known him since I was 14 and I’ve wanted to work with him for so long. When Veronica came up I was honoured that Rob asked me to be apart of it. Not only is the show smart but also it is a lot of fun to work on”.

Though the rumour mill suggests Majorino, who plays the bookish PC-boffin Mac on the series, might soon be offered a permanent posse on the series, she’s so far only done the ‘recurring guest-star’ thing.

“I wasn’t really told how many episodes I was going to be in. I was just happy to be a part of the series playing a part that I love. So whenever they need me, I’m there and that’s pretty much how it works”, she says.

The character of Mac, who pops up mid-way through the show’s first season for a number of episodes and returns in the second, is a bit of a departure for Majorino – but not in the way one would assume. It’s the actress who admits being the bigger geek.

“My character Mac and I aren’t too much alike. I’m definitely more nerdy than Mac is. But I do love to colour my hair and I am a computer buff. I love that Mac is tough and smart. I’m scrappy and all but I don’t think I’m quite as blatantly rock chick as Mac is – but it is fun to play characters that are different than your normal everyday self though”.

The series, about a Nancy Drew-esque school student who assists her father in solving mysteries, has been hugely popular. Majorino says that’s because it’s “extremely well written, realistic and intriguing. It keeps you on the edge of your seat because even if Veronica solves one mystery there are always a bunch of other things going on in her life – and her life with her father- to watch. All the topics that the show touches on are things that a lot of teenagers can relate to. Even if you don’t like the show, you can’t deny that Kristen is beautiful so she’s reason enough to keep watching”.

The success hasn’t gone to her co-stars head either, says Majorino. “Kristen Bell is very composed and intelligent. She’s wonderful to work with because she loves acting and that’s something that makes a huge difference in a person and in the atmosphere of a set. I guess, a lot of times there are pre-conceived ideas of actresses, especially very successful ones. Kristen is sweet, funny, caring and she makes the show even more fun to do. No one but her could be Veronica Mars. There’s a lot of pressure on her all the time, naturally because she’s carrying a show, but she carries her career and her life with grace and strength. Bottom line – Kristen’s a badass”.

Majorino, who will be a recurring character on a new TV series called Big Love as well, in 2006, says she doesn’t see herself as someone that’s been able to thwart the dreaded ‘Curse of the child-star’. “That’s funny, “the curse of the child actor”, I never really bought into any of that”, she laughs. “I think quitting for five years was the best decision I’ve made for myself and for my career. I guess if that child actor curse is real, then disappearing for a good chunk of time was a better way to transition into an adult actor than fighting through the awkwardness that comes with your teenage years on camera in front of everyone in the world”.

VERONICA MARS is now screening on Network Ten

Clint’s Review : The Family Stone

Two out of Three ain’t bad