When I first saw Napoleon Dynamite, I was struck by the familiar face of photo-goddess and entrepreneur Deb and it took a trip to IMDB to realize that the actress, Tina Majorino, was the same adorable little girl from Corinna, Corinna. (A movie I have a strange adoration for — and which taught me to blow at red lights to make them turn green.) I was happy to see her pop up on Veronica Mars, even more so as her role grew bigger and bigger. Mac is the best friend we all want – smart, sassy and loyal, and can hack into just about anything you’d want.
Tina Majorino, herself, gives Mac some stiff competition. She’s engaging and funny and surprisingly grounded for someone so young. She talks to us about what’s to come for Mac in Season Three of Veronica Mars, gushes over Big Love and tells us what makes each role she chooses so important.
So, I read an interesting questionnaire that you filled out — You’ve been beaten up?
(laughs) Yeah. I used to get beat up a lot in middle school. I got pulled from middle school because I was beat up so much.
Oh no, what happened? Why would they want to beat up on you?
It was the first year that they made sixth grade part of middle school. I swear to god, the first day of school I drove up with my mom and we thought we were in the wrong school because the sixth graders looked like they were in high school, [where] I was very much so my age, very much a 12-year-old. I would wear striped shorts, polka-dot shirts and mismatch-y kind of stuff because I liked it and I thought it was fun to wear. I wasn’t into boys, I had no boobs, I had no body and these girls were walking around like they were 18 year-olds.
I was one of those kids that had a really strong sense of self so I never really cared what everybody else thought. So there was that and there was the whole acting thing – they had this preconceived idea of how I was going to be, and they thought “oh, this is all she’s going to want to talk about… she’ll be a bitch because she was in movies.” I’m so not like that – I don’t talk about it ever, really. It was not an easy time at all.
You quit acting for five years — what is something you did in your off time that really had a big influence on you when you came back to acting?
Let me just say that taking the five years off was the smartest thing I’ve ever done for myself. Every single thing that I did on my time off, on my hiatus, ended up transferring into a better acting career. I went back to regular school and hated it, I was home schooled and I went to college.
Since I had been working since I was two, I had worked with a lot of people – some of whom where my age – that had no idea who they were as people. It’s so important to have a good sense of self, especially in this business – there’s a lot of rejection and there’s a lot of BS that goes on in Hollywood and you have to have a good head on your shoulders, you have to know yourself well enough to know what you can take and what you can’t. I didn’t have that at the time and I knew that – that’s why I wanted to take the time off because I knew that I couldn’t make it in the industry if I didn’t get a little bit of real life experience and toughened my skin a little bit. Because what happens if, one day I decide I don’t want to do this anymore? I decided it once, I can decide it again… what if I don’t know myself well enough to make it?
And I knew I would regret it if I didn’t take the time because you’re only a kid once and my main priority is to have a good quality of life. A good quality of life, to me, pretty much doesn’t have a lot to do with being famous or having a lot of money. It’s very important to me that I’m close with my family and my friends and that I have other things to fall back on that are real to me because there’s too much fake stuff in my line of work that you can so easily get caught up in. I didn’t want to be one of those people, I wanted to get to a point where I was confident enough in myself that even if I didn’t get a job that I really wanted, it didn’t turn around on me to the point where I become depressed. I’m really tough on myself too, so it would be hard to not go there and screw myself up. You got to learn not to take it so personally – it’s a business and people want to make money and they’re going to say good things and bad things about you and at the end of the day, it’s what you think that matters. I wanted to make sure that I was in that place, mentally, for myself before I came back.
Speaking of a great job, what’s to come for Mac in Season Three of Veronica Mars?
The first episode is phenomenal – the first two episodes, I think, are fantastic. On top of everything that happened at the end of senior year, they also stuck in everything that happened over the summer, and the anxieties that [the characters] would [have] before they’d be going into college are definitely there. Being nervous about moving out into a dorm and the awkwardness of having a new roommate and all of that stuff is definitely in the show, so I was really pleased with that.
There’s going to be quite a change in Mac in Season Three because of all the hardship she was going through in the end of Season Two. I don’t want people to see it as negative – she’s going to be a little bit different, keeps more to herself, isn’t as out there as she was in Season Two. She doesn’t have the neon hair anymore, she’s not looking for any attention whatsoever after everything that happened with Beaver. There’s going to be little nuances that people can look for, but I wouldn’t blame her.
That’s something that’s great about the show as well – every character is really staying congruent with reality, which I like. I don’t like it when shows stray from what’s real in life.
Like they come back from the summer and everyone’s gotten over all the drama from the previous season. As a viewer you feel a little cheated.
Exactly – they come back and everyone’s fine. That makes it a little bit harder to relate to. I think the whole point of doing a show is for people [to relate to it].
I spoke to Kyle Gallner about his interpretation of Mac’s line “He took everything” in the Season Finale, “Not Pictured.” What was your take on it, how would Mac see it?
When she said, “he took everything,” the obvious interpretation is that he took everything in the room so that she couldn’t leave the room. It’s not something that Mac would immediately go to – “he was trying to protect me” – somebody that’s breaking it down could see it that way, but I don’t think she could have felt that way, at first.
Regardless of whatever evil plan Beaver had, he realized that Mac really cared about him for him, she wasn’t one of the people at school who was making fun of him or treating him as the dumb younger brother of Dick – she wanted to spend time with him. I agree that in the sense that he wanted to keep her safe from what he was planning on doing, but when she said that he took everything, in my interpretation, was that he took everything that she had. This was her first relationship, he took everything that she had to give and then she’s naked in a hotel room with nothing and he’s killing people. She’s like, “I don’t know what’s going on — he not only took everything in the room, he took everything I had to offer him and I got nothing back.”
I think there were a lot of different ways that you can take it, and there were a mixture of things, which is why I think that in Season Three, Mac is so… just kind of lost and confused. It wasn’t one specific thing that happened that she could put her finger on and say, “this is what happened, and this is why, and this is why he did that.” In my mind, the confusion definitely started when he broke up with her. Because she honestly wasn’t trying to get him into bed, she just wanted him to be comfortable enough with her to be able to discuss things sexual or not sexual. I think she was heartbroken about that and she was just excited that he wanted to get back together with her.
Since the finale, there seems to be some online interest in seeing Mac and Dick Casablancas hook up. What’s your thoughts on that?
Really? He’s Mr. Cool Guy and she’s Outcast Girl – but he’s always making fun of her, so I don’t get that. Wow, that’s funny. (laughs). That’s really funny. That’s really interesting – maybe it’s because they’re polar opposites.
If you were to pair Mac with someone on the show, who would it be?
Oh my goodness, that’s a hard one. To be honest with you, I was really surprised that they gave Mac a boyfriend last season, I was really stunned. I was really surprised because I never saw her character arc going that way and it was definitely a pleasant surprise – because I think that was the whole point because she’s not one of those girls who gets all flustered over a guy and then all of a sudden, she does. It catches even her by surprise.
You’re in a band called The AM Project — what is the biggest difference between the high you get from acting and playing with your band?
It’s really different for me – I have terrible stage fright. The high I get from performing with the band is more of a sense of “you did it, you faced one of your fears.” It feels really good – it’s a constant thing. Yeah, I get more comfortable on stage, but there’s still that fear, like I’m ready to puke before I’m about to go on stage every time. So there’s definitely a feeling of accomplishment after the fact.
I love writing music, I love writing the lyrics and working with the boys. That’s really fun for me because it’s more of a collaboration and I have a lot to do with the creative process.
Acting is something I’m so passionate about, I can’t describe it. It’s a different sense of accomplishment for me. Something I’ve always said is that there are a lot of people out there that feel really invisible in the world and feel lost and alone and I think that acting can be a good tool, if used correctly, to point those people out and say ‘I see you, you’re not alone and everybody’s going through that at some point.’ Just by portraying somebody that’s similar to them or a character that’s going through something similar to what they’re going through – I think it that it gives them a sense of comfort. I like knowing that the roles that I’ve [taken] have helped people – that’s an honor to me to be a part of and that’s why I’m always careful about the shows that I choose to be a part of and the roles that I choose to take because it’s a humongous responsibility. The media can be a monster and I definitely don’t want to be a part of the negativity of it. I want to give people joy and comfort and that’s why I do what I do.
What five albums do you have in your personal rotation currently?
Oh, I love this question – okay! Coldplay’s X and Y, definitely. AC/DC, Back in Black. America’s Greatest Hits – I love America, I love them. In saying that as well, I also have The Eagle’s Greatest Hits because my dad always listened to them when I was a kid and I always listen to them, too. And of course, I have a mixed CD that has [Justin Timberlake’s] “SexyBack” and Fergie’s new song [“London Bridge”] because I love her and I love the Black Eyed Peas. And Wolfmother! A phenomenal band – they’re so awesome. The lead singer’s voice sounds really similar to Led Zeppelin.
You teach hip-hop. It’s said you helped come up with the Napoleon Dynamite dance at the end of the movie – what was your contribution to the choreography?
Most of the beginning… just a little sidenote, Jon Heder is a fantastic dancer. We got together and started choreographing stuff, but he’s just awesome. I’m not even trying to take any credit for that dance – it wouldn’t be the same if was anyone else.
So, Big Love was renewed for a second season. Do you have any dirt?
Oh my gosh! Big Love‘s gonna be SO AWESOME this year! I start work this Friday, I’m so stoked on Big Love – it’s such a fun show to be a part of, I’m so honored that I get to be a part of that show, you have no idea. I’m absolutely not saying anything about the storyline – it’s good, you’ll like it!
That show is just phenomenal. Pretty much anything that HBO puts its hands on is gold, to me. It’s great.
What’s your favorite moment from last season of Big Love?
I think [in the “Where There’s a Will” episode] when Rhonda, Sarah and Heather are in Sarah’s room and Rhonda is telling them how she’s been maritally placed. And my character is kind of like, “what the hell is that? What does that mean?”
I really like the chemistry between Sarah and Heather. There are so many different ways that people have viewed my character – that she’s being manipulative or she’s just really naïve. You won’t find out until later in the second season. But at the same time, I love those little moments of awkwardness where it’s like, this is a world that she’s never been exposed to and I love that she absolutely has no tact when it comes to expressing her feelings about it. She just comes out and says whatever, because she just doesn’t know any better.
I literally got addicted to the show. I don’t usually watch my own stuff, but I sat down and watched the first four episodes and I had to watch the rest of the season. And that’s been a common reaction, so I’m pretty happy about that. It takes about two episodes for you to be able to get into it because the first time you watch it, you’re like, ‘what is going on? What is with this?’ Obviously, there aren’t a lot of shows about polygamy. But you watch four of them in a row and you’re like, ‘oh my god, I have to see what happens!’
I think a lot of actors would love to be in your shoes, with roles on two very well-written shows.
Oh yes – as the season went on, every episode got better and better. The [Big Love] writers are phenomenal and the directors that we’ve been privileged to work with are phenomenal. And of course, the cast – gimme a break, the cast is one of the best things about the show.
And then on Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas, the creator, is a genius. Anything that he writes is funny and hip and quick-witted, he’s phenomenal. His whole staff of writers is great. Both of the shows are awesome.
Well, thanks so much — do you have any decadent plans for the rest of the day?
Actually, I don’t. Today’s my day off. I’m just running errands and all that good, fun stuff. I really enjoy it. I’m one of those people that, when I have a day off from shooting, I like coming home and cleaning my house – kinda weird like that (laughs).
I totally understand — I love going to the Post Office when I have free time to send off letters.
Oh yeah – first off, I love mail in general. I like sending mail and getting it too. One of my best girlfriends lives really far away from me and we got one of those Circle Journals. They’re so cool – we’ve been using it for the past month and it’s so awesome. You get it back and you can read back on what you wrote a couple weeks prior and what she wrote, it’s really neat.
I think that it’s a lost art – the real mail thing. I get e-mails all the time and that’s fantastic, too, just the fact that somebody wants to keep in touch is great. But when somebody actually takes the time to handwrite you a letter, I think it’s so special. I don’t even care if other people don’t see it that way. I know that they know that I think of it that way, so hopefully they think of it like, ‘oh, that was really nice of her.’ (laughs)