Meet Mara Marini. You probably know her as Brandi Maxxxx from the hit show Parks and Recreation. Born in Winnipeg, Mara wanted to be an actress since she was 4 years old. She has made a number of television appearances, in addition to her work on the stage in the Los Angeles theatre scene.
Mara talked to us about her life and her career.
You wanted to act since a young age, right? Why acting? What draws you to the craft?
It is hard to describe in words. I literally knew since I was four years old that I wanted to act and, growing up, asked my parents if we could move to Los Angeles, constantly. When I saw that that wasn’t in the cards, I knew I’d have to get out there on my own. There’s something about performing that makes me happier than anything else in the world. I enjoy the whole process so much – getting the script; discovering the character; working with the other actors and the director and the writer(s); being part of “that world” for the duration of the project is so fun and exciting. Every time I book work, it just reaffirms for me that I am doing what I am meant to do. I come to life, it makes me so happy and so fulfilled.
When it came down to marine biology vs. acting, why did acting win?
Haha! My parents made me apply somewhere else other than an "acting conservatory." I didn’t even think I’d get in to the marine biology program in Hawaii, but I did! First of all, acting would have won regardless. Secondly, I learned marine biology does not involve as much playing with dolphins as I originally thought, so the idea was quickly dismissed.
What was your first role?
Well, my first real play (outside of school) was back in Winnipeg and I played a pregnant cricket. Yup. A pregnant cricket. My first real paying gig was a horror movie that I filmed right after I graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts – they flew us to Colorado – and it was my first experience "working on location," and I loved it so much.
What's it like living as an actress in L.A.?
It definitely keeps you on your toes! Everyone has their own experiences, so I can only speak for myself, but I am very blessed and am surrounded with encouraging friends (and family, in Canada!) and people I respect and admire. I am very lucky to be out here pursuing what I love.
Every day is very different – you don't really know where it’s going to take you. For instance, 5 p.m. rolls around and you are looking at your agenda for tomorrow – and it may look sort of open with just the gym and a meeting or two…and then you get a call from your agent/manager around 7 p.m. with a couple of auditions for the morning and then in pops another meeting and then maybe you get a last minute audition on the other side of the city, the day of.
If you are working on a show/project, you tend to have a better idea of your schedule, but that provides it’s own package of adventures. I’m basically just saying that you just never know what to expect.
There are so many things to love and loathe about Los Angeles; what are your favourite and least favourite aspects?
I adore Los Angeles. Of course, every city has its pros and cons, but I really do love it here. It’s like those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books from the 80s...except it’s "Choose Your Own City." There are so many amazing little pockets – that you just pick and choose your favourite parts (areas/restaurants/bars/beaches etc.) to make it your very own personal puzzle. Of course, my least favourite aspect is the traffic...but I feel like if you expect it and come armed with music, a phone and snacks for the ride...it isn't so bad.
Are there any community theaters in Los Angeles you're involved with even now when you're doing more TV?
I used to be a member at different theatre companies around the city. The last two plays I worked on, I came in as a guest actor – which I sort of prefer. Things have gotten a bit busy for me this past year, so I haven't been as involved in the theatre world, but it is a love of mine and I hope to take part in a project I’m passionate about soon.
How did your loved ones respond to you playing porn star Brandi Maxxxx on "Parks & Rec," or didn't you tell them until the episode aired?
I didn’t tell them. I thought it was funny, and, luckily, so did they. I think under different circumstances it could have garnered a different reaction, but the show is so amazing, the character is so wonderful, and the writing is so funny and witty.
However, I attended a strict all-girls-Catholic school, and, when I was a student, I almost got suspended for simply portraying Madonna in an airband (an airband is where you perform like the artist) that I performed in front of the school.
Someone got wind that I was working on "Parks and Recreation" and it was announced in the school paper. I have to wonder if the nuns that freaked out about my little Madonna dance tuned in and how they responded? Lol.
You have worked on a wide range of projects; which was the most fun, and why?
Hands down, "Parks and Recreation." It is just such an amazing experience every time. Everyone is so happy to be there and it shines through everything. Working with Amy and all the other insanely talented actors is such a treat; I adore the makeup and wardrobe department – they make it so fun to become Brandi Maxxxx; the writers and directors are always phenomenal and everyone is so welcoming and warm. I am very lucky to have had those experiences with them.
You have a Marilyn Monroe-esque blond-bombshell thing going on. Do you find you get typecast as a result? Why or why not?
Well, first of all, thank you! Well, yes. I feel like I am not always able to get seen for different roles because it may seem I am only one thing – the blonde hair has been a challenge. But I know this isn't a sprint, it's a marathon...and I'm hoping to show that I can play other roles...even with blonde hair!
What sort of projects are you interested in pursuing?
I do adore comedy, so I am hoping to continue down that path. I have been writing a lot as well. I’d love to have my own show one day. I like making people laugh and feel good.
What can we expect to see next from you?
I just guest starred on "Kickin’ It" on Disney XD and my episode airs in November. I created a webseries that parlays into a TV pilot I wrote with my writing partner – so we are hoping to start shooting the webseries this month. I also will be working on a feature film with comedian Ahmed Ahmed this winter.