I was excited to speak with Marini about her time in acting, working with some comedy greats and what’s next for her in her very busy life.
black-ish airs every Wednesday at 9:30/8:30 c on ABC.
How did you get started in acting?
I’ve always knew that it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was four years old…I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and it’s a small town and there wasn’t a lot accessible or available and I kept begging my parents to move to Los Angeles, and they were like, “Hell no!” (laughs) So I took my mom’s big Shakespeare book and I just started memorizing stuff. At that point, my mom was like, “Fine, I’ll enroll you in an acting class.” My mom’s a teacher and my dad’s a pilot; they never knew about that world.
When I got to class, I loved it even more, and I was doing plays around the city. When I was 17, after I graduated high school, I got into York University, which has a really great theater program. I was there for a year and while I was there, I auditioned for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. So that was my ticket to Los Angeles. I was there for three years…and then I stayed, slowly working towards…getting an agent and working on [my] craft and auditioning and hustling.
A lot of the first big things I got were on my own. It took me a while to get good representation…In this industry, there’s no “two plus two equals four”; everyone’s path to the top is so different. You could just get discovered on the street, or you could be working at it until you’re 50 and then you book something. You never know. For me, it was a lot of my own hustle into I got representation I really liked.
One of your best known roles is as Brandi Maxxxx in Parks and Recreation. What was it like appearing on that show and coming back for the series finale?
The best time ever! I really can’t say enough wonderful things about that experience and everyone involved on that show. It was just a magical show and I was lucky to be a part of it. It really was the best possible situation ever. Everyone was having such a wonderful time, which permeates into everything. You go to some sets, and you never know what you’re walking into. On that set, it was like walking into Heaven. It was just so fun and amazing, just great people involved, such talent…so much fun.
Do you have a favorite moment from any of the episodes you were on?
Oh gosh! So many! I think the first episode I ever did, I was going in there blind. This was my first big guest star spot and I’m working with Amy Poehler. We did the first take and she turned to me and says, “You’re really funny!” And that just made my life! I was like “I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing!” It was just so validating; you work so hard, finally you get something, and then the queen of comedy compliments you! It was just so lovely.
And Amy Poehler would have dance parties in the makeup trailer during lunchtime to get everyone riled up after lunch to go back to work. It was so fun…everything was just so lovely. Getting to work with Paul Rudd on the debate episode and seeing how some of those comedy greats work, it was a hoot. It was just so fun.
You’re going to be appearing on black-ish soon—
What can you tell me about your character?
The way it’s set up, I don’t want to give anything away. It’s kind of a funny reveal that I don’t want to give away. So me and [guest star and All My Children star] Lindsay Price…went to college with Bow [Tracee Ellis Ross]. We’re coming back and she’s trying to show what a fabulous life she has now, and things go awry for her, you’ll see. They did a lot of “enhancement” on my look, which was so much fun to see[.]
Everyone was so great on that show. I was watching it prior to booking it, and I was like, “This show is really, really funny.” Getting to see Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross work together—they are so good! They’re always coming up with new stuff and every take is different. They’re just so funny and natural together. I really think it’s a hit for the network. They’re just so good.
That leads into my next question: There’s a lot of energy on that show and when I spoke to Marcus Scribner, he was telling me that Anthony Anderson was always pulling jokes and pranks on set. What was it like to work on set with this cast that’s funny on and off screen?
It was such a joy. Everyone is hilarious. Anything is so funny! You know, early in the morning, I’m just getting my coffee…and he’s making jokes and making [set life] so enjoyable and hilarious right off the bat. [I’m] like, “How do you have this much energy this early?” He’s so good. Everyone on that set has been really, really lovely, which is so fun. You’re constantly laughing, which makes it such an enjoyable day…It was really, really great.
You’re also in Schitt’s Creek, which I’ve heard about—
Which character do you play on that show?
It’s so much fun—they also enhanced my appearance on that show; since it’s aired already in Canada, I feel like I can tell you. I play Catherine O’Hara’s friend—well, I don’t know if [her character] necessarily really likes me—[my character] grew up with her and she’s quite a bit older than I actually am, but the joke is that I’ve had a lot of work done. The makeup department was amazing. They made it look like I’ve had an eyebrow lift and a chin implant and my lips bigger—I had to wear lots of makeup!
The episode’s called “Allez-Vous” and Allez-Vous is my character’s skincare line, which is basically like a pyramid scheme. I send Catherine O’Hara’s character Moira a package of the kit to start hawking my skincare line, and I’m talking about how great it is and how much money you can make, and she starts selling it and it’s a really funny episode.
I’m excited to see it—a lot of my favorite people are in it.
I love Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, they’re just so amazing. They’re so funny. Since I’m Canadian, I remember growing up watching them on SCTV and they’re comedy legends. It’s a real fun experience to get to meet them and work with them. It was really lovely. And now it’s gotten picked up for a second season, so…I’d love to work with them again.
You also have a dating podcast with Playboy?
Yeah! It’s a webseries called It’s a Match on Playboy.com. It’s basically advice for men about what not to do with online dating and what to do. It’s advice, but there’s a lot of funny involved. I personally have online dated for years and there’s a lot of stuff that happened to me and it’s a funny, funny experience.
We have six up online right now and it’ll take you through the online experience…so, the first one is picking your profile picture, the second one is your bio and writing the message and then we went on sexting, which is really funny and ridiculous…We’re going to do some more with [Playboy], so that’s really fun…And also, I’m on Playboy Radio once a month with some online dating tips to cross-promote It’s a Match.
[Playboy has] relaunched their website last October to make it what [Hugh Hefner] originally wanted, which is more GQ style. No dancing girls anymore. It’s back to what that classy brand was…It’s really fun, I like what they’re doing with it and it’s the perfect place to house It’s a Match. It’s really fun. I write, produce and host that.
Is there one piece of advice you’d give universally to folks doing online dating? Like, out of everything, what would be the one thing you would say an online dater would have to do?
That’s really hard because it so depends on your goal. That’s what it boils down to. I’m going to give different advice to a young man just looking to get some action versus my girlfriend in her 30s who’s looking to settle down, you know what I mean? I think it boils down to your goal. So, it’s hard to give a general piece of advice.
You have so many projects going on—is there anything else coming up on the horizon?
Well, we’re just coming out of pilot season and it’s been kind of hectic with auditions and callbacks, so that’s been taking up some time, but I’m hoping to hear back from a couple of things, knock on wood…I’ve been writing a lot, I wrote my own one-woman show and I have an idea for [sic] stand-up and a half-hour single-cam comedy with my writing partner, and another webseries that we made…just a lot of writing in my downtime, but I haven’t had a ton of downtime in the past couple of months. But…the only thing that looks maybe for sure is an indie comedy that’s shooting in the summer…Good things all around.
Screencap from It’s a Match with Mara Marini
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