Before the Scene is where we all start. In a small town with our families. In front of a mirror with our friends. The days spent sleeping on a couch. The nights working at a bar. Living with the unknown and surrounded by uncertainty. It’s about the times that define us. It’s about the darkness just before the limelight.
Tina Majorino is a veteran actress who started her career as a child with memorable roles in When a Man Loves a Woman, Corrina, Corrina and Waterworld. She returned to acting as an adult with roles in 2004’s Napoleon Dynamite and on television in Veronica Mars, Big Love and True Blood.
What made you become an actor?
I used to watch The Wizard of Oz everyday at the same time when I was a baby. There was something magical to me about Judy Garland and the idea that I could reach people the way she was reaching me. I knew from the get-go that acting was what I was meant for and it was what I wanted to do with my life.
What was your biggest fear?
Fear really didn’t become an issue for me until I got older. It never entered my mind that things wouldn’t work out. It wasn’t until I had been acting for twelve years and decided to quit, and then decided to come back four years later that fear really set in. I think it was mostly because, by that time, I had a different understanding of the world and people. My ears opened up to people’s comments at that point and insecurities I had learned over the years took a toll on my confidence. I started to question myself a little bit, wondering if people were right. They’d say things like “You’ll never make it back in. You quit.” Somewhere inside though, there was still that voice of reason, however quiet it may have been, that kept my hope and faith alive. While the business may have changed and my outlook on it may have altered, my reasoning for wanting to do it and my attitude about it hadn’t changed a bit. I knew no matter what anyone had to say about my decisions or about how hard the business was that I had the will and the drive to make whatever I dreamed of come to fruition. Fear is definitely something you learn as you grow. It makes things harder. But it makes everything more rewarding when you don’t let it stop you. It doesn’t matter if you feel that fear. It only matters that you push through it. It’s not brave if you’re not scared first.
What was your lowest point?
I’ve had many low points just like anyone else. There’s not really one that stands out for me though. Every day is a test of your commitment to your dream. There are so many people out there who want to talk you out of following through and there are many obstacles that appear all the time. If you look at it out of the beliefs and perceptions you learn from society, you can really throw yourself off course. It’s hard to listen to the garbage and keep the truth alive in your heart. Sometimes I’m successful at that, and sometimes I’m not. I do my best, and some days my best is better than others. But I’m a work in progress, as we all are. I take the low points with as much happiness as I do the high points. Low points are great because you know there’s only one way to go from there… up!
What kept you from walking away?
Everything in my heart and soul tells me that this is what I need to do. It’s what I have to do. Knowing that I’ve known that since I was two years old keeps me from walking away. And seeing how greatly I can affect people I will probably never meet is such a gift. As actors, we have the ability to tell stories, teach lessons and shed light on things on a scale that an every day person can’t. We can make people laugh, make them cry, make them look at things differently, open up conversations, start transformations within people just from them watching a piece we are a part of. I know how greatly affected I’ve been by certain performances, and how validated and alive it made me feel. Knowing that I can do that for others… there’s no way I could turn my back on that.
What did you walk away from?
A conventional life. I’ve gotten a lot of flack because I didn’t live life the way one is supposed to. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I like that I’m different and I like that my life reflects that. I like that my family supported me in my decision to follow my heart and not a diagram of what a life is supposed to look like. I am thankful they encouraged me to forge my own path and never look back.
Who was your closest ally?
My family. They’ve stuck by me no matter what. No one in my family is in the business, so they went into this completely blind. And after their plan of trying to scare me out of wanting to do it backfired and they knew there was no stopping it, they threw themselves behind me and supported me through it all. They’ve always just wanted me to be happy, whether that meant I was an actress or a garbage man. And that has always meant the world to me. Because I know no matter what I decide in life, they’ll be there to cheer me on.
What were you doing the morning before the audition that changed your life?
I was in grade school, I was seven years old. I know I was at school, just waiting for that damn bell to ring. It was my audition for When a Man Loves a Woman. That was one of those moments where everything came together.
What were the words that kept you going?
Never give up and count your blessings. Giving up is just never an option. When you’ve been given a dream you have to hold onto it and go after it. You were given that dream for a reason and you would be doing yourself and the universe a disservice by letting it go to waste. Whether it’s a big dream or a small dream, it’s your dream and it means something. Being grateful is always important. I wake up every day overwhelmed with gratitude for my life and what’s happened in it… good, bad… you name it, I’m grateful for it. If one thing had gone differently I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today.
How have you changed?
I don’t stress the details as much. It’s easy to get distracted. I try to stay focused on where I want to go and the work I want to do and block out all the noise. I’m a firm believer that there is enough work for everyone in this world and what is meant to be mine cannot be taken away. And if something I really want doesn’t pan out, I’ll get something better. I’m much more hopeful now and trusting that the universe always puts me right where I’m supposed to be.
What words do you have to inspire others?
Don’t waste time trying to be anybody else. You are you for a reason and life is about discovering what that reason is. Never let anyone blow out your light or take your dreams from you. Keep that faith alive within you and never stop trying because nothing is too wonderful to be true!