Exclusive Interview: Tina Majorino on ‘Legends’ & ‘Veronica Mars’

Tina Majorino Legends

It may be a cliche to claim one grew up with a child actor who continues to work into adulthood, but I have a slightly more specific connection to Tina Majorino. She’s a tad younger than me, but I happened to be working a part time job at the height of her prolific child actor career. Since that job was at a movie theater, her films played day in and day out while I earned minimum wage. That bonds two people, whether they actually know each other or not.

It has been great watching Majorino grow and evolve with high school and college roles in “Veronica Mars” and Napoleon Dynamite and now adult characters. On TNT’s new drama “Legends,” Majorino plays Maggie, a woman who is working in the Deep Cover Operations department of the FBI when superstar agent Martin Odum (Sean Bean) comes in. We got to speak with Majorino by phone about her role on “Legends,” which airs Wednesday nights on TNT.

CraveOnline: I was working at a movie theater from 1994-1995 when Andre, Corinna Corinna and Waterworld were playing while I ushered theaters.

Tina Majorino: That is so cool! That’s awesome.

I’m glad you think so. Was that a very significant time for you in your early career?

Yeah, it really was. ’94, ’95, those were good years. That time will always be close to my heart because it was the beginning for me. I had been acting for quite a while before I did any of those movies, but that time in my life when all of that happened, it was really amazing and special, and it was when I fell in love with filmmaking. So I always look back at that time with great reverence and was very grateful for that time in my life. It’s fantastic.

On “Legends,” was Maggie in the book on which the series is based?

I don’t think so, no. I haven’t actually read the entire book so no. Howard [Gordon] and David [Wilcox] took creative liberties with the story. So it is based on the book and Martin Odum is in the book but they really worked very diligently to create their own world.

So aside from Martin, the whole team is new?

Yeah, I think that it’s such an interesting concept to think about because I think that these people that really do this in real life, they’re not on the radar because they’re not supposed to be. So they keep this world safe so that we don’t have to think about these things, that we can focus on other things and I’m so grateful for that. Thank God there are people in this world that want to, and have this calling to be on a team like the DCO and to be in the FBI and the CIA and all of that stuff because I don’t think that in reality I could handle that job. So I’m glad that there are people that want to do it so that I don’t have to. I’m very grateful for that.

Had you ever thought about that before this show came along?

Definitely. I’ve had a lot of friends in the military and my uncle was a detective for the LAPD, so I’ve definitely thought about it because I have seen the toll that it takes on my family and on my friends and the commitment and the sacrifice. These people are just amazing, so I had thought about it a lot before. I’ve always been grateful for that. I’ve always had that mentality. I think that there’s just a broader understanding before doing the research. Now it’s more specified. Now I actually know exactly what these people are going through just from interviewing FBI agents and reading about how difficult it is for them to maintain a personal life. You have more of a specific understanding of what that actually means. I definitely had that gratitude beforehand but I think it just grew when I did the research for this role.

Is Maggie more the technical side of creating these legends for Martin?

Yes, she is in charge of doing the back history for him and making sure that everything is in place for his missions and trying to ensure the agents’ safety, so she’s more on the technical side, setting up the missions and what not.

It seems like Crystal (Ali Larter) doesn’t quite trust Martin. Does Maggie?

This is in my own head. This is how I played it out. When you’re in a career like this, and again you can’t just call it a career. It’s a calling. When you’re in these situations, I think that there is an understanding that there’s a viewpoint on the world in general that you can’t just trust what you hear. You can’t trust that you’re seeing the reality of every situation, so I don’t really feel like anybody on this team in the DCO is 100% trusting of anyone at all.

I think that what’s interesting about Ali and Sean’s backstory with their characters is they have a history. I think generally speaking, none of us really trust anything 100% in our life. That includes situations, people at work, people in our personal lives. They’ve been trained to have that different viewpoint of the world and the people in it. So, in saying that, I think that Maggie really looks up to Sean’s character a lot. He’s the celebrity to her. She’s not the person that reads into the celebrity culture the way that normal people do. Celebrities to her are patriots and people who have sacrificed a lot for our country and for our world like Martin.

So I don’t think that she doesn’t trust him as much as Ali’s character doesn’t, because they have a history. My character is just in awe of him so that probably overrides any amount of distrust that she has for him. She doesn’t mistrust him for no reason.

Does Maggie get very close to Martin now that she’s on his team?

I think that she gets as close as she’s capable of. That’s another thing, and this is what was so intriguing to me about the show is what do relationships really look like for these people? Because of how they look at life and the understanding that they have of what’s really going on in the world, of the danger, that was really interesting. What does it mean for them to connect. I only know what it’s like for me to connect and I’m not put in these situations at all. So that was a very intriguing facet of the story for me. So as close as she is capable of getting to him, I think that she does. I don’t see Maggie as a very open person. I don’t think that it’s easy for her to relate to a lot of people or have that human connection, but I think that as much as she can, she tries to connect with Martin as much as she can.

Will Maggie ever get to go on a mission and have a legend herself?

Oh my God, I was hanging all of my hopes and dreams on that. That would be amazing. In the first season we don’t really dive into that at all. That would be awesome because I watched Sean do it and it looks so fun. It would be such an interesting thing to explore. I definitely prepared for it just in case, but we didn’t do that in the first season.

Are you very tech-savvy yourself?

No. Not at all. I was just talking to someone else about the fact that I don’t have social media. I don’t understand it. It kind of intimidates me. I find it funny that I have played parts where I’m very technologically savvy in the past and right now. That’s not real life. That’s definitely acting.

That’s funny. I find a lot of actors who play very technical characters, like Mary Lynn Rajskub from “24” says she doesn’t know computers either. So you’re in good company.

That’s good. That makes me feel better.

There are 10 episodes in the first season of “Legends.” Is there one particularly good Maggie episode we should look for?

At this point, they’re still trying to form all the episodes and they’re working so hard on that, so I don’t know where anything is going to fall. That’s what was fun about shooting it is that even though we had our scripts and there was a timeline and all of that, they really kept even us guessing as to what was going to happen when. So there’s a scene that I really enjoyed doing that had a little bit more levity to it, but I don’t know where that’s going to fall. So it’ll be at some point in the season. How awesomely specific is that?

Was that a scene with Ali or Sean?

No, I think it’s with Morris [Chestnut].

So you get scenes with all of the cast?

Yeah, Morris is funny. I really enjoy him. He’s funny. One of my favorite scenes that we shot was with him and I had a lot of good scenes with Steve Harris too. I love him. I think that he is a phenomenal guy and such a good actor. He’s incredible to be in scenes with, so I got a lot of good stuff with him.

How did it feel to get to go back and do the Veronica Mars movie?

That was insane. That was so much fun and what a special experience. The fact that the fans made that happen for us is so incredible and I still don’t think I can’ really wrap my mind around that. I was so thrilled to be a part of that whole process and very humbled by that whole experience. It was pretty amazing and what was cool about the fact that they funded it is that we got to have so much interaction with the fans during the filming of the movie that we never got a chance to do when we were doing the show. So that meant a lot to me, that we actually got to meet a lot of them and thank them in person for handing over their hard earned cash so that we could go play for a month. I mean, I just can’t even believe that. It’s insane.

Was “Legends” a show you auditioned for or did they offer it to you?

I definitely auditioned for it, definitely. The script came to me. It’s Howard Gordon so I obviously was like, “Yes, I want to be part of this.” I wanted to work with him so much. I love “Homeland.” That’s why I had to try this out. I had to meet him because I think that he is an incredible writer. I went in to audition and then I tested for it. I went through the whole process. It was pretty normal. The testing process is always so nerve-wracking. I’ve been doing this for 28 years and auditioning is still the most terrifying experience for me. I still get nervous and lose sleep and shake and sweat and all of that fun stuff, but it’s such an integral part of my job that you’ve kind of just got to do it. It was worth it. It was worth all of that to try and be a part of something with Howard and Sean, so that’s how I went through it. The regular way.