Vanessa Marano dishes about her role in the Gilmore Girls Revival, being a young woman in Hollywood and why it’s so important to have her parents’ support.
DEFIANTLY AMBITIOUS, at the early age of eight, Vanessa Marano knew she wanted to be an actor. This talented young lady, spoke to INBETWEEN about her ability to face setbacks, taking risks and being willing to fail. We wondered what it must have been like for her parents to watch her enter a challenging industry where rejection reigns supreme and where she was catapulted into fierce competition competing against her own peers—and sister— for that one breakthrough role.
It’s a very exciting time for women to be a part of this industry right now.”
How did you get into acting?
I got into acting when I was eight years old in children’s theatre. I wanted to get into acting, professionally, but my mom didn’t want me to. She had been in the industry for quite a bit and she said that it’s a difficult industry for women; that children actors give up their childhood for a lot of things; and she didn’t want to drive me to auditions.
After a while, she got tired of me begging her, so she looked up an agent that she heard turned child actors down. But then the agent took me, which [my mom] was not expecting… and then [my mom] was really not expecting [the agent] to take my five-year-old sister, who had just come along for the ride. So, it all backfired on my mother and that’s how I got into acting. Fifteen years later, it looks like we made the right decision—in her face!
What would be your advice to parents who don’t necessarily agree with their teen’s choice in a career?
I think, as a parent, you can never be too weary of anything. I think it’s always good to tell your child about the potential negative outcomes with anything that they want to do because my mom had some excellent points about the acting industry being tough for women, that it’s a hard industry for a child to be in—especially a teenager. I had to make a lot of choices in my life about what was important to me and I definitely had to give up certain things in order to put acting first. But this never stopped me. I never gave it a second thought. So, I think if your kid is saying, “this is what I want to do and I’m willing to give things up for it and am willing to put the hard work in”—as long as they’re not hurting themselves or anyone else around them—then you eventually have to be supportive of that.
What would you say is the biggest challenge for young women in Hollywood?
We still face a lot of sexism in the industry today. Specifically, as an actor, I think that it’s very much based on your physical appearance, unfortunately. There are still so many roles where it is more dependent on you having a bikini body or auditioning for a character that doesn’t have anything to say other than she’s there to be the girlfriend of the guy at the end of the movie.
For women writers and directors, it is very hard but it’s changing. It’s a very exciting time for women to be a part of this industry right now. There are so many women that are executives now and in positions of power where they can help other women. I think that’s what empowers change: when women who have experienced things and have gotten themselves to a position of power help other women. That’s when equality exists.
The Gilmore Girls Revival is coming up, which is super exciting. What’s in store for April in the revival?
We get to see April graduating college and how she fits in with Luke, Lorelai and the life they’ve all created with each other.
Can you comment on April’s relationship with Luke and Anna, April’s parents on the show?
April has a very good relationship with both of them. It was great to be back and working with Scott, which is very exciting. And I just liked the dynamic of April and Luke, because as father and daughter, they could not be more different people if they tried.
Why do you think Gilmore Girls, a show about a mother and daughter, has such mass appeal?
Gilmore Girls is a show with two strong, interesting, funny and loving female characters. I think it was great to see a positive relationship between a mother and her daughter, who aren’t fighting all the time, and have that in contrast with a relationship with a mother and daughter, like Lorelai and Emily, who were both very different people and were always at each other’s throats.
Your mom can be your best friend but she can also be the bane of your existence. That’s why this show is so great. It also casts women working really hard, working to get into the ivy league and working to become her own boss, start a business, own a business with her female friend and doing all of that as a single mother. This is the only show I can think of where education and owning your own business are in the main storyline, which is portrayed as being just as important as the romantic storyline.
Let’s switch to Switched at Birth, which comes out in January. Can you give us any hints as to what’s in store for your character, Bae?
This season, we’re picking up from when the girls came back from China. They got that phone call at the end of last season, saying that they had to come back. So we get that big reveal in the first episode of the new season as to why they had to travel all the way back to Kansas City. It’s been nine months since the finale, so there’s a lot to pick up with where we left off. We’ve seen her street art, get into art school and try to take classes, but that didn’t work out for her. This season, we’re seeing where she’s venturing off, career-wise, in the world of tattoos.
Why do you think it’s great for teens to see a show that includes the deaf community?
As someone who didn’t know anything about the deaf community until Switched at Birth, it’s interesting to see a community that’s right under your nose but don’t necessarily know anything about because it’s outside of your own little bubble. And then, for all the people that were already immersed in that community—I think it was really nice to see their community portrayed on television. I had so many girls come up to me and say, “I want to be an interpreter because of Switched at Birth.” I think that’s a wonderful thing, knowing that this is a career choice, all of a sudden.
So your sister, Laura, is an actress as well. Is there any sibling rivalry when it comes to roles?
Not at all. Laura and I have auditioned for the same roles for 15 years now. If anything, it’s actually really nice to have a sibling in the industry because I feel like no one else knows what it’s like, other than my sister. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel like she’s my partner in crime.
How would you say that your parents help you both stay grounded?
I think that it helps that my dad is not in the industry. It’s nice to have someone outside of the industry, looking in, because it makes me realize, “OK, there’s another world out there. It’s not all just the entertainment industry.” It also helps that my mom was in the industry, because it’s nice to have somebody who understood it, wasn’t new to it and could take it at face value.
Why do you think it’s important for teens to have their parents’ support?
Parents really need to offer a support system for their kids, which can be hard for a parent because you have to teach your kids to make the right decisions but you also have to be there for them when they’re struggling. I think that makes all the difference to people in the world when they feel that they have a support system from their parents, because at the end of the day, those are the first people in your life who are taking care of you and that feeling of nurturing never goes away.