LEGENDS: Tina Majorino on Her In-Depth Prep for the Show, Creating Backstory, and More - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

LEGENDS: Tina Majorino on Her In-Depth Prep for the Show, Creating Backstory, and More

August 13, 2014 by  


Tina Majorino has been a steady presence on television for a decade (among her credits: VERONICA MARS, BIG LOVE, TRUE BLOOD, GREY’S ANATOMY, and BONES) and now she’s back in a new show, TNT’s LEGENDS.

LEGENDS follows the FBI agents of DCO (Deep Cover Operations) as they navigate their work — and adjust back to life with Martin (played by Sean Bean), who had been deep undercover. (The series also stars Ali Larter, Morris Chestnut, and Steve Harris as fellow members of DCO.)

Majorino’s Maggie is the team’s newest member, and as she pointed out during our chat, her character’s career decision says a fair amount about her, because “you have to be committed and a special kind of person to want to do this with your life.”

Read on for more from my chat with Majorino, including the impressive amount of prep she did for the series, creating her own backstory, and much more…

Given how much you work, what was it about this particular show that made you certain you needed to be a part of it?
Tina Majorino: [LEGENDS executive producer] Howard Gordon. He made me want to do it. It’s really difficult. You read a lot of things, obviously, and I always try and navigate my career in a way that I feel I’m doing something meaningful; I want to work with artists I really respect. I try to be particular and picky about what I want to do. Because as you know, when you’re working on anything, it’s a commitment. And when I heard Howard was doing this show, having been a huge, huge fan of HOMELAND — I was obsessed with that show — I was on-board immediately. I wanted to meet him; that was the deciding factor for me.

Your character, Maggie, is the newest member of the team. How does that particular fact impact the way she gels with her co-workers?
TM: I guess I didn’t play too much into that she’s the newb. I think at a certain point, it doesn’t really matter.

In this particular genre, at this particular job, the reality of it, it’s not like any other job where you can learn as you go and make mistakes — people’s lives are at risk every day. The FBI wouldn’t necessarily hire somebody unless they were the right person, unless they knew what they were doing. So I didn’t really play into the “new kid on the block” aspect of the character too much.

We talk about it in the first two episodes because I’m the newest member of the team, but I think as time goes on, the only aspect of that, of being the new member that I think continues throughout the season is comparatively, to the other members of this unit, I don’t think she’s seen as much as they have. She understands the gravity of the situations they’re in, she understands the weight of that, because…being in this elite sector of the FBI takes a special kind of person. That is not a career; it’s a calling. You have to be committed and a special kind of person to want to do this with your life.

So, in understanding that, I think that aspect of her is already in play. She wants to make a difference in this world and she’s a patriot. She understands what she signed up for; that understanding is there. But she lacks the experience the other members of this unit already have. She hasn’t seen a lot of things they have — she’s younger than they are, she hasn’t been out in the field. I think what she struggles with is, while the understanding is in place that this is life and death, and it’s partially my responsibility to keep these agents safe, I guess there are certain things you can never really believe until you see it. It’s about navigating how much weight you put on your shoulders. You start seeing things you’ve never seen — you’ve probably heard about them, of course, but when you see it, it’s a different story. At least in my head, I played that if [Maggie] is seeing these things for the first time, I’m like, “Wow.” I’m sure there are moments where everyone thinks in this job, “I love my job, and I love my country, I do, and I know that it’s important, but what did I sign up for?” You see some gnarly things.

Were you about to talk to people who do this job, or because of the secretive nature of this career, did you have to mostly read up on it?
TM: I read a lot. I did talk to FBI agents. And I also trained for about five months, and I took the FBI [physical fitness] test.

Wait, what?
TM: [Laughs] Yeah, I’m the type of person just in general who loves reading and I love research — I’m a deep-diver. If I’m curious about something, I’ll just go deep on that subject. That’s one of the many fun aspects of my job: I get to really play into something I naturally love to do. So I read a lot, met some FBI agents, and then I took the PT test, which was just bonkers. But it really helped me to understand the sacrifices these people make, the expectations the FBI has on these agents. That you have to be on-point intellectually and physically. Your brain has to be different than a normal person, because you’re constantly aware of danger in the world. And other people are not. Other people are blind to it, because that’s why we have FBI, CIA, and all these institutions that keep us safe — so we don’t have to think about that. [Laughs]

Will Maggie be going undercover in season 1?
TM: Unfortunately, no. Not for season 1. I don’t know what the plan is [beyond that]. But you can bet your ass I prepared for that just in case! [Laughs]

It would be really fun to see her undercover. I feel like she’d be great at it.
TM: Right?! Me, too.

Is there a particular episode that was your biggest hour in season 1? Or was there a certain episode where we got some backstory on who she is?
TM: I don’t really know what their plans are with Maggie, but we didn’t really dive into her backstory so much, because we were trying to establish the DCO as a unit. You don’t get to see too much of her backstory. I definitely had a backstory in my head, but you don’t get to see that.

Did you talk with the writers about the backstory you had in your mind?
TM: I think it was really complicated, because David Wilcox, our showrunner, came on-board about five minutes before we started shooting. He was such a trooper, and was really under the gun to establish this world and get everything done. We had a lot of creative conversations, for sure. But unfortunately, when you’re trying to put a show together, especially in the first season, you can’t build on that right away. So I feel like he was really cool about it, and he let me keep my backstory that I had in my head, and just play it the way that I saw her. So in that sense, I felt like I had as much creative freedom as I could in that situation. So I totally understand that. I couldn’t do his job.

It’s also fascinating, because this show really doesn’t fit into the serialized or procedural box. From the first few episodes, it does feel like a true hybrid.
TM: I remember when I was talking with David, his whole take on the show — which I really appreciated — was he didn’t want to make another generic procedural. He didn’t want to buy into the format. But that is difficult, because it’s trying to make your own mark on high espionage shows. It’s difficult. It’s a difficult thing to navigate.

The mystery of who Martin really is plays a big part in the show. Does Maggie get drawn into that storyline?
TM: Maggie is — and I feel like this is something we have in common — if she’s intrigued with something, she dives into it. And I think she’s into the mystery of who all these people are. The thing I appreciate about the show is the [idea] of, is there really a line between your work and personal life? Mm, not really. That’s what we’re investigating: where is that line? Is there even a line? So for her, Maggie really admires Martin. As does everyone in the office because he’s the best at what he does. He’s, for lack of a better term, a legend in the field. The guy is like a celebrity. So she looks up to him a lot. There’s a huge amount of respect for him in Maggie’s eyes. Obviously she’s curious about who he is, and how he managed to stay intact this long.

I know you’re now on Twitter, but in the past, you had been pretty adamant about not using it — will you actually end up tweeting? And have you been exposed to the fabulous LEGENDS hashtag #dontkillSeanBean?
TM: I am familiar with the hashtag #dontkillSeanBean, because one of my friends sent it to me, and was like, “Is this real?” And I was like, “I don’t know, but it’s pretty hilarious.” But it made me look it up. I think because he’s so famous for his incredible deaths he’s had in his career, I thought it was pretty genius. So I am aware of that.

I am not tweeting, because I am terrified of social media. [Laughs] I have those things available to me, but I haven’t made a decision about what I’m going to do, because it scares me. I don’t even have it personally!

I gotta get with the times. That’s the thing people always say to me: “You played Mac [on VERONICA MARS]. Now you’re playing Maggie. And you know nothing about social media or online life.” I know. I’m a grandma.

LEGENDS premieres tonight at 9 PM on TNT.

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