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ShowTickets Q&A: Kate Mara of ‘Tall Tales’ Talks Animation, Broadway & More

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

Learn how this TV and film star has deep roots in musical theater

A prolific actress, Kate Mara has starred in American Horror Story, House of Cards, Chappaquiddick and Pose. Her new animated film, Tall Tales, just opened this past month in theaters, and is also available on VOD/Digital. Mara, a longtime fan of Broadway musicals, even sings in the film. She plays beloved queen bee Marguerite, who oversees the hive in a village called Funny Little Bugs. When a kindhearted cricket named Apollo (Justin Long) hops into town, he becomes entangled in a plot organized by Marguerite’s jealous cousin, Wendy the Wasp. Directed by Antoon Krings and Arnaud Bouron, the movie reminds kids and grownups to find joy taking risks, and to see beauty in what we don’t know. 

Actress Kate Mara visits the Prisoner Wine Company (Photo: Matt Morris for the Prisoner Wine Company)

Actress Kate Mara visits the Prisoner Wine Company (Photo: Matt Morris for the Prisoner Wine Company)

What did you love about the story of Tall Tales
Kate Mara
: I really responded to the idea of coexisting with one another, giving each other a chance to get to know each other and not judging a book by its cover. Not everything is as it seems. Also, everybody, even if you think otherwise, yearns for something else. The queen bee thinks that she has lived this perfect life, when really she just wants to feel like everybody else.

Your sister Rooney once said that you knew that you wanted to be on Broadway and do music and acting by the time you were ten. Do you still see yourself performing on Broadway? 
: As a kid, I was very, very involved in that world. I started out auditioning mostly for theater and Broadway. I never was in a Broadway show. But when I was a kid, my focus was mostly on doing musicals. I trained as a singer, but I haven’t done that in years. If I got the opportunity to do something that I could really prepare for and made sense, I would absolutely love it. However, it’s a little tricky doing theater in New York at this point, because I have a family now. And we live in Los Angeles. So it would have to make sense timing-wise for me to be able to do it. But it’s definitely still a dream. And that is why the animated roles are the best of both worlds. You can record voiceovers literally from anywhere in the world. 

I did a very small amount of singing in Tall Tales, but it was so fun. It has actually been one of my dreams, since I was little, to do animated voices and specifically sing in movies. So I’m hoping that this is the first of many. It really brings out your inner child. I jump at any chance to do something like this, especially in an animated film, where you’re not playing yourself. You are hiding behind incredible animation.

When was one of your earliest moments performing?
: I started when I was nine doing community theater near Bedford, New York where we lived. I was in The Sound of Music. I did it again years later. And then when I was 14, I was almost in the Broadway musical, The Sound of Music. My mother says that was really my first heartbreak. It was my dream to be in a Broadway show. And I came very, very close to getting the role of Louisa, the second-oldest girl in that massive von Trapp family. They said at the end of the day, the reason they couldn’t hire me was that I was too close in height to the girl playing Liesl, the older sister. From that day on, I prayed that I wouldn’t grow. I just wanted to be short so I could be on Broadway. I have actually not grown since. So my mother blames my five-foot-two height on my passion for being on Broadway.

Actually, it's good in Hollywood to be relatively short. Because literally every actor is tall compared to you. So there is never the problem of “we need someone who is shorter than him.” Also, my husband is very happy about my height because I make him look very tall.

Do you have a dream role?
: I am producing some things that have been in the works for a bit. I’m excited to play them whenever they happen. Everything takes forever to get off the ground. But eventually I’m going to be playing Nellie Bly, who was the first-ever female journalist. That will be an incredible role. I want her story out there, because it’s so inspiring. Also, I am producing a show with FX called A Teacher. We are waiting on some logistics to get it into production. These are two very different projects and characters, which is what keeps acting interesting and exciting. What makes me want to keep doing my job is finding the most different character (from the one) I last played. Whoever I played last, I want to play the opposite next.

Did you always want to be an actress? 
: From the time I was nine years old, my dream never changed. I wanted to be an actor. My parents were super encouraging and open to my dreams. I don’t even know, at nine, how one decides that that is it. But still, to this day, I feel lucky that I was that passionate then. And I really love it just as much now. Even when times were hard, as it is always for actors in their careers. It never occurred to me to do anything else.

What kept you going during all the rejection? 
: Part of it was naïveté. And part of it was my parents and their encouragement and support. Even though they wanted me to go to college and have some sort of college degree just in case it didn’t work out, I had other plans. But even not following what they hoped for, they believed in me.

Do you remember one of the first Broadway shows you saw and loved? 
: Les Miserables. I believe my husband would say the same thing. (Mara’s husband Jamie Bell, played Billy Elliott in the hit film.) I think a lot of actors say that one. But my mind was blown. I thought it was the most epic thing I’d ever seen. There are also a lot of really great female roles in that show. I was very young when I saw it. I think I was probably around 11. To this day, it is one of my favorite shows.

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