By: Kayla Caldwell
Hulu and Blumhouse TV's Into the Dark installment, DELIVERED, is a psychological thriller tour de force. It's compelling writing, skillful directing, and a whole heaping of great acting. One of the key players in that is Tina Majorino, who you may know from cult classic Napoleon Dynamite. She is electrifying as Jenny, even though in real life, she could not be sweeter or more delightful.
She was kind enough to hop on a call with us to chat about Stephen King's Misery, society's obsession with drama, and taking on a dream role.
How did you get involved with DELIVERED?
Tina Majorino: I got the script, and I auditioned for it, because, obviously, I’ve never played somebody quite like Jenny before. I just couldn’t not go after it. The idea of playing Jenny really scared me, so I knew that I needed to go after it.
Did you have any movies or characters that helped you get in that headspace?
Tina Majorino: What I actually did was, I made playlists. I’m a big music girl. Normally for my characters, I like to make little playlists that just sort of help me bridge the gap between the research that I’ve done and what we’re going to be doing on the day… When we’re actually on set, it just helps me to click into that headspace that I created with Emma [Tammi], our amazing director.
It was really important to both Emma and I that we not try to bite any other people’s incredible performances in horror movies that we like. It was about creating a brand new character who was fully formed, and fully authentic, and fully a creation of ours.
Jenny kind of reminded me of Annie Wilkes from Misery, because she could go from this kind, almost naive-seeming woman, to someone dark and terrifying.
Tina Majorino: Oh yeah. Reading that script, that’s what made it so delicious. It was very, very dynamic and nuanced, and scary as hell. Natalie [Paul] and I would joke around on set. It’s just like, “No new friends, for sure.” You look at people so differently when you’re working on a horror movie.
Emma is an amazing director as well, because she is a very strong leader. I felt completely safe to go down that road of, “the snap.” You really do need to feel safe with a director to be able to go there, and she created that for both Natalie and I. So, it was... Oh, it was awesome.
Was it difficult to get into the headspace of this character - not just because she can snap, but because she has such a traumatic backstory?
Tina Majorino: It was really difficult for me, for a plethora of reasons. Ones you’ve just mentioned, that she is in a very dark place, and she has come from a place of such horrific trauma. That is a very dark and heavy headspace to be in, but it was also my own personal nervousness and fears that added to that challenge, because I want to do a good job, you know?
I felt like so honored that Emma and Lauren [Downey], our amazing producer, that they saw in me. It was just, I can’t let them down. So, when you are in that dark head space, it takes a toll and you don’t realize.
It was strange, because I would go home at the end of the day, and I’m a person that, I get all jacked up on adrenaline when I’m at work. So it takes me a while to come down, and you know, you’d be sitting in your house, and know that you’re yourself again, and you’re with your dogs, and you’re with your family, but there’s just a residue on you, emotionally, where you’re just - it feels bad to be sort of treading water, in a more negative space.
It was really challenging. It was super fun, obviously. I would do it all over again! I was just saying that it’s so different from other experiences that I’ve had, where, when you’re not called to be such a complicated character, it doesn’t feel like that when you go home.
When you were on set, were you Jenny 24/7?
Tina Majorino: No. I’m not method, at all... That’s what got emotionally confusing for me, personally, because I was like, “Do I feel happy? Do I feel sad? What’s going on?” I just felt very manic. But, it’s fine. It worked out.
One of the scenes that stuck out to me was when Jenny so casually brings up “the others” while talking to Val one morning.
Tina Majorino: Let me just tell you how weird it is to have words like that come out of your mouth. Like, just as a person, some of the things that I had to say to Natalie… Just imagine this, too. When I was making my tape, to go after this, my mom had to read those scenes with me…
To have those words come out of your mouth, and to have them come from a place of earnestness, too. It’s not like, oh, she’s trying to be spooky. It’s not spooky. That’s genuinely who she is. She thinks that that’s a logical answer to the question posed to her.
It’s really fun to play the villain, by the way. I’ve never had more fun.
That’s what I always hear.
Tina Majorino: Yes, ‘cause it’s hard. Number one, it’s hard, because you want it to be grounded. You want it to be real, but there’s just less rules on you. I feel like, especially with female characters, there are a lot of filmmakers that are obsessed with ensuring that the character is “likable,” which is so boring. The fact that the people making this movie were not even remotely concerned about that, gives you a feeling of freedom to just really go there and have a good time with it. The lack of parameters is incredible. You’re just going for it.
That’s something I love about these Into the Dark movies, is that they don’t feel like the characters were made to be so perfect just to be likable. That’s not relatable.
Tina Majorino: It’s not relatable at all. Like you said, nobody is perfect. But besides the fact, that’s not the point of being alive. It’s also not the point of storytelling, because the whole reason that we tell stories is that we can learn and grow, and you know, experience different people’s lives, and hopefully feel more connected.
I feel like that precedent of having to be likable, and having to be perfect takes so much air out of that balloon completely. It’s just, that’s not real. Nobody is awesome all the time. Nobody’s likable all the time, so let’s stop making that a thing, because then people are watching movies or TV shows where that’s the basis of those characters, and it makes them feel like shit… I’ve experienced that. So I loved that part of this whole experience for myself.
The other fun part that I forgot to mention about being a villain is - obviously I’m not a villain in real life, so when am I going to get to be like that? One of the joys of my job is that I get to be all these different people in one lifetime. It’s fun to dip your toe into pools, without having to commit, you know?
It’s like how a lot of us watch reality TV shows, because we love the drama when it doesn’t have anything to do with us?
Tina Majorino: Yeah. That’s what we all love about content in general, isn’t it?
Are you normally a horror fan?
Tina Majorino: You know, I am a horror fan. I think, it’s interesting, the movies that I tend to watch don’t necessarily reflect the roles that I would personally want to play. So, you know, I’m not as adept in the genre as Emma and the rest of this crew, but it’s something that I enjoy. And it has been a dream of mine to play a Jenny, forever. So the fact that this has finally happened, was a dream come true to me.
Not to get all mushy here, but I have to say, it's a dream to watch her performance, too. Jenny is friendly and funny, and awkward, and downright terrifying. Do yourself a favor and check out Into the Dark's latest installment, DELIVERED. It's streaming on Hulu now.