Pop-Culturalist Chats with Annika Marks

Annika Marks is hardworking and talented—a winning combination for Hollywood. Not only is she an actress, but she is also a writer and a producer. She creates her own original content and acts in things like the popular TV show The Fosters and the new show The Last Tycoon. Needless to say, we were excited to chat with Annika about all the work she’s done and what she hopes to do in the future.

P-C: Tell us about The Last Tycoon and how you got involved with the project.
Annika: The Last Tycoon is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final unfinished novel and takes place in 1936 Hollywood. The characters of Monroe Stahr, the golden boy executive, and Pat Brady, the studio head, are loosely based on Irving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer. I’ve known Chris Keyser, who partnered with Billy Ray to run The Last Tycoon for over 10 years, and he initially brought me in to read for Kay Maloney, the sole female writer at Brady-American Pictures. I met Billy Ray at that session. They hired the brilliant team at Bialy/Thomas to cast this project and together they created the safest audition environment imaginable. I felt so nurtured, respected and loved in that room—and once I was on set I realized that every actor who read for Billy had the exact same experience. They cast the incomparable Kerry O’Malley for Kay and I was lucky to have them reconsider me for the role of Bernadette Davis, the wife of Dex Davis, another writer on the lot. Dex is also Minna Davis’s (Monroe’s deceased wife) brother, so the role came along with a complicated history, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to get the call!

P-C: Were you familiar with the source material prior to your audition?
Annika: I was familiar with the material. I had a Fitzgerald obsessed phase when I was younger. But I revisited the novel during the pilot and was shocked at how little I remembered. It’s a really interesting read because it was unfinished, and you get this insight into Fitzgerald’s mind sifting through his notes. It’s an intimate read that way and makes for a beautiful, creative adaptation. I think Billy and Chris did a tremendous job of honoring the text while also imagining the world surrounding it and extending from it.

P-C: How do you get in the head shape of a character who experiences a huge personal tragedy with her husband? How does that affect your character throughout the series?
Annika: The pilot was tough, but tough for an actor is also exciting because being challenged is imperative to continuing to grow. There’s nothing that scares me more than artistic complacency. I had lost someone close to me a couple months before and, although it wasn’t my romantic partner, the finality of it was very present for me. I was able to tap into that without having to reach for it. I was more concerned with bringing all of Bernadette’s circumstances to set with me—her husband (who she knew was frustrated, but didn’t realize was suicidal) killed himself, she hasn’t slept and then she’s discovered he’d been abusing drugs and there was no way Monroe was unaware—the anger, the grief, the hysteria, the refusal to imagine that I could be part of it, and the need to blame someone. I was trying to hold all of that in my head and in my heart and the longer we shot that scene for, the more dehydrated and exhausted I was, the bigger headache I had. That all made the scene easier because that’s how she feels. I also had the honor of working with Matt Bomer—who I can’t say enough amazing things about. He is so generous and so present. And Billy Ray was directing, who is the most loving, passionate, inspiring leader imaginable. So, I was very lucky to be doing vulnerable work in a very safe and creatively full space.

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