Renegade Interview: Mary Stein, ‘Little Boy’

Little Boy
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Little Boy, a small-town drama/comedy featuring Kevin James and Emily Watson, opens in February. One of the film’s supporting players might look familiar. Grinch fave Mary Stein has a small but pivotal role to play in the movie, and she told us about it recently.

This looks like a very different project for you, Mary. Is that fair to say?

Understatement. I’m used to playing storybook characters and super quirky eccentric characters. Martha is quirky comedy. My agent and I had been focusing on dramatic feature roles for me. This is in that direction.  Thrilled to have the opportunity to play in this period genre with this amazing cast and have my own face.

Is it a mix of comedy and drama – as per the trailer – or is the finished product more one over the other?

From the beginning I was told it is a dramedy. So, you’re right on target.

Is there a particular genre you like working in the most? How do you select your projects?

I love working on good writing and well-written complex characters in any genre. Dramedy is a genre I especially love.

I look at who is involved creatively & producer-wise first. Then read to see if my character has a purpose and something fun to play. I am attracted to scripts that have something heart centered and hopeful to say….thru story without being preachy or didactic. I look for irony and humor even in drama.

How did you get involved in this one?

My agent and I were focusing on getting me in on a specific dramatic feature film role that was casting at the time. Then this audition came across his desk. I went in knowing very little about the project. Just that it was a feature film drama. The scenes I auditioned with were good and fun to play. They put me on tape for the director. Then I was called back to work with Alejandro and Pepe. I got cast knowing relatively little about it. They called a couple months before shooting saying they had increased the role. I showed up on set a few months later with the amazing cast.
Is it intimidating working with such big names – or have you gotten use to it?
No. I’ve been acting my whole life. My focus is on the work. The work as an actor has it’s own intimidations and challenges. My focus is on meeting those challenges. Anything else takes a back seat. However, there was one time…I was intimidated early on. When I first found out I was cast in The Grinch with Jim Carrey as Miss Rue Who. Because we were told that we were going to be creating Whoville thru improv with Jim. And, even though I am known to be good at improv. It’s not my main thing and  Jim is so outrageously good. I like to create a few little guideposts or touch points situationally when I improv. With Jim you have to fly by the seat of your pants. I dealt with my fear by getting passionate about the story & creating the character…then fear takes a backseat. In this case, I did a lot of research on the world of Dr. Seuss’s stories to prepare. I watched & read everything Seuss wrote. I also spent time a lot of time playing with ideas for my character with my acting coach and creating a possible character putting her in situations in Whoville.  I also travelled to Calgary to practice improv with the Loose Moose Theater before shooting. In the end, most of what we did was scripted. Basically, I “do what it takes” in order to be prepared for whatever the demands. It’s fun!

The film has a Christian angle to it, I believe?

I think it’s faith-based and heart centered. There are some church gossips…one of which I am. And, there are some priests…Tom Wilkinson being one. But, I feel it has   universal themes about prejudice, faith, and the damaging nature of bullying and gossips in small towns. I think everyone will be able to relate to it.

You do as many studio films as you do independent films. Is it important to you that you continue to be active in the indie film community?

I just intend to keep creating as an actress and storyteller. Where that leads is yet to be seen. Last year, I created a dance, theater, film piece called “Two Long Ladies”. It grew out of some work I did with Cirque Du Soleil a few years ago. I love to create & act. It’s an adventure. First & foremost, I want to work with great people on great scripts. I have been developing my own writing chops over the last few years. My voice as a writer tends to be social political satire ….so more likely than not as a writer I will probably be produced in the Indie world. I love it all though…

What is next for you?

I’m auditioning a lot and finishing writing a feature film right now.  A political satire screw ball comedy. A sort of Thelma and Louise meets Robin Hood poking fun at those dominating or attempting to dominate society. Interesting, that after what happened with Charlie Hebdo, I am more motivated than ever to complete it and get it made.

Little Boy opens in theatres in February

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About the Author

Shawn S. Lealos
Shawn is a film critic with over 25 years of experience in print and online media. He is a member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle and loves everything from critically acclaimed movies to B-level action flicks.
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