Of course, we all saw this beautiful specimen in the hit movie, How to Be a Player, which starred Bill Bellamy and Lark Voorhies. She’s carved a path throughout Hollywood with appearances in Family Matters, Baywatch, Living Single, Soul Food, The Parkers, and One Life to Live, to name a few. Growing up in Miami, FL, Mari made her way to the Big Apple where she perfected her acting skills, before setting off for the City of Angels (L.A.). I was lucky enough to grab a few moments of her time and pick her brain about her journey thus far. Check out what she had to say about the current state of acting, what she’s been up to and how she decided to make that big move to Los Angeles.
You’re originally from Miami, what made you move to the West Coast?
I live in L.A., but right after high school I went to NYU and studied theater. From there, I moved straight to L.A. when I finished.
What was the deciding factor to get you to move to the West Coast?
Well, New York is more theater and I really wanted to make money. I figured T.V. and film were where I was going to make money, as opposed to hard work in the theater. Theater is nice, but I figured I needed to get my fame while I was young and L.A. was the best place. All of the shows were shot in L.A…back them we had a bunch of black shows so that was the place to be. Back then I think the only thing that New York had was The Cosby Show. Plus I was tired of the cold and me being from Miami, I wanted the warmth and I wanted to be able to drive. While I was in New York, NYU sent me out to an actual theater school so I was in Stella Adler Studio of Acting and I didn’t really like it…I didn’t care for the kids in there. So, I checked out some of the other ones and this one school, Circle of the Square was more like me…less smoking (lol).
With all of your training and relocating, what do you think has been the hardest part about having fame and succeeding in the industry?
The hardest part is maintaining. I got out here and I did pretty good! When I think about how hard it is, there’s so many actors trying to make it and I was pretty lucky to get my foot in the door and hang around a bit. But then, once the reality shows came in, it just knocked all of the little T.V. shows and the black T.V. shows out…a lot less work. But, luckily I was able to make some money and let my money make money! I try to instill that in people. If you do get a job where you make some good money, you have to use that money to try and make more. In this business, you just never know where your next job is gonna come from. I used my money to develop properties. That helps me to where I don’t really have to get out there and try to find so many jobs because I’m actually covered, which is a good thing. I try to tell people, don’t go out there and spend money on cars, try to invest it somewhere…actually, what I do now is sell real estate as well. My mom always said to have a back-up plan, so that’s my back-up plan that I actually enjoy.
Do you still pursue acting? Do you have any upcoming projects?
I have some projects, but I haven’t been focusing all or putting all of my energies in it. Luckily since I’ve been in the business for a while, I have people come after me and ask me to be in this or that. I’ve been lucky in that way. I just did a pilot; hopefully that will get picked up! I also did an independent film called The Good Life. Social networking has helped me too. I’m not really into it, but it helps. I have a Twitter account (@Mari_Morrow) so people can get in touch with me.
I think it’s great that you had a back-up plan, but do you think it takes away from why you went to L.A. in the first place?
I don’t think it takes away. I think it’s good because, as an actor, we do have a lot of down time when there’s no auditions going on. So, that gives me a chance to do something else. Other people may have other creative outlets or they take acting classes. I’m older and I have a kid and I don’t have time to go with my son, but every now and then I take an improv class. That’s a new trend that people are looking for if you’re good at it.
A lot of people remember you from How to Be a Player, what do you consider to be your big break?
A lot of people remember me from How to Be a Player, but then again not a lot of people knew my name back then. I think they learned my name from the T.V. show called Oh Drama!. They got to see me everyday and I got to say my name everyday so it resonated. I think after that, it helped me out a lot. I was also on One Life to Live, that was my first show where I was a regular so that helped me out a lot also.
When you go on auditions, what techniques do you use to prepare for a role?
I have to go over and over because my memory is not the greatest. I have friends come over and run lines with me or I’ll tape my lines at night and I’ll put it on a tape recorder and I’ll play it as I sleep. The more I know my lines, I can just drop it and I can actually be the character and play with it. For me, it’s rehearsing over and over.
Outside of saving money and techniques, what other advice can you offer actors trying to make it?
Try to always be learning. Take different classes because in acting, the more that you know, the better actor you will be. There was one time I started taking sign language classes, I want to take spanish classes, I want to take juggling classes also. I saw Zoe Saldana in Colombiana and I was like “alright now!” she brought the black girls back and it made me want to go and take some martial arts. It’s all about being ready; you just never know what’s going to come up or what you’ll need for a role so it’s always good to be prepared as opposed to trying to get prepared. So, training and always look to try something new.
What is your ultimate goal for your career?
I would still like to do some acting, but I would like to do some producing. I don’t mind stepping in back of the camera. That would be pretty nice and fulfilling. I don’t have to do the job and I can actually critique it or help the actor.
What’s one funny/quirky thing that fans may not know about you?
I can be a little weird. I will wash dishes and then put them in the dishwasher and then wash them again because I want them in hot, hot water! What’s it called? OCD? I’m a little weird like that (lol)! I have to have it clean, I don’t trust everything. I’ll come over your house and you tell me “oh no, it’s OK don’t wash it…” and I’m like “OK” and then try to sneak and wash it (lol)! I don’t want to offend anybody, but I’ll ask, “Can I please clean it?!”
It was such a pleasure speaking with Mari and I can’t wait to meet her in person. You can tell she has a great spirit! She gives some good advice for up-and-coming actors; I hope everyone took notes! Thanks for visiting the Dreamworld!