I love it when the tables get turned during an interview. It means that I’ve made my subject comfortable enough that he or she feels that it’s okay to ask me about my life. So when Maiara Walsh – a 24-year-old actress/singer/philanthropist – started grilling me, I gladly obliged.
What I didn’t expect her to do was fuel my dream to move out to California one day. Walsh told me that judging by my voice and knowing me for a half hour, I give off a “West Coast vibe.” So if it sounds like I’m gushing, it’s because the Switched at Birth star made my life. Now that we’ve established that, I’m going to continue singing the praises of the inquisitive, ambitious and multitalented Walsh.
Wait, It’s Not My-Ah-Ra?
First and foremost, get her name right: it’s My-Ah-Da, something you should know before going into an interview. Awkward. Luckily she laughed at my struggle to pronounce her name because, as she said, “I still get new ones everyday.”
As her star rises, the name thing shouldn’t be a problem anymore. After gaining some recognition on Disney Channel’s That’s So Raven spinoff Corey In The House, she landed the role of the devious Simone on ABC Family’s Switched at Birth.
“In the first season, Simone is introduced as a girl on the basketball team and she befriended Daphne [Katie Leclerc],” she said. “She’s a little misguided. She’s used to getting what she wants. In the second season she’s trying to find her way back into herself and some redemption.”
Walsh was careful not to reveal any of the sure-to-be juicy details of the new season (which comes back on September 3). All she was willing to say was: “It’s going to be a good season.”
She was slightly less reserved when discussing General Education, the “fun coming-of-age family indie film” that will mark her big screen debut. Walsh plays the love interest of a kid who has to take a summer school class in order to graduate high school and get his tennis scholarship to a local university. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think summer school would be so bad with Walsh as motivation.
She’s So Fetch
Everyone loves Mean Girls, right? It’s the one chick flick that every guy can admit to loving. Here’s a fun fact: they made a sequel without any input from Tina Fey that aired it as a TV movie. Walsh played Mandi Weatherly, Mean Girls 2’s answer to Regina George.
“The first Mean Girls is almost untouchable,” she said of stepping into the iconic franchise. “It’s always difficult doing sequels. It went from PG-13 to PG, so that was a big leap. I wanted to do my best to not play Regina.”
By my count, Walsh went from a literal mean girl to a more ambiguous one in Switched at Birth. What’s up with that?
“It’s kind of double-edged,” she said. “Playing the bitch is not my favorite character. What’s fun about Simone is that she’s a layered character. There needs to be some redemption quality.”
Walsh mentioned that she’d love the opportunity to play a weirder character or to step into a fantasy universe like Lord of the Rings or The Hunger Games. For the record, she’s Teem Peeta. She earns 100 cool points for that.
What Can’t She Do?
Walsh is a junior college dropout who, if she had her way, would have a private tutor who traveled with her because she “just loves learning.” She happened to be a psychology major, which makes her diagnosis of my West Coast vibe even more legitimate.
“I think psychology really ties into acting,” she said. “I love getting into people’s heads. I like science and biology. What I really love is acting and singing.”
Oh yeah, did I mention she sings too? It’s not just a hobby either: Walsh said she’s been writing nonstop, getting ready to shoot her first music video in a month and hoping to start on an album asap.
“This has been such a crazy journey because I’ve been terrified of singing my entire life,” she admitted.
The Seattle native is half Brazilian and half American (her father is of Irish, German and Swedish descent). She spent nine years of her life in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which helped her become fluent in Portuguese and get a solid grasp of Spanish.
“I do go out for a lot of Latina roles,” she said of how being multilingual helps her acting career. “I would eventually love to do a film in Brazil and sing in Portuguese or Spanish.”
Making Dreams Come True
Aside from the whole ‘I’m good at everything’ shtick Walsh has going for her, she’s also a philanthropist. She works with Give Kids the World in Orlando. Its website describes the sprawling village as “a 70-acre, nonprofit ‘storybook’ resort…where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to weeklong, cost-free fantasy vacations.”
Walsh will be hosting an event there on September 7 and 8 called “Enchanted Weekend.” She and other young celebrities (Walsh wouldn’t namedrop) will be hosting parties, performing and doing other activities with the kids all weekend.
“I’m really excited about it,” she said with genuine enthusiasm (she’s not the only one who can analyze voices). “I went there last summer and I fell in love. I wanted to bring more magic to the kids. It’ll show them how special they are. When you’re surrounded by kids for three days straight it’s hard not to be inspired.”
I don’t think a huge “awwwwwww” even begins to describe how cute that sounds. Considering how much she inspired me and my dreams, imagine how much good she can do for those kids in Orlando. Let her inspire you with some words of wisdom for anyone who wants to be an actor/singer/exceptional person:
“Ask yourself why you want to be a singer or actress,” she said. “If you’re in this for the fame it most likely won’t work out for you. I’ve been doing for 10 years and I’m still working toward where I want to be. You need dedication and passion. As an artist, there’s a need inside of me to create. Ask yourself, is this something I truly must do?”
Photo: at http://crisiscreativa.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/chicas-malas-2-si-existe/
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