Tina Majorino Discusses ‘Legends’ and Her Research Process

Tina Majorino Legends Interview
Tina Majorino and Morris Chestnut attend TNT’s ‘Legends’ panel during Comic-Con International: San Diego 2014 at San Diego Convention Center on July 24, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/WireImage)

Tina Majorino was determined to be completely prepared for whatever executive producers Howard Gordon and David Wilcox threw at her in Legends, a new TNT series premiering on August 13, 2014 at 9pm ET/PT. Majorino did extensive research for her role as the newest member of the FBI’s Deep Cover Operations (DCO) division, going as far as to even take the FBI agent test in order to understand her character. And at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con, Majorino discussed getting into the role and what audiences can expect from Legends.

Tina Majorino Legends Interview

So your character is the ‘newbie’?

Tina Majorino: “Yeah, she’s kind of the noob. It’s not really like the driving force behind the character. She’s part of the support team so she sets up some of the missions and keeps the agents safe. She’s in the situation room which means that she watches all the missions, she hears all the missions, she sends in support or maps things out. So I don’t really think that it’s super relevant after a while because all of these people, it’s not a career, it’s not a job, it’s a life mission. There’s a commitment level that at a certain point it’s like who cares if I’m the new kid? I have a purpose and it’s not about that. It’s about supporting my superiors and doing that. She’s definitely an important part of the team, but I like the fact that all of the people that are on the team, like Sean [Bean] and Ali [Larter] and Morris [Chestnut] and Steve Harris, everybody has a very specific role that they play in making these things successful.

[…]I feel like when you’re watching it, she kind of mentions it in the first or second episode. I think it’s the first quarter. After that, it’s not shoved in your face and she’s not inept in any way, meaning like she doesn’t drop the ball. She really busts her ass to prove that she should be there. So I don’t want to oversell that she’s just the newbie, like, ‘What’s happening?’ It’s not like that. They hired her for a reason so I think over time through the series, you see more how important it is that all these people work together. Regardless of personal sh*t, they have to work together to keep each other alive and safe.”

The character had to have a skill set to get the job and she wouldn’t make mistakes and freak out.

Tina Majorino: “Right, and that’s very true and on point, because especially when you think of the FBI, they’re not joking around. They’re not going to hire people, especially a young woman, who doesn’t know what she’s doing. Especially when being a part of this specific team, you’re sending people into [danger]. Cases only come through the DCL when it’s highly dangerous and it’s imperative that it be undercover and underwraps and nobody knows about it. Thinking of it from that standpoint is a huge amount of responsibility, so you better know what you’re doing.

I love the fact that all of these characters, like I said, it’s definitely not a career. It’s a life mission, because you get no credit for it. It’s kind of like working for the CIA. Nobody knows what happens in this office. Nobody knows what they’re sacrificing. Nobody knows what they’re really going through or what they’re doing. It has to be enough for these people that they are making some difference hopefully.”

What was your way into the character? Was there something about her you really latched onto?

Tina Majorino: “A lot of it. It’s hard because in the beginning we were still working out what the show was going to be, so it was really difficult because you don’t know who anybody is, really. So when you’re trying to create a character, my thing was six months before I wanted to…obviously, law enforcement and all that stuff, that’s so far outside of my wheelhouse. I’m not around those people all the time, definitely didn’t go to school for it, so a lot of my research happened six months before, just reading up on things, meeting different people. I did a lot of training for it just in case, which we didn’t end up using. But I was like, ‘You know what? If one day Howard [Gordon] comes up to up to me and says, ‘I want you to run across this field and everything’s gonna blow up and you’re going to have a gun,’ I wanted to be able to know I could do it.’

And also just even being in the office, all of these people, if this is really the most elite unit, I needed to know for myself. I can’t sit here and try to sell this if I can’t do what these people really do. So I trained for six months and I took the FBI agent test, which was insane. I’ve never felt my lungs burn like that in my life, but I passed so that was good. But that was really my way through is that research, reading, the physicality of it. Then when I actually got on set, I worked with the costume designer and really tried to make her a young, eclectic professional that didn’t just totally fade into the background. So we did a lot of that with how she dressed. She did a phenomenal job, Nadine Haders, she was amazing. That’s how I found my thing.”

Do we see any of Maggie’s backstory or life outside this unit?

Tina Majorino: “Not yet. No. Of course I have her backstory in my head but no, we didn’t, not in this season.”

Did the research change your mind or opinion of the FBI? What stereotype did you want to break?

Tina Majorino: “I’m not this person that forms solid opinions if I’m not completely educated on a topic. I’m not opinionated in that way. I don’t make snap judgements if I don’t have all the information. I didn’t know a lot about the FBI but I obviously have respect for it. Thank God that there are people who want to do that job so that I don’t have to, because I don’t know if in reality I could. But I think I definitely have a lot more respect, gratitude, and it’s a little bit scary thinking about the things that happen in the world that all of us don’t know about. It really makes you think about that and it’s frightening. I’m grateful for the people that have made this specific job their life mission because it keeps us all safe. It’s just crazy to think, so I didn’t have a bad opinion of the FBI by any means. I just didn’t understand it fully and now, not that I understand it fully now, but I just have a broader understanding of what these people go through on a daily basis. I’m really lucky that I’m an actor and I just get to dip my toe in whenever I feel like it.

And as far as Ali and I both I think felt this way, like a lot of time women in law enforcement roles, there’s no femininity to it. It’s easy to lose the woman aspect of it, and it’s also easy to oversell that as well. So I think for me personally, I didn’t want to make it about I’m a woman. I’m one of two women in an office. It wasn’t about that. It was just like everybody was really equal and it was about playing that. And a big fight for me is do not dress me dowdy. Don’t dress me not cute because I’m definitely not the person that’s sending that message, like being smart is unattractive. So understanding that a lot of my job is aesthetically based, it’s important to me that girls watching this show of all ages, little girls, women, see that the sexiest thing you can be is smart and be yourself. Don’t conform to what you think is cute or pretty or what everybody else is doing. There is something really admirable about somebody that can stand firm in who they are and not be afraid. I don’t want girls to be afraid to be smart. If anybody’s intimidated by you being intelligent, then… You know? So that’s a definite thing that I am always aware of.

If I’m ever playing a smart girl, I want to make sure that she’s cute. All girls want to feel comfortable in their own skin and feel cute and stuff, but that’s a big point for me is do not make it look like I should live under a bridge because some of the sexiest, most amazing women in the world are both cute and smart. It’s possible. You don’t have to be one or the other and a lot of the time what makes people beautiful anyway is their individuality, who they are inside that shines outside. So that’s one of the main things that always happens I feel like. ‘Oh, you’re smart. You’re a nerd.’ It’s not true.”

-By Rebecca Murray

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