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Actress Annika Marks Discusses Her Roles in ‘The Affair’ & ‘Goliath,’ & What She’d Tell Her Younger Self (Exclusive Q&A)

If you were a diehard fan of The Fosters, you probably know the incredible Annika Marks as Principal Monte Porter. Besides her time on the Freeform hit, Marks can now be seen in season 4 of Showtime’s The Affair as Abby and season 2 of Amazon’s Goliath as Mary Roman. Her recent projects also include the films The Last Champion and The World Without You, and a run in the Def West production of Our Town at the Pasadena Playhouse. 

Her Campus spoke with Marks about her self-care regimen for stressful days, how being a part of The Fosters family impacted her, her volunteer work with Connect Our Kids and more. 

Her Campus: You’re starring in two returning shows (The Affair and Goliath), is there anything you’ve learned about yourself from working in two consecutively running shows?

Annika Marks: I think that being a good artist has a lot to do with being a good multi-tasker. You get challenged that way because in our business it’s like feast or famine. You’re either working jobs simultaneously and trying to manage a crazy schedule, or looking for the next job. I think a huge part of being successful is knowing how to embrace times when life is really crazy and you’re working on three or four hours of sleep. Actually, when I shot both Goliath and The Affair, I was simultaneously doing eight shows a week of Def West’s version of Our Town at the Pasadena Playhouse, so it was a really crazy time. I think what you learn is how to be grateful for the work when it comes and take it one moment at a time and stay present. In many ways that’s actually the key to acting, so it’s not a bad state to be in.

HC: What’s your favorite way to practice self-care during your downtime?

AM: I’ve tried a lot of things, like yoga and hiking. I try to grab the quiet moments when I can and not fill up every single second, even when it’s tempting to and means closing yourself off to the world for a minute. I think it’s really important to check in and self-analyze, and see where you’re at and what you need. I believe I do that pretty well, actually. I personally get very stimulated and get a lot from contact with people, so I love being on set and in a rehearsal room. I love the team sport element of it and all of the people. That actually feeds me and fuels me in a lot of ways, but sometimes it can be overwhelming. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how to step away and take a minute by myself in my trailer or dressing room and go inward. Even 30 seconds like that can be rejuvenating.  

HC: Do you think portraying Abby on The Affair has helped you portray any aspects of Mary on Goliath?

AM: They’re both women who are suffering, but very differently. I was shooting them simultaneously, so that’s an interesting question because one was feeding the other just energetically. When you have these characters that you’re working on in your system, they inevitably feed each other and inform each other. As you learn more about your instrument, you go onto the next job and can use it in that one. They’re very different, but I think they’re both women with really strong maternal instincts that come before everything else. In that way I was very lucky by how different their circumstances are—their maternal instinct is so strong, that I think that was really my North Star with both of them.

HC: As you’re probably aware, a lot of viewers tweet about various fan theories about Goliath. Do you ever find yourself scrolling through and reading any fan theories for Goliath?

AM: No, I haven’t! I didn’t even know that was a thing. I’m so technologically—this makes me sound older than I am—but I’m so technologically like a dinosaur. I really try to engage and stay active, but I’m probably protected by the fact that I’m not all that good at social media. I avoid all the talk that could hurt my feelings that I never even see. I’m just not good at managing it.

HC: Is there any advice or piece of encouragement that you’d give to your younger self?

AM: I think that’s the beautiful and painful thing about life, right? As you move forward, you learn all the things that you wish you could turn around and hand your younger self. It’s inevitably going to keep happening to us as we get older. If I could go back, I’d tell myself that the journey is the destination. I believe that completely. I think the worst thing you can do for yourself, especially as an artist, is to think you know where you’re going because you don’t. You can have aspirations and ambitions and goals, and all of that is really healthy and really wonderful, but I think the key to happiness is to walk through the open door in front of you. You have to learn how to love it and say, “Wow, I didn’t know this was the path, but isn’t it wonderful.” It’s also important to figure out how to be the best version of yourself wherever you are. Wherever you think you’re going, no matter what, it won’t be exactly where you are. You have to figure out how to really love the journey. I’ve gotten really good at that, but that’s a skill that’s hard to have when you’re young. When you’re young, you feel like you’re going to conquer the world, and that’s also the beauty of being young. In many ways if you gave this kind of perspective to a young person, they wouldn’t be as powerful and as fabulous. I get a lot of encouragement from being around people who still have that kind of “I can do anything” energy. Not to dampen that at all, but I think the key to being happy is to embrace the things you can’t control.

HC:  The Fosters series finale recently premiered, and you played Principal Monte Porter on the show. The show has had a lasting effect on many fans. Did being a part of it have a lasting effect on you at all?

AM: Every once in a while, you get really lucky as an artist where you actually get to be a part of something that aligns completely with your moral human fabric and tells a story that you want to tell. This story puts messages out into the world that you would want to with any kind of platform at all—the show was that for me. I care very deeply about all the issues that were on those creators’ minds, especially LGBTQ+ representation in media. I think it’s so vital, and I do a lot of work with charitable organizations for foster youth in the system and once they’re out of the system as well. I was just incredibly lucky to be part of a show that had all those same values. In many ways when I was growing up, these were the things missing from family content. I’m just so proud to be part of something that was telling kids growing up today that the world is a big, beautiful, accepting and inclusive place, even if it doesn’t look like that in the corner of the world where they’re growing up in. I’ll always be proud to be part of it.

HC: You’re an ambassador for Connect Our Kids, which helps find families for foster children more quickly. Is there any advice you would give to young people, especially college students, who might want to give back or volunteer at Connect Our Kids or similar organizations, but are afraid that they might not have enough time or experience to help a cause that they support?

AM: I think the thing that stops people from jumping in is that they think they don’t have anything to give. I try all the time to tell people that it isn’t true just given the fact that you have time means you have something to give. If you have time and any kind of resources at all, you have more than most people. It doesn’t even have to be a lot of time. I volunteer for an organization that gathers on Sundays to create homes for foster youth that have aged out of the system. It’s literally about showing up for a couple of hours, and being able to move furniture into a space and hammering nails into a wall. It just shows love and hospitality in a space that you helped make theirs. It’s a beautiful thing. You can show up for half hour or three hours or whatever you give. I think once you start a life of volunteering and those kinds of efforts, you never stop because it feels so good. You get so much more from it than you give. I think a lot of people don’t start because they don’t have extra disposable income or anything to give. That just couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you have a heart, you have something to give, and there are so many organizations that would be so grateful for you just showing up to help. You can become part of something incredibly cool. It’s the most rewarding part of my life and always has been. I’m lucky that I grew up in a house where doing that kind of work was just expected, so it’s always a part of my life. If it hasn’t been part of yours, just start!

Emily Schmidt

Stanford '20

Emily Schmidt is a junior at Stanford University, studying English and Spanish. Originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia, she quickly fell in love with the Californian sunshine and warm winter temperatures. Emily writes a hodgepodge of pieces from satiric articles for The Stanford Daily to free-verse poetry to historical fiction. Just like her writing repertoire, her collection of hobbies are widely scattered from speed-crocheting to Irish dancing to practicing calligraphy. When she is not writing or reading, Emily can also be found jamming out to Phil Collins or watching her favorite film, 'Belle.'
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