For the casual TV or film viewer, Hannah Marks’ name on its own may not ring a bell, but chances are, you’ve seen the girl before. From the small screen to the silver screen, Marks has been steadily building her portfolio over the past decade, from starring alongside Justin Long and Jonah Hill in the 2006 campus comedy Accepted to rocking out 70s-style in 2010’s The Runaways along with Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning. The young actress has also guest starred in a long list of hit television shows, from Showtime’s critically-acclaimed Weeds to ABC’s beloved (and criminally cancelled) Ugly Betty.
Last year marked the young actress’s ten-year anniversary since making her official acting debut in 2005. Ironically 2015 also seemed to mark a shift in Marks’ career, one which saw a number of her buzzy projects take off, including Rose McGowan’s much-discussed short film and directorial debut Dawn, IFC Films’ indie drama Anesthesia, and the announcement of the indie horror anthology Southbound, as well as the 2016 sequel to SLC Punk!, 1998’s anarchistic comedy-turned-cult-favorite.
While this year unfolds, 23-year-old Marks will undoubtedly continue her metamorphosis into a bona fide indie It Girl, with the entertainer already having landed a lead role in Dirk Gently, BBC America’s upcoming series based on the works of sci-fi comedy maestro Douglas Adams. As I spoke to the actress about her recent and upcoming projects, including the aforementioned flicks as well as a guest role on the controversial ABC sitcom The Real O’Neals, I realized that it’s only a matter of time before her work catches up with her and her name becomes just as recognizable as those of her many established costars. After all, Hannah has certainly left her mark on me.
Anesthesia received great reviews at the Tribeca Film Festival. What was your filming experience like?
I was excited and nervous. My character Ella is very intelligent and complex with some challenging dialogue. The cast was incredible, I was really lucky to have Glenn Close and Sam Waterston as my grandparents. And I have always looked up to Tim Blake Nelson, the writer/producer/director who also played my father in the film. Working with him was a dream because he’s a fantastic actor and pushed me to do my best work.
This was also your second time working with Kristen Stewart on a film. Have you been able to take any cues from her about navigating the industry?
She’s always made cool choices and done interesting movies. I like her style and feel grateful to be in two of her projects. In The Runaways I was her little punk girlfriend and in Anesthesia our storylines are connected through Sam Waterston being my grandfather and her professor. The films could not be more different. Her first day on The Runaways was also my first day, and I remember she fell in front of a bunch of photographers who snuck on set. She just flipped them off. It made me feel like you don’t have to conform to what’s expected of you.
You also star as a lead in the SLC Punk! sequel, Punk’s Dead. The original film is such a cult favorite. Did you feel any pressure in terms of taking on the sequel?
I loved the original so much, but I didn’t feel pressure necessarily. I did re-watch it about three times. I went to Utah ready for a new, fun experience and just tried to enjoy it and do my best to stay true to my character.
What can you tell us about your character, Penny? Were you tempted to keep the pink hair after filming?
Penny is “straight curious” and worships her car. She’s tough and guarded at first, only opening up to her best friend Crash, played by [Machine Gun] Kelly. Over the course of the road trip in the movie, she quite literally battles her demons and finds new possibilities for the future, thanks to her new goth friend Ross, played by Ben [Schnetzer]. I actually did keep my pink hair for a few weeks after the movie! Once it faded out, I dyed it blue for a long, long time.
Speaking of sequels, is there a particular franchise that you’d just die to be part of?
Harry Potter! (Even though I never read the books—shhh!) I would want to be Luna Lovegood.
You also star in the horror anthology Southbound. Are you fan of the genre?
I’m not a big fan of horror. I really only like the classics like The Shining. What drew me to Southbound was how artistic their vision was. I’ve never seen anything like it. I was inspired by the anthology format and working with a ton of badass women in front of and behind the camera. It’s not just blood and guts, it’s like The Twilight Zone.
Do you find it more difficult to get into a horror headspace when you’re acting?
It can be difficult and emotionally draining, but it also can be really fun. Except for when you’re drinking a ton of “poisoned” milk and meat, or vomiting black blood. Then it’s not as fun. But pretending to be kidnapped by a cult with your girl band? Super fun!
You’ve been involved in a number of musically themed roles and films—from appearing in The Runaways to playing a musician in Southbound—and I also hear there’s some musical history on your mom’s side. Is music something you’d like to pursue?
It’s ironic because I’m the worst singer and I can’t play a single instrument! Auditioning for The Runaways was terrifying for me, because I had to sing “Lola” by the Kinks and “The Wild One” by Suzi Quatro over and over again. Thankfully, my character didn’t have to be a great singer. In Southbound, I’m a drummer, but my drum kit stays in the back of our van… Music plays a big part in my life because my whole family plays guitar or sings—they’re all so musically gifted! My grandfather Ernie Ball was revolutionary with guitars and never stopped playing and teaching his kids. Unfortunately, I don’t have that skill. But maybe one day!
You also have a guest role on The Real O’Neals. What’s different in terms of filming something for TV and filming a movie?
I loved doing my episodes of The Real O’Neals because I rarely get to do straight comedy. The main difference [is that] TV is way faster. The pacing is faster and so is the actual filming. You’ll do so many scenes in a day that you don’t have time to get anything wrong or overthink. I love doing indies, but TV can be just as fulfilling. One of the best times I’ve had on a set was doing Weeds.
You starred in Rose McGowan’s short film Dawn, which explores some interesting themes about young womanhood. Did you take anything special away from that?
I played an evil manipulative character, and Rose knew exactly what she wanted from me. It was exciting to get extremely confident and strong notes, especially from a directorial debut. She inspired me to make my own short film soon after and has been incredibly supportive to all of us from Dawn. I can’t wait until she makes a full length feature, I’m sure it’ll blow us away.
Is there a character you’ve played thus far that you feel you really connect with?
I play a 14-year-old prostitute in an 1890s film that hasn’t come out yet called You Can’t Win. It was a challenge because there was an accent, an addiction, the time period, and she had an incredibly challenging life. But I connected with her so much because I loved her character in the book. She was a real girl and I felt so excited to portray her and know all the little details about her life that weren’t put on screen.
What about an archetype you’ve struggled to portray or connect with?
I think any character that is sane and normal, or just someone’s girlfriend, would be a struggle to portray. I’m neurotic and want to give all my characters problems or ticks. Also, I’ve never done anything stylized or futuristic and that’s a challenge I’d love to take on.