Talent | Empowerment | Beauty | It’s Maya Rose
Maya Rose is a beautiful, strong, and talented spirit who is kicking off her acting career with her kickass role on HBO’s “The Sex Lives of College Girls.” Embodying a character who is a lot more “aggressive,” than her normal self, Maya explained that in order to get into character, she had to understand where the aggression came from. And for her role as Jena, the aggressive side of her character is filed by her desire to protect her future in soccer. Seeing the progress that is happening for women in the industry, there is still a lot more to go and it is people like Maya Rose who continue to highlight and promote female’s strength, beauty, and talents!
Share with us your journey as an actress from where it started to where you are today.
I always performed plays and told stories growing up, whether in my living room or on stage, performing musical theater or dancing professionally with my teachers on tour, I filled my youth with storytelling. I begged my mom to let me start acting professionally earlier but she wanted to protect my childhood. I’ll secretly never forgive her for making me miss out on Harry Potter but I’m grateful for the desire to work that was built inside of me instead.
I started my career at 18 when I booked a CoStar in Showtime’s Shameless as a blunt tall girl buying drugs from the Ghallagers.
It was one of my first in person auditions, I remember walking in feeling free and so badass for truly not giving a shit in my delivery to the producers just like my character was written. The show is still one of my favorites for how relatable and honest its portrayal of characters are, more than just making ends meet, more than just survivors, more than just a woman(Fiona) exploring her freedom while balancing her burden and blessing.
Working on a show that actually inspires me kept me motivated for what was next.
After Shameless I went to study at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts for two years to allow my process and understanding of my craft to deepen.
Once I graduated I began to audition and booked a Recurring Guest Star on another one of my favorite shows, FX’s American Horror Story: Roanoke as Nurse Miranda, a twisted sister who created an elderly care center that tortured its patients. Finding Miranda’s humanity while understanding that sometimes those who believe in the justice of their actions happen to be villains. The evil nurses based on real people maintain their legendary status in AHS history.
After working with Kathy Bates, one of my acting heroes, I kept auditioning until I landed 2KSports first ever female villain in WWE 2K2020 Tag Team as Brooklyn Von Braun the “All American Hero”. Using my stunt and dance background, I jumped at the chance to step into motion capture, mastering the movements necessary to bring this character to life. Pretty surreal that my first Voice Over job is now heard by millions playing the game every day around the world and I’m incredibly eager for more. As anime and manga have had a major impact on my life, stepping further into the VO/dubbing world is what I’m looking forward to diving into.
Cut to 2021, I just wrapped shooting Mindy Khaling’s newest show on HBOMAX, “The Sex Lives of College Girls” where I play ‘Jena’ the Co-Captain of the Essex Foxes Soccer team determined to be the best through hard work and in your face realness. The show is currently HBOMax’s number one original comedy and has just been renewed for season 2!
Bringing a depth to what feels intimidating but is honest and layered truly excites me as an actor and I’m grateful Justin Noble and Mindy Khaling gave me the wiggle room to bring Jena to life.
Growing up, what was your life like? Any particular story you would like to share?
I’m a first-generation American born in LA, raised by refugees so my house was always filled with culture, food, and stories. Coming home to stuffed grape leaves and roasted leg of lamb with middle eastern music playing in the background was the regular miracle of our kitchen. I’m so grateful for my heritage and culture, my grandmother was born in Jerusalem and lived in the region her entire life as did her family for generations, while my grandfather was born in then Hungary and immigrated to Jerusalem as a survivor of the Holocaust. Their love story and the circumstances they had to survive to find one another remind me of the strength protecting my dreams. The only way my grandfather convinced my grandmother to marry him after she survived hiding in the desert was by saying he would move to America so she could become an actress that she dreamed of becoming her whole life. Every time I act I feel her spirit holding me. My mom is a total rebel, badass, and intellectual who marched with Martin Luther King and gave my immigrant grandparents constant heart attacks by engaging in local politics and fighting for justice. She has shown me anything is possible and that we are our own heroes, & I’m so grateful to carry that energy within me too.
When you got the call that you landed a role in Sex Lives of College Girls, what was your first reaction?
Joy. Our careers are so up in the air and after 2020 I felt I earned it. I got the audition 6 hours before the live zoom casting, called my cousin to meet me at 8 am for some coffee and to rehearse because she had a working printer and ya girl needed the pages. We played with the scenes and I got home, set up my shop, and just did the damn thing. I feel so lucky to have read with Liz Barnes, Elizabeth Ayoob, and Jennifer Euston who cast Sex lives. Their direction and energy were a gift in and of itself.
Working with Mindy Khaling, what are some things you learned?
I 100% blurted out ‘it’s an honor to work with you’ to Mindy before our first take like a weirdo. She was nice about it and we started the scene.
For me, it was meaningful to grow up seeing a woman in our industry shine in their acting, then write, direct and produce content. It’s inspiring, and the content she makes is relatable and inclusive and on the nose funny in a way this generation needs. I’m extremely grateful to be working on her project and can’t wait to see what’s next.
How did you prep for your role as Jena? Did you always play soccer?
Some folks may see Jena as a bitch, but to me sheds someone who sacrificed her entire youth to bring a vision to life. To prep for Jena, I created circumstances of training with her mom growing up and running every morning for mental health and always being motivated by her love of soccer and the joy and freedom she saw in her mom while playing until she passed away. That loss wove determination to succeed as a pro into her in a way that cemented the sacredness of soccer. Jena’s dad fought tooth and nail to try and be the coach and motivator she needed to get scholarships into programs that would help her.
So when this new rookie arrives on the team,(Whitney), who has a mom, is famous already, seemingly enters the space with privilege, and is getting handed spots that would normally take weeks to be given, it pisses her off. When we understand the level of loss and determination woven into Jena’s reactions, she’s less of a bitch and more of a player who is determined to protect her sacred space- is she a little jealous too? Of course. Whitney has what she never did, a mom around to push open doors for her. As we learn watching the season it isn’t that simple but the feelings exist, they’re valid. Soccer-wise, I never played growing up, but my cousin and best friend did so I was super lucky to have folks close to me to play within preparation for shooting. I fell in love with soccer through Jena, and the year of prep during a pandemic. The smell of fresh cut grass and the joy of making a perfect pass, I even found a soccer manga to read and keep me motivated.
When we met, I encountered one of the sweetest girls ever! How did you embody a more aggressive character?
I think understanding aggression comes down to finding people’s why. They need to show up how they do because their life led them to that place. People are usually aggressive when protecting something precious. That’s soccer for Jena, she’s going to go pro and trained her whole life accordingly to see that through. It’s hard to not be the youngest best rookie on a team, although being co-captain as a sophomore pretty alright.
How do you usually prepare for roles?
I get off book, go through the thoughts leading to the words, create imaginary life circumstances that embolden all of my characters choices, and fill my world with parts of my characters to let everything sink in. For Jena I watched ‘bend it like beckham’ at least 50 times, just to hear soccer being played and feel the reality of women on a field breaking barriers around me. I find that I always procrastinate but all the things I procrastinate with are in alignment with my character’s inner world so honestly, I am just here for the ride and trust that I really do the work.
As a woman, do you feel there is progress being made in the industry? And what needs more work?
I see progress through female producers, writers, directors, and showrunners making space in our Industry. I feel progress in how women check in on one another on set and make sure we all feel safe. Unfortunately, that’s something we have to always do, but the communal approach towards a safe set for everyone is noticed and appreciated for sure.
I think progress wise, we need to do as much as we can to prevent assault on set, and continue to find ways to do so for everyone’s sake. Luckily sex lives had a badass crew of folks on set taking care of us and checking in, but that’s not always what well get and I know it’s something that has affected some of my friends’ lives forever.
How does this show reflect certain truths about being a woman in this world?
The boxes we are placed into, perpetually questioning if a connection is a badass collaboration or if someone is just trying to assault you, having partners feel intimidated by your drive and focus, working harder than most to secure a spot in a male dominated sector, inadequacy and comparison, having to hide your queerness or fiscal position because folks will immediately treat you like a condiment instead of a main dish… I think this show brilliantly articulated so much nuance to being a young woman existing in the world.
You are also an artist! What does music fulfill for you that acting doesn’t? How do both careers overlap?
Music has always been that secret door to my inner self. How I connected to my culture – they made me sing EVERYTHING in temple. How I channel and let the creator flow through me: I used to perform live at underground shows while improvising with a band and that feeling of expansive presence is something I will crave forever. The music I’m working on now is thought out and polished in a way my raw shows aren’t. I’m excited to bridge the two in my project dropping this year.
I think music is more intimate and personal than acting for me because I’m playing myself. And exposing myself. I do that in all of my characters as well but I’m not playing a character as a music artist. I’m just me. And it’s exciting to finally be able to share her with the world.
Music and acting overlap in the music videos curated for each song, in the lyrics, and how they make folks feel and can be plugged into films and scores. There’s so much overlap and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.
Tell us more about your EP!
I have a soulful voice that falls somewhere in between alternative, pop and neo-soul. So my project will be a combination of the 3, rock big band, pop, and soulful in betweens.
I’m currently mastering my tracks and shooting my first music video for my song ‘Running’ which I hope to share soon! Sharing my voice feels extremely full circle cause it’s been my dream since I was a child to sing and tour as an artist in an authentic and brave way.
Where do you hope to go next?
I’m excited to work on new projects!
I look forward to films and shows, stages and collaborations. Excited to bring layered characters to life and share more and more of myself with the world. The season has just begun and I feel held in the unwritten plan for me.