Hannah Marks Is Taking Hollywood By Storm
As the actress/director is about to release Banana Split, V spoke with Hannah about her childhood years, friendships, high school drama and more.
Moving effortlessly between different roles and genres, Hannah Marks has established herself as an actress, writer and director in the film and entertainment industry. As an actress, she first appeared in the 2006 feature film titled Accepted, guest-starring in various TV programs and becoming known for her role on the BBC America series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. As a director, she made her co-directorial debut with the independent film After Everything, premiering the feature at the 2018 South by Southwest film festival and getting nominated for the prestigious “Game Changer” award. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she is a true Hollywood creative — hungry for trying new things and “doing more” and unwilling to box herself into a single role or career path.
The actress/director is about to release Banana Split, a high-school comedy film that she wrote and starred in. Based on her first high school relationship, it tells a story of an unexpected female friendship and the personal changes that April, her character, faces as she is about to transition from high school to college. And she had a lot of fun with it — inviting her friends Liana Liberato and Haley Ramm to play in the movie as well.
Leading up to the March 27 release, we spoke with Hannah about her childhood years, friendships, high school drama and more. Read the full interview below:
V Magazine Where in the world are you right now?
Hannah Marks I was in New York, but once everything started…you know, shit started to hit the fan, I went to LA, which is where my home is.
V How are you handling this whole coronavirus situation so far?
HM I’m just quarantining and listening to what everyone says to do. Just being really safe, only leaving the house for essential things like needing to go to the vet. I’ve just been watching movies and hanging out with my dogs and my boyfriend, and just kind of enjoying the time at the house, to be honest. I might change my mind in a few weeks when we’re all going crazy. It’s funny, I feel like I spend so much time trying to create content and now I actually get to sit back and watch the content that has come out and get to appreciate other people’s work. So it’s nice in that sense, but I feel bad for anyone who’s sick.
V Let’s start off by talking a little bit about your childhood and high school years. What was it like for you growing up?
HM I was mostly homeschooled and started acting at a really young age. I started doing theater at five and then started acting professionally at around 11. Most of my life has been just trying to find my way in this crazy business and doing school from home.
V Would you say that you had a lot of creative influences?
HM My mom was an actress, she started at six [years old] so I had her for guidance, thankfully. And she did not push me into acting at all. In fact, I don’t think she really wanted me to be an actress, but she always supported me. I was really lucky because I couldn’t have done any of this without her.
V Did you always know you wanted to go into this industry? How did you end up becoming a film director as well?
HM I think it’s because I like to stay busy and I’m an ambitious person, so I didn’t like sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for auditions. I wanted to make my own art. It just made me feel more fulfilled, as it can get just really frustrating — having someone else be in control of your career. It just came from that urge to have some kind of control in this business. But also just because I love it, I wanted to do it. I always loved movies and TV shows, so it didn’t really matter to me if I was acting or directing or producing or writing. It was a matter of getting to make what I want to make.
V Where and how did you learn film directing?
HM My teacher was really the internet. I never went to school for this, I’ve just been studying by myself at home — watching movies, reading books, watching and reading different interviews of different filmmakers that I admire and really going from there. I think if you’re passionate about something, you will be disciplined in learning about it, regardless of whether you have school or not.
V How did the idea for this movie come about? Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to act in it as well?
HM It came from my high school relationship. Although we were both homeschooled, ironically, so it wasn’t actually high school, just the age when you are in high school. (laughs) But it came from that kind of the first-love relationship where we ended up breaking up, and then I met his current girlfriend, and we became friends, and how weird that felt but how inspiring it was because you can have a friendship out of all sorts of weird circumstances. So it really came out of that first urge to write because it was such a time with high stakes; when you’re that age as a teenager, every relationship feels so important. So that was really where that came from.
In terms of acting, I always wanted to act in it just because I was an actor and I would essentially be playing an exaggerated version of myself. That was always my goal, to get to write something I could act in.
V How would you describe April, your character?
HM I think she’s neurotic and has a lot of anxiety, but also has a really big heart and a big capacity to love. And I think those things are true of myself. That being said, I definitely did not make as many mistakes as April did, and I did not party as hard as she did. So there are definitely some things that were completely fictionalized.
I felt like I had been preparing for the role my whole life growing up as an actor and playing a character that’s so similar to myself. The writing process, of course, was a huge preparation as an actor because I was there with my co-writer Joey every step of the way for making the script, having so many discussions of what the characters feeling and what they’re thinking.
V What were you thinking about while acting in this story that you wrote?
HM I would say that I was thinking about Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha. She was a big inspiration because I believe she co-wrote that movie with Noah Baumbach, and she also acted in it and felt like she was playing a version of herself in some way. That movie was so good and so well done, it was a big inspiration.
V What was your favorite thing about working on this movie?
HM Just getting to make it with all my real friends, that was the best part for me. Liana Liberato and Haley Ramm Were close friends of mine years before this project got made, and a consultant who directed it was a friend of mine from the Sundance Labs, we had met probably six years before we made Banana Split. [Hannah and Liana were both features in the cover story of the June 4, 2006 issue of The New York Times Magazine.] [One of the reasons] why I got into this business was to get to make movies with friends and people that I love, so that was really the dream come true.
V What kind of shenanigans did you guys get into while working together?
HM We all stayed at the same hotel in upstate New York, that was so much fun because we would all get to hang out every night in the hotel restaurant bar. A lot of our fun times just happened off-set, just getting along so well, getting to hang out with each other every night, and then just putting little ‘Easter eggs’ of our real friendship.
And the movie was really fun because we owned it. Liana and I have known each other since she was nine and I was 11, so a lot of times if we’re filming a montage or something, we would just tell real stories from our own lives.
V What was the most difficult part of this project for you?
HM Probably just finding the confidence to be able to finally do it. I had talked about this project for so long and it had almost been made so many times, so actually just doing it and then finding that confidence to get through it every day and be the best version of myself I could be was challenging but in all the right ways. It’s weird when you hide something for so long and you talk about it for so long. Then actually doing it can be a little daunting, but I’m so glad that we finally got to make it. Yeah, I can imagine opening up.
V Do you think your high school boyfriend is going to see the movie or not?
HM I hope he does see it because I’m proud of it. And ultimately, it became a fictional piece, so not directly based on him. It’s fictional for sure, but the original inspiration came from that. Whether he does or doesn’t — it’s totally okay.
V Do you have a favorite scene in the movie?
HM I probably enjoyed doing the rap scene the most, where Clara and I first meet each other at the party, and we rap a song called “Bling Bling.” We had the best time learning that song and we had to rehearse it so many times, we had such a fun time doing that. And then the final scene of the movie, too, was really fun and emotional, but that one is not as fun to talk about cause I don’t like to spoiler anything. (smiles)
V Anything you’re working on now that you’re excited about?
HM As an actress, I did a supporting role in the movie with Gillian Jacobs and Jemaine Clement called I Used to Go Here. And as a writer and a director, I just finished filming a movie called Mark, Mary & Some Other People, which is about an open relationship. I’m editing that right now!
V Looking into the future, do you want to keep doing both acting and directing? What’s your plan?
HM I hope I keep doing both and I hope I keep doing more, too. I want to do as many careers as I can tackle, I don’t really want to be put in any kind of box. I hope I can just keep doing everything because that’s what keeps life exciting to me.
Banana Split is releasing today, March 27, available to stream and on-demand.