Mogul is thrilled to share our latest interview with Mena Suvari!
Mena is a fashion model and actress perhaps best known for her role in the film American Beauty, for which she earned a Best Supporting Actress nod by The British Academy Awards and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble Cast. She also won a Movieline Award for Breakthrough Performance.
Mena’s TV show credits have included Six Feet Under, Chicago Fire and South of Hell. Tonight premieres Mena's latest show, Paramount Network's American Woman, which was inspired by the life of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Kyle Richards.
In this interview, learn what excites Mena most about her new show, what it was like working with co-stars Alicia Silverstone and Jennifer Bartels, why Mena became vegan, her future plans, advice and more! We loved getting to know Mena and hope that you enjoy learning from her as much as we did!
Here are Mena's #TakeAways:
Jessica Lipps (JL,) Interviewer: With all of our guests, I like to start at the beginning. Where were you born?
Mena Suvari (MS,) Guest: I was born in Newport, Rhode Island but my family moved a lot.
-We settled in Los Angeles in time for me to start high school.
JL: What took you there?
MS: I was a child model.
-My agency, Wilhelmina, wanted me to spend a summer in LA and, (laughter) because I was short, encouraged me to try their acting division.
-When I arrived in LA, I booked a Rice-A-Roni commercial. My family and I made the cross-country trip a few times and then decided to set down roots.
-I started auditioning and continued working through high school.
-Shortly after high school, I signed on to the American Pie and American Beauty films. Things built from there.
JL: As a child, did you know that you wanted a career in entertainment?
MS: No! I actually thought about medical research! (laughter) But I’ve always had a love for the creative: for art and play.
-While I never dreamed about being an actor specifically, it’s been a wonderful journey!
JL: Your new show American Woman premieres TONIGHT! Are you excited?
MS: I am! I’m also nervous.
-I feel happy and grateful for this opportunity and hope that people like the show!
JL: Tell us about it!
MS: It’s everything that I love - the ‘70s, Beverly Hills, fashion and relationships - in one show.
-In the beginning, you meet Bonnie, a woman coming out of a fumbling marriage who now has to raise two daughters as a single mother.
-You also meet Bonnie’s best friends: Diana who works in banking and Kathleen whom I play.
JL: Tell us about her.
MS: For Kathleen, money was no issue. Her daddy did everything for her and says yes to whatever she wants.
-Kathleen's sisters are all married and she’s single. In 1975, it was unusual to be in your 30's without a husband and kids so Kathleen has an adventurous side.
-She starts pursuing a career in entertainment and believes that she can hold a position in power. We watch her take that journey.
JL: This is a different type of role from what you’ve played in the past.
MS: Kathleen has a big comedic element and working in that space was new for me.
-It's a type of character that I’ve wanted to work on for a long time. It was exciting but I was also a little anxious about it.
JL: How did you prepare for this new role?
MS: With a lot of work!
-I read, researched and watched shows (CNN did an amazing docuseries on the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s) to help me understand the period and mindset.
-I worked with our show runner and writers as much as possible to understand these women and their world and spent a lot of time on set dissecting scenes and moments.
JL: What excites you most about the show?
MS: All of it! Can I say that? (laughter)
-It’s all great and that’s what’s so beautiful about it!
-This show magically came together. There’s no way that these characters could have been any different. Where it goes for each of them is awesome and I think that people will really like it!
-I’ve known Alicia Silverstone for years. I met Jennifer Bartels on this project. It was love at first site for us all - we had a great time!
-Working on the show, I learned so much about myself and what my mother had to go through as a woman in that time. It gave me a sense of where we came from and where we’re going, so it's a cool show to not only watch but also learn from.
JL: Speaking of learning about oneself, let’s continue in that direction and talk about Mena the person. You’re passionate about being vegan and cruelty-free (products and activities that do not harm or kill animals.) What got you into this?
MS: I’ve always been health conscious and open to trying new things. For example, I remember eating raw for a month. Each next step was a process.
-I heard about a Netflix documentary called What the Health. After watching it, I became vegan overnight.
-Soon after, I went cruelty-free.
-It’s a battle every day but having that exposure was the tipping point.
JL: Do you have any favorite vegan and cruelty-free resources?
MS: Yes! PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,) Immaculate Vegan and the Cruelty Cutter App.
-I also try to tag as many companies as possible on my Instagram page.
JL: I love your feed!
MS: Over time, I’ve realized what's important to me, what makes me happy and what I want to do.
-You can very easily get sucked into what people think you should be doing and lose sight of who you really are. For me, I think it was a process of getting older in this industry and saying: "I don’t care."
-Yes, my Instagram is eclectic and I like different things, and I’m OK with that!
JL: I find that inspirational! While we’re on the topic of inspiration, what advice do you have for our readers?
MS: The biggest thing is to listen to yourself. What is that inner voice? What within you drives your passion? What is your individual perspective? To me, that’s always the coolest!
-I think that people get very caught-up in what something generic looks like and seek to attain that. For me, it’s so much more interesting when someone does something really individual. That’s what art is!
-The more that you can tap into and hone what you uniquely want to bring to your passion instead of trying to be something that you think you should be, the better!
JL: What’s next for you?
MS: I’m developing a couple of projects.
-I’d like to produce and be behind-the-scenes more instead of being in front of the camera all of the time. It’s a whole new energy, which I find liberating. I have to pursue what makes me like what I do every day and being involved in the entire process makes me happy.
-I’ve created a project that’s inspired by my life and the moments where I’ve had to pick myself back up after being broken down. It’s how I process those difficult experiences.
-Seeing Kyle Richards, the creator of American Woman, turn her personal story into art that can teach, inspire and be appreciated by others is beautiful to me. When we share those moments, that’s true human connectivity.
JL: I love this theme of inspiration. As our interview comes to a close, what final words of inspiration can you share?
MS: Perfection doesn’t exist. It’s all an illusion.
-If you want to analyze me just go to my Instagram…it’s all right there! (laughter)
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