Best known for her role as Veronica in the 1994 cult classic Clerks, Marilyn Ghigliotti discovered her love for acting while searching for a creative outlet after a divorce. Born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, Marilyn grew up in places as varied as New Jersey to Puerto Rico. She initially pursued a career in cosmetology after graduating high school. But in 1988, she began studying at The Actors Training Institute located in New Jersey in the techniques of Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner and Lee Strasberg.
CHRISTA: You are most commonly known for your role as Veronica from the ﬁlm “Clerks”. Going into the ﬁlm, did you think it was going to get as big as it did?
MARILYN: I think that with any ﬁlm,other than any of the current superhero ﬁlms,it’s hard to know how any of them will really do. You can’t anticipate any outcome. There are too many factors to take into consideration and ﬁguring out what the public is going to take away, is difficult. For me it was an opportunity to take my acting to the next level. I can really only speak for myself, but I wasn’t thinking beyond that at the time. It was only when the film started making the climb in notoriety that Brian and I started talking. While we were at Sundance and we found out that Miramax had bought the ﬁlm; it wasn’t until then that we started wondering what was going to happen, and what that would mean for our careers.
CHRISTA: That is very true. How has your life changed after the release of “Clerks” and what was the reaction of your friends and family?
MARILYN: In many ways it’s changed a lot and in many ways it hasn’t changed at all. A lot more people know who I am. I’ve gotten some opportunities I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, but I’m still struggling at pounding that proverbial pavement and trying to make a living as an actress by way of several other jobs to pay the bills.
CHRISTA: I find it amazing you don’t give up and keep at it. Very admirable. You’ve done many theater productions as well. Do you prefer ﬁlm or theater work and what’s the difference between the two for you?
MARILYN: Acting, be it on stage or the theater, for me isn’t all too different. I have to do the work and ﬁnd the character, who they are and deliver it in an authentic way that I believe. More importantly the audience must believe. So because of that I don’t care if it’s ﬁlm or theater. Although they are certainly different in the sense that one gives you immediate payoff and the other doesn’t. Theater is the immediate payoff with the energy of the audience that only lends to the energy we bring on stage. It’s linear in the sense that it goes from beginning to end in sequence. With ﬁlm, there is a payoff of knowing that you’ve nailed the scene at the time, but the big payoff is once the ﬁlm is put together and out in theaters where you get to see audience reaction. Also, with ﬁlm, your ﬁrst scene you shoot might be the end of the story. So you need to know your script from beginning to end and know where your energy is supposed to be in relation to the script. Otherwise, it won’t come together for the editor.
CHRISTA: Nicely put. In addition to acting, you are a licensed makeup and hairdresser and your own makeup and hair always looks ﬂawless. What appealed to you about the profession?
MARILYN: I actually went to cosmetology school after the birth of my daughter. It was something that I had thought about doing while in high school because it was a curriculum that was offered. However, one of the requirements for the class was biology because one needs to learn the bones and muscle structure of the head. Well we all know that one has to do a dissection in the class and I just didn’t want to do that in order to become a cosmetologist. So three years later, after having my daughter, instead of going back to my office job, I decided to head back to school. I had no thought of acting at that time. I thought I would take my skills in the salon as far as I could take it.
CHRISTA: I didn’t realize that much went into the job. How old were you when the “acting bug” ﬁrst bit you and do you have any personal idols in the industry who may have inﬂuenced you?
MARILYN: This one is a hard question, because I think the acting bug really hit me at a really young age. I just didn’t realize it and I’m not sure exactly when that was but I was always drawn to the classic movies, that weren’t classic at that time. lol. I loved watching the musicals on TV. I loved dance. I was definitely a child drawn to the creative side. When I was in kindergarten or ﬁrst grade my teacher would line up the students, boys and then girls, along the closet and we had assigned numbers and that’s how she did attendance. Every time it got to my number I would just stand there not saying a word. I was just to shy. So one day the teacher took me aside and said what if she were to come to my house would I then talk in class. I don’t know why I thought it was something special, but I did and I said I would. I was so excited the teacher came to my house. She also couldn’t believe I was the same child she was seeing at home. Again, really excited the teacher came to my house and I was showing her around and talking and laughing. The next day as role call was being done and I said my number, all jaws dropped in the class. They couldn’t believe that I had talked. I have to say that was my ﬁrst taste of being in front of an audience and I loved it. It wasn’t until after my divorce when I started looking for something and I eventually found myself in an acting class. Once comfortable enough, not necessarily secure, but comfortable enough to go out and audition, I found myself on that stage in my ﬁrst production and people were actually listening to what I had to say, that is what inspired me. I’m a middle child, you know most middle children never feel heard. I don’t really have anyone that I feel has inﬂuenced me. I have many who’s acting I enjoy or think highly of, but I can’t say I have anyone who’s inﬂuenced me. It’s kind of like when I’m asked what my favorite food is, places to go or any particular favorite thing. I don’t have one. I don’t want to have to choose just one. lol
CHRISTA: Well I think we are all happy you came out of your shell. What would you say your least favorite thing is about making ﬁlms?
MARILYN: I think for anyone the least favorite thing is trying to ﬁnd the job and maybe memorizing the lines or and the hurry up and wait. See, I can’t even pick a least favorite.
CHRISTA: Yeah that is a struggle at times. How hard is it for you to juggle your many talents and your personal life?
MARILYN: It’s extremely difficult. It’s a demanding balance that doesn’t really feel balanced at all. Especially when trying to make ends meet. It’s like that for so many, especially here in LA where a struggling actor will have not only the acting, but an additional two to three jobs just to barely get by. Sometimes one has to just throw it out the window and get together with your friends to socialize to feel part of the human race.
CHRISTA: Well I think you do a great job balancing it although it’s tough. Major kudos. When I shoot ﬁlms, I love the feel of a close cast and crew. I refer to it as “ﬁlm family”. What ﬁlms have you worked on that you have felt at home on and close with the cast and crew?
MARILYN: I love that feeling as well. I always hate the end of ﬁlm or theater because I know that I get used to seeing all those people everyday. For me it becomes a family. I’ve felt it on pretty much everything that I’ve worked on, either as an actor or hair and makeup artist.
CHRISTA: I totally agree. The end of the filming is bittersweet. A few of your ﬁlms are noted for having a smaller budget. How important do you think the ﬁlm’s budget is on a movie?
MARILYN: With today’s technology, not as much as it used to be. I’ve seen great ﬁlms on a small budget look like they spent three times the amount they actually did. I feel that if anything, it’s the knowledge and experience people have in the multiple aspects of ﬁlmmaking that can make it look like a bigger budget than it actually is.
Christa: That is very true. Many people don’t realize the time that goes into a ﬁlm and preparation for the roles. What do you do to prepare for a role?
MARILYN: My preparation works in stages. First getting the script and reading it through. Then letting the content marinate while I then try to memorize the lines. When I start to memorize the lines, I go through each line to ﬁgure out the meanings of the dialog going back and forth between the characters. When I’m not in the memorization process and just going through my daily activities, all I’m doing is thinking about the character. What’s happening to them, what makes them tick and who are they in their current situation. What might have happened in the past. What’s going through their mind at the present moment. Doing all that helps in the memorization process for me.
CHRISTA: I love that you go so deeply in your roles. Very respectable. What advice would you have for someone trying to break into the industry?
MARILYN: First is, do they want it for the right reasons and not the wrong? With so much rejection in this business, you ﬁnd out pretty quickly if it’s the right reason or not. Because those wanting it for the fame and fortune, ﬁnd out it’s a longer road than they thought, and most of them quit. For those that can’t see any road other than this business, they keep trying to break through that wall, even though they never do. Training is so important. I’ve had so many ask for advice from me on what to do, but have never bothered to look at training and wanted to know how to get that big break right away. How can you expect to walk when you haven’t crawled?
CHRISTA: That’s great advice. Nicely put. Often times, ﬁlms not only require someone to step out of personal life but also at times their comfort zone. What are some of the things you’ve had to step out of your comfort zone to do and how do you mentally prepare for that?
MARILYN: Actually, once I started acting, that was getting out of my comfort zone. Anyone who has known me from childhood knows that I was super shy as I mentioned above. So getting in front of just my class was out of my comfort zone. Each and every character I played up until the last ten years is where I’ve gotten really secure with my acting abilities. I welcome the challenges now, where before I would fear them. It’s the only way to grow. Many years ago, I asked myself the question about the fear. Because success did scare me and I know that it was probably why I haven’t gotten much farther than I would have liked. It was just after Clerks was bought and we were sitting and talking about while at Sundance, about the loss of anonymity, paparazzi was just getting to be a big thing. It was really scary shit. But when you are sitting by yourself reviewing your life as to why things are so hard, struggling with life to make ends meet, not enjoying the job you have that pays the bills rather than doing the acting you want to be doing. You start to ask the real questions of yourself and mine was “Am I more afraid or making it or not making it?” but the latter scared me more, so I knew there was no quitting or going back.
CHRISTA: You were almost literally catapulted into the spotlight suddenly so that would be a difficult transition. Making ﬁlms can be stressful as can styling hair and doing makeup on others. What do you do to De-stress?
MARILYN: I’m still trying to ﬁgure that one out. lol
CHRISTA: Haha when you do, let me know! What were some of your favorite roles in the ﬁlms you’ve done?
MARILYN: Well other than the character that many other people love as Veronica in Clerks, in the last few years I’ve gotten to do some different characters for myself in roles I haven’t done in the past and I was able to really challenge myself with them. Two science ﬁction movies, in one I’m a strong women in charge of a planet. In the other, I’m the victim of an alien invasion and attached to a machine that leaves me in perpetual labor. I’ve been in a horror short where I play the mom of a young child desperately trying to save her from evil forces. I continue to look for challenging roles.
CHRISTA: I think we will all have a soft spot for Veronica. And those powerful roles definitely suit your powerful acting. What do you love most about acting?
MARILYN: What I love about acting is the ability to be someone I’m not. To get out of my comfort zone and explore the different aspects of myself. To mold the character and see how it develops and plays out. The fact that people actually stop what they are doing to listen to what I have to say.
CHRISTA: I love that answer. You’ve attended many conventions over the years and the fans seem to love you. Have you ever had a bad convention experience?
MARILYN: Oh dear lord yes. It was only just in 2013 having gone to a ﬁrst year convention in Albuquerque, NM. Usually there is a verbal agreement that most celebrities have with themselves of not doing ﬁrst year convention. Because usually after doing one ﬁrst year convention, they will vow to never do them again. You have to look at the many aspects of what is going on at the convention and see if it’s going to be a waste of time or not. As much as I myself love to see the fans, time that I’m away from work is less money that I will have for bills. So it has to pay off, unfortunately. Things were sketchy from the start on this one and it’s a shame. Albuquerque was so beautiful and the convention was closed on Saturday morning after about a four hours start of the convention on Friday evening. It was closed by the hotel because certain individuals got stupid. Although it shouldn’t have been taken out on the convention. Also, the promoter had no business putting a convention together as well. It just didn’t seem well run or organized. I met so many wonderful people in Albuquerque and some local businesses that all got together and had many of the different people that would have been at the convention at their local establishments to meet the fans. They all pulled together and it was quite wonderful. I would love to one day visit Albuquerque again for business and pleasure.
CHRISTA: Oh no. I’m so sorry. Being in the ﬁlm industry sets a person up to be critiqued for their abilities. How do you handle criticism?
MARILYN: One has to learn how to handle any kind of criticism. Because we are insecure actors and I know that for myself, even taking a compliment was very difficult.
Sometimes not getting any feedback or critique was also quite difficult. I’ve learned that if I’m working on a scene or in rehearsal and there are no notes for me, it’s a good thing. It means I’m doing something they like. I used to wonder, why aren’t they saying anything to me. lol That’s the insecurity. Also, one has to learn how to take a compliment as well as criticism. There really is no difference. Hopefully it’s constructive criticism, either way you don’t always want someone saying everything you want to hear. You can’t get better without knowing what you need work on. So I always want the truth.
CHRISTA: You are exactly right. Couldn’t have said it better myself. What are some personal hobbies or passions of yours?
MARILYN: Another little venture that I do is photography. It’s one of the many other things I always thought about growing up, but didn’t know I had the option of doing. I love the beach and wish that I could live near it. Except, one it’s a bit expensive and two a bit far from every where I usually have to go to. The good thing is that it really isn’t all that far to go, even though I don’t get there too often. I love going to the movies, even if I go by myself. Sometimes I enjoy it more on my own. I also wish that I could travel more. Many places on my bucket list, like Australia, the UK, Canada. One day!
CHRISTA: Traveling is incredible. What upcoming ﬁlm projects do you have lined up that you are looking forward to?
MARILYN: The one really big ﬁlm project is obviously Clerks III which I’m so excited to revisit. Just like the fans, I’m as excited to ﬁnd out what Veronica has done with her life. As the actor portraying her, I can’t wait to see what she’s up to and what the story holds for her. I’ve also gotten a few other independent ﬁlm projects, I’m just waiting to hear if they get the green light soon. Another area of work that I’ve been doing for a few years is audio book narration. I now have four titles that can be found on Amazon and Audible. Also, I will be looking at starting my own narrations of public domain work. The one area that I’m really looking forward to getting started soon is to produce my own work and direct. I have a couple of ideas that need to be ﬂeshed out and worked on. Hopefully soon I can get started on them. One is a short film that really doesn’t need a script and can hopefully do at least by the end of summer, The other is a feature length film. I have, what I would say, is the pulse of the story and need to write around it and ﬁngers crossed I can ﬁnd the story I want for it.
CHRISTA: Wow. Sounds incredible Marilyn. I can’t wait to see your upcoming projects! Thank you very much for sharing with us and all of our fans!!
MARILYN: Thank you very much Christa for the wonderful interview