Updated: Apr 5
Photographer: Jayme Thornton @jaymethornton
NEW YORK — The Watchful Eye star Mariel Molino shares an IRK exclusive on her journey to the leading role. The Mexican American actress grew up in San Diego, where she landed her first on-screen role in acting. Her career in Mexico led her to the diverse roles she has today. We discuss her story in an in-depth interview and cover story at the magazine.
Mariel's journey began at an early age; she respected the nature of performing as she stood in an elementary performance of The Wizard of Oz. As a child, Mariel was curious about acting formulas after studying techniques in school. The efforts in the acting industry stood as a challenge for the actress, who often traveled in and out of Los Angeles for auditions from her hometown. The hard work pulled off after landing her role debut in Glee. After that, Mariel built a standing in Mexico on telenovelas like Papis Muy Padres and La Negociadora. Additionally, she debuted as a substitute for Sofia Vergara. The actress's impressive strategy finds herself back in the States in numerous lead character projects like Lux Noctis, Promised Land, and The Watchful Eye.
Mariel plays Elena Santos in Freeform's The Watchful Eye, a thriller of a nanny on a quest to find a unique ruby in a historic hotel, a hotel filled with mysterious power-thirsty individuals. Mariel brings the character to life in the dim halls of The Greybourne, where she projects a complex coating of secrets of her own. All episodes are available to binge and stream on Hulu.
Mariel's latest projects include working alongside her Promised Land costar Miguel Angel Garcia in the drama Die Like A Man. A project that dives heavily into the male perspective of a dominant male culture theme. The project is expected to release later this year.
At IRK Magazine, we have taken curiosity in Mariel's undertakings of complex roles that contain layers of feeling. After a photoshoot with photographer Jayme Thornton, IRK converses with the star to discuss her journey, the creative approach to diving into profound parts, and what's next for the future.
IRK: How does it feel to star in Freeform's new series, The Watchful Eye?
Mariel: It still feels surreal. I love this character, and this journey has made me grow so much as a person and an artist. I feel very grateful.
IRK: Is there anything within the series that you're looking forward to viewers seeing that you can share with us?
Mariel: Yes - a lot of unlikely pairings within the different characters. We'll see people band together that you would never see coming. That and a lot of love in the most unexpected of places.
IRK: Has there been a scene that you struggled with? How did you overcome it?
Mariel: I struggled with any scene where I had to be afraid when my mind knew you were in a safe place. I had to use my imagination to get my body and mind into the position of fear Elena readily entered
IRK: What moment in your career made you realize you wanted to continue to be an actress? What is your biggest accomplishment in your career?
Mariel: When I was in Mexico City, I landed my first lead role, "Locas por el Cambio" it was the first time I felt like someone believed in me enough to carry a film - it made me believe in myself and acknowledge that I could have a career whether it was in Mexico or anywhere. Playing Elena on TWE has been my greatest accomplishment.
IRK: As a bilingual actor, what advice would you give to other young, bilingual actors and creatives?
Mariel: Do the work that speaks to you. It is such a gift to tap into both sides of your brain, so use it to further your creativity, and it will open so many doors.
IRK: How is this role different from your other roles?
Mariel: I've never done a thriller, and I love them. Elena is much more mysterious, guarded, and cynical than any other character I've played.
IRK: Do you share the same characteristics as your character, Elena Santos?
Mariel: Yes - we will both do anything if you mess with our family.
IRK: When did you realize you wanted to become an actor?
Mariel: When I was about 5, my first theater production was The Wizard of Oz; I played a crow. I loved being on stage - the jitters, the energy you get from performing for a live audience.
IRK: Who is your biggest inspiration, and how did they help you advance your career?
Mariel: My mom, she's the hardest worker I know. She inspired me to keep pushing and always focus on the work. As actors, we audition so much and rarely get the job. She would always remind me to focus on honing my skills.
IRK: Are any musicians, movies, or books inspiring you?
Mariel: I recently read A Little Life, and that broke me. I also read The Stranger and loved how the book was written so unapologetically. As for actors, I just watched a movie with French actress Isabelle Adjani - I admire her so much. She has such an effortless etherealness combined with a force of nature.
IRK: What did you struggle with most when beginning your career?
Mariel: Figuring out the business of it, how it worked, how to get representation without work and work without representation, it's such a catch-22.
IRK: What was your favorite tv show/movie as a child?
Mariel: Lizzie McGuire and I Love Lucy
IRK: Who are your biggest acting inspirations? Do you have someone that you aspire to work with in the future?
Mariel: So many... Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, Isabelle Huppert, Isabelle Adjani, Emma Stone, Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Salma Hayek, Cate Blanchett, and Kathryn Hahn, to name a few.
IRK: How do you incorporate your Mexican heritage into your career?
Mariel: It's part of my identity, so I'm probably unaware. However, culture affects how I look at life; the opportunities I have versus the ones my parents had gives me so much perspective with every role I take.
IRK: What is your favorite food to have on set?
Mariel: PB & J
IRK: What activities do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Mariel: I love horses and horseback riding, hiking with my pup Kika, cooking and randomly playing mini golf, oh, and game night with friends!
IRK: What are your favorite charities and why?
Mariel: Alexandria House, it's a safe haven for women and children and a transitional home. I love working with women and trying to find ways to follow their dreams despite all their hardships. It's a place that inspires change and achieves it. I also love Bid A Wee - it's an excellent charity for pups, I rescued Kika, and I don't think I'd be the same person today if I didn't
IRK: Career-wise, what are you looking forward to most within the next year?
Mariel: Working with people I admire and can learn from. I look forward to growing as an actor - there's so much I still want to get better at.
IRK: How does being a female lead in a Freeform original series feel?
Mariel: Insane. I wouldn't have believed it a year ago. Freeform is an incredible company; they are constantly looking for groundbreaking, intentionally diverse stories, and it's an honor to be at the helm of one of them. They support their artists fully.
IRK: Is there anything you want to say to young girls? Any advice for aspiring female actors?
Mariel: Don't try to fit into the version you think the world wants to see of you. To try and discover who you are, you need to learn life - what you like, what you don't like, what speaks to you, what you are passionate about - go from that place and don't be afraid to fail. You will never regret trying.
IRK: What intrigued you most about your character in The Watchful Eye?
Mariel: Elena is complicated, hurt, and frankly, shady. There was a darkness to her that I resonated with. But I saw her heart and how she was shielding it from everything around her - that's what I found most interesting.
IRK: You have two different colored eyes, just like David Bowie! Were you born with two different colored eyes?
Mariel: Yes! my parents thought I might be blind, but nope, you can say I'm a mutant.
IRK: What techniques do you use to get into the character's mindset you are playing?
Mariel: Know as much backstory as possible and then fill in the blanks with everything I don't know. The more specific you get about details, the more the character comes alive for me. I also love exploring how costume and makeup tell a story about who Elena is, so I always start by pulling pictures and references from real-life people and places.
In occurrence with Earth Day, our Sustainability-and-Ethics Director Patrick Duffy asks Mariel a few questions on the topic:
Patrick: What are some conscious actions you implement in your daily life? For Example, are you committing to reducing plastic, secondhand, and public transport?
Mariel: I'm committed to reducing plastic; I love thrift shopping; I carpool whenever possible, walk whenever I can, and reuse whatever I can that comes in the form of bags, containers, etc.
Patrick: What's your hope for the future of the planet?
Mariel: I hope we all become more conscious of our carbon footprint and act on it.
Patrick: What are you most passionate about regarding taking care of people and the planet?
Mariel: I love that caring for the planet also goes hand in hand with caring for ourselves; the two are not mutually exclusive! When we take better care of the earth, we also care for ourselves. This is especially true when it comes to knowing where we are getting our food from. I love working with Alexandria House in LA; it's a great transitional home for women and children seeking to start over and follow their dreams.
Thornton, is a NYC based fashion photographer with editorial and advertising clients worldwide.