Here’s our latest New Face Friday interview. If you need a refresher on who Mary is, check out our character bios:
Q: There’s not a whole lot of information on your character in the books, so did you have any conversations with Stephenie [Meyer] or even with Melissa Rosenberg, or did you get to build a lot for yourself?
Toni: We did get to build a lot. I did pull Stephenie aside – I think a lot of us did – and Stephenie was, I mean, how rare to have contact with the writer right there every day with us, so it was such a treat. But she really gave us the freedom to create the characters that we needed to do the daily work, with the disclaimer that what we needed to do to get the work done may be different than what would possibly end up in like the ultimate Twilight Guide and stuff like that. So, she definitely prepared us for that, but she gave us the freedom … She told us what she had written and then gave us the freedom to do whatever we wanted to do, and I remember at the time when I spoke to her, she was like Edi Gathegi’s the perfect example because she had written pages and pages of his back-story, and he’s going to be really surprised when the Guide comes down. It’s totally different, but you know you kind of have to marry what’s written and then you have to do your job.
Q: What can you tell us about Mary, can you describe her?
Toni: Sure! The thing I loved most about Mary is it’s such a treat when you get introduced to all of these new vampires, and a majority of them are coming in pairs. You know, they’ve got their mates. And even though you have Peter and Charlotte within the nomad family, our coven is not really a coven. We don’t travel around together, we truly are nomadic. I love that Mary … comes of her own volition. She doesn’t have any real prior relationship, and when her job is done there … You know, she’s not going to come back for Christmas. That’s not Mary’s M.O. And the whole idea of this like family unit for Mary is really foreign. And so she truly is a nomad. She is a wanderer. She doesn’t need to sleep in the same bed every night. But you know she is one of their strongest friends so ended up valuable.
Q: Mary comes upon Randall – they’re not coming together, they kind of meet up – I’m curious will we get to see any of that, or is it kind of going to be you guys showing up together? Because you guys are nomads, you are generally on your own…
Toni: It’s so tricky, right? Because you guys have already read the books. So, there’s so much of that which is going to be interesting … what those tiny wonderful details that the people that are so intimate with the books are going to be looking for. I can’t really speak to what will ultimately end up in there, my guess is as good as yours really, so I guess we’ll just have to all wait and see together!
Q: Now you were a fan before, correct?
Toni: I was. I hadn’t read the books, so maybe you guys will shun me for calling myself a fan, but I had seen the movies and I loved them. I was totally … I love going into the movie and then just giving yourself over to it, not to ask a lot of questions and be like ‘Well that could never happen,’ that’s not my thing. I’m along for the ride, I’m in it, I want to be transported. I want to be along for the ride for however long the movie is, and I really enjoyed the Twilight Saga right from the start.
Q: So, what did you think after having seen the films, what did you think seeing yourself in the full vampire costume with the contacts…
Toni: It was really, really, really wild. Learning all the intricacies, all the nerd elements to Twilight was really fun. You know, like going in for our initial contact fitting. I was thinking that it was going to be some stock full just break[ing] out the red and orange contacts or the gold ones or whatever, depending on your diet, but it was really detailed and wonderful. We were all fitted for our specific prescription, whatever our eyes needed and then hand-painted individually, so you know no one’s contacts were the same. So, it really felt right from the start … that was one of the first things I ever did that I was creating Mary from the ground up. And that’s really special. And then going into the wig fitting, which by now everyone’s sort of caught a glimpse of Mary, but she is unique, you see this giant hair. She’s unbridled in every way, from the tip of her hair down to her toes she’s just wild. And I loved being able to speak with the creative [team] about that and sort of create this person, and whatever small way have my own fingerprint on building Mary. So, it was really, really unique, and you know you have all these vampires coming in from all over the world. You’ve got the Romanians … we are the American nomads, so it’s like how do we … what does that look like, ya know? So, it was a lot of fun. I loved seeing all the images, and I’m really excited for, obviously, more images to come out ‘cause we had to resist the urge to be capturing those images while we were filming because it was just so neat.
Q: When you find out you were cast in the Twilight Saga, who were you most excited to work with and afterwards, who would you like to work with again … I know you already did something with Michael Sheen…
Toni: When I first was cast, gosh, I think that was really just … I was a fan at that point, so you know just the idea of working with all of the leading people was really exciting. I was really happy to get to work with Bill Condon again. We had worked together on Dreamgirls, so being able to work together with him in any capacity was a thrill. You know, we’d always sort of like pointed at eachother like ‘I’ll see you again!’ and it happened. Also, Jackson Rathbone. You know, Jackson and I both went to the same performing arts high school, but we missed eachother by a couple of years. And so, we’d always heard of one another on our professional actor adventures, so I was really excited to be able to connect those dots, and we had all the same training growing up and say ‘Hey, we’re supposed to be friends so just prepare yourself.’ And then, yeah, of course you know my immense love of Michael Sheen and respect for him. And I continue to always want to work with, be near, hang out, eat with, laugh with, anything with Michael Sheen. He’s the jam.
Q: Speaking about your performing arts background, I understand that the big dance number we keep hearing about [on the set]… Did you choreograph it?
Toni: This is good. I’m glad … we can clear this up! So, the real culprits of the dance were MyAnna [Buring] and Mia [Maestro] … I think the story goes Mia maybe – one of the two – had done this on a previous set, and they thought it was hysterical. So, they had created and choreographed this dance. Now, the rub is that neither girl has any dance training, so they just sort of haphazardly put this dance team together, but they didn’t know (a) how to teach it (b) how to count it … They just didn’t know what to do with it, they were like ‘We’ve got this idea.’ And my training comes from the musical theater world – I got my B.F.A. doing musical theater … I thought that I’d always just do Broadway, my original plan, but that was derailed … And so I get a little knock on my trailer door from those rascals and they were like ‘we have an idea can you help us?’ So, we went into the makeup trailer, and they showed me the dance three or four times, and I got down the counts essentially, and then we assembled all of the Cullen side after dinner, we just went around like wildfire and were like ‘everybody meet us in this tent, meet us in this tent,’ and I taught everyone the dance. And this is sort of how it got twisted up because I was teaching the dance and everyone kept saying ‘Toni make sure you keep counting it out,’ so I sort of got ownership over it over time. It was not my original idea, but I certainly had a major part in it and it was really fun. So, I don’t know how much you guys know about it, but I hope that we are able to at some point show everyone what happened because it was just so funny. The aftermath of what happened, how Bill reacts, how the Volturi are just sort of frozen and sort of confused, and Michael Sheen kind of like puts his hands in his armpits and gets on this like breakdancing battle pose, and the whole thing is just a riot.
Q: If they don’t include on some version of the DVD fans will be in uproar!
Toni: Definitely! They gotta get the music rights. I think that that’s our biggest hurdle is making sure with the music. Worst case scenario, you’ll get a silent version of it which’ll still have its fair share of humor.
Q: It should be like the extra scene after the credits.
Toni: I think that would be great, it could just be a whole other side of the vampires. You don’t ever get to see vampires dance! C’mon!
Q: So Michael Sheen wasn’t a part of it?
Toni: No, initially what happened was we were trying to convince the Volturi to have a dance battle with us. We were like ‘we’re going to battle you guys.’ The secret was on Bill. Bill didn’t know what was going to happen, so we totally flashmobbed Bill. So, there were all sorts of rumors like during the whole day and dinner break eventually, we kept thinking that the Volturi were sending over spies to get our dance moves, so it became like this whole thing like ‘Do the Volturi have a dance that’s going to come right after ours,’ and everyone was sure they did. And Chris Heyerdahl was just stone cold, he was making us really think they had something up their sleeves, but when it came down to it, they called ‘Action!’ and it all happened, and they really just ended up enjoying it with us. In the end, everyone just cut loose. You know, we came too late and all of us after we’d done that, it was nearing the end of our time in Baton Rouge, and we all thought ‘Why didn’t we start playing these pranks earlier?’ You know?
Q: I was wondering if we could learn a little bit more about your character in the CBS show [Made In Jersey] you’ve got coming up?
Toni: Thank you so much for even asking about that. Yeah! So, the new CBS series that I’m doing is called Made In Jersey, and it is legal and procedural but it’s infused with a lot of comedy and character-driven elements that make it a little more fun than your normal procedural [drama]. So, it’s a lot more colorful than like SVU or something like that, and my particular character’s name is Cyndi Vega and she is a fiery secretary within the law firm, and the whole plotline of the show is that there’s this really fun Jersey girl – 100% Jersey – that gets hired at this fancy New York law firm, and it’s really about her adventures charting her way through this law firm. Does she change? Does she conform? I play sort of her Jiminy Cricket, her fiercely loyal and protective assistant, just making sure that she doesn’t forget herself and that she’s not abused within the law firm and sort of jump to her rescue whenever … and also, she’s also a little louder than life. Cyndi’s sort of that girl that you can’t really figure out who hired her at the law firm. She wears really bright colors. She’s the kind of girl that would match her bra strap to her shoes because she thinks a little strap might show during the day, you know, she’s just a little off.
Q: You said before that you were going to be a Grand Marshall in your hometown parade, did you end up doing it?
Toni: Yes! My hometown I grew up in in Michigan is really tiny, and they are so excited for all of my adventures my whole life. I can just see them sort of making the front page of the paper [about it], and I love them so fiercely, so they – in all the excitement of Twilight and Ruby Sparks which just came out and now with Made in Jersey on CBS, the town commissioner asked me if I would please come and be the Grand Marshall for the Fourth of July parade, so it was really fun. I went home and rode on the back of the convertible and threw candy and waved. There’s lots of pictures floating around out there of it, and it was really, really fun. We’ve also been … there’s also been a tiny movie house in our home town, an art deco theater that’s been sort of run down, so my newest passion project has been to raise awareness for this theater and raise money to get it totally refurbished. And Michael Moore has recently jumped on board and last week donated $10,000 to our effort, so that’s sort of what’s been going on right now, just to get everyone’s attention to our little hometown theater, so I can officially have my hometown fans and friends be able to sit in the front row to see exciting things like Breaking Dawn. They gave me so much love growing up, you know, I want to make sure they always have a front row seat to whatever we’re doing, and they’re so excited about this that they can’t take it.
You can also check out our red carpet interview with Toni at the 4:20 mark on this video.