If you were around in the ’90s you almost certainly saw a Tina Majorino movie, although you may not have realized it. Majorino was a child star who appeared in films including Waterworld and When a Man Loves a Woman. But before long, she grew up and seemingly vanished from our screens – save for one iconic role. So where did she go? And what’s she up to now?
From a very young age, Majorino seemed desperate to become an actor; watching The Wizard of Oz was all it took to stir her interest. So Majorino persuaded her parents to let her follow her dream – and, ultimately, she was successful. And at first, she appeared in TV adverts – including one also featuring Christopher Reeve. When Majorino was seven, though, she won a part in ABC’s Camp Wilder.
And Majorino’s role in the sitcom moved her towards Hollywood and some decent movie roles. In 1994, for example, she appeared in When a Man Loves a Woman, a drama that also starred Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia. That same year, she also played the main human character in the children’s film Andre, about a little girl who befriends a seal.
“Tina’s a major talent, no doubt about it,” actor Keith Carradine, who starred with her in Andre, told the Los Angeles Times in 1994. “There’s a certain focus she has that belies her age. She’s a very centered, very focused little girl. It’s amazing to me that someone who’s nine can be so sure of what she wants to do.”
And after that, Waterworld came along. The plan was for Waterworld to be a blockbuster the likes of which Hollywood had never seen before. Indeed, at the time it was labeled “the most expensive film ever made.” The sci-fi action film starred Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper and Jeanne Tripplehorn alongside Majorino, and it could have been a big success.
But unfortunately, Waterworld was a troubled production from the start. You see, Costner reportedly clashed with many people behind the scenes, including the composer and the director. Writers – 36 of them in total – came and went. Storms even wiped away one of the sets. Despite all the disasters and the griping, however, the film was eventually released on July 28, 1995.
Nevertheless, Waterworld failed to earn enough money during its cinematic run to cover its huge production costs. And critics generally viewed it as consisting of some great ideas that had been poorly executed. Majorino did however manage to escape most of the criticism. James Berardinelli, film critic for Reelviews, even wrote that the young actress delivered a “winning performance.”
Shortly afterwards, Majorino made what is perhaps the wisest move possible for any child star: she took a break from acting. So, after appearing in the 1999 TV movie Alice in Wonderland in which she played Alice, the young actress suddenly vanished from our screens. And in 2006 she reminisced about that period in an interview with Backstage.
“I was really tired, and I wanted to spend time with my family and my friends and go to school,” Majorino told the website. “And I had kind of lost my passion for it. I’m the type of person that, if I’m not into it 100 percent, then I kind of don’t want to be involved in it. I don’t feel like it’s fair for other people to work with somebody who’s not all there.”
“I think that’s the best decision I’ve ever made for myself,” Majorino added. “Because it gave me a chance to get to know myself as a person, and I think that can always add to your performance.” But thankfully for her fans, it wasn’t long before she got the acting bug again. And as soon as she decided to move back into the business, aged 18, the script for Napoleon Dynamite appeared to practically fall into her lap.
When Napoleon Dynamite – a small independent film – was released in 2004, no-one expected it to reach anything like the heights it went on to scale. But the movie ended up becoming a massively popular cult classic, and Majorino had a starring role. She seemingly couldn’t have picked a better movie for her comeback.
And in a 2005 interview with MovieHole, Majorino revealed that the movie allowed her to “re-introduce” herself as she is now. “I definitely didn’t know that Napoleon would blow up like it did,” she added. “I just signed on to do it because I thought it was funny… The characters are very genuine and sweet, and it has such great messages in it, too.”
The same year as Napoleon Dynamite was released, Majorino was also cast in the TV show Veronica Mars. Rob Thomas, who created the series, had written the role of Mac specifically for her. And like so many of the projects that Majorino became involved with, Veronica Mars was a hit; it also picked up a raft of award nominations.
At around the same time, Majorino also began appearing in the show Big Love alongside Jeanne Tripplehorn, with whom she had worked on Waterworld. Like Veronica Mars, it gained a big fanbase, and the series picked up plenty of awards and critical acclaim as well. To this day, in fact, the HBO drama is considered to be one of the best television programs of its era.
Meanwhile, in a 2005 interview with MovieHole, Majorino was asked about the infamous “curse of the child star.” Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, child stars do sometimes struggle as adults – both in their careers and their personal lives. Nonetheless, Majorino gave a reassuring response to the question.
“That’s funny, ‘the curse of the child actor.’ I never really bought into any of that,” Majorino said. “I think quitting for five years was the best decision I’ve made for myself and for my career. I guess if that child actor curse is real, then disappearing for a good chunk of time was a better way to transition into an adult actor than fighting through the awkwardness that comes with your teenage years on camera in front of everyone in the world.”
A year later, Majorino told Backstage how she had initially been rebuffed when attempting to get back into acting. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, it’s not gonna work out – you’re gonna be plagued by the child star thing,’” she said. “I never really bought into any of that… and I just told myself, ‘Well, you worked your ass off before, and you made it happen. Just do it again.’”
And Majorino certainly did seem to make it happen. These days, she has even more credits to her name. And Majorino’s most well-known roles are still providing for her, too. In 2012 she did voice acting for the animated TV version of Napoleon Dynamite, and two years later she returned as Mac for the Veronica Mars movie.
What’s more, Majorino has also played main or recurring characters in a variety of popular TV shows, including Bones, True Blood, Grey’s Anatomy, Legends and Scorpion. In addition, she’s appeared in music videos for Lifehouse and Pink – both major artists in the music world. Indeed, her CV is one that many actors can only dream of.
Majorino’s personal life would appear to be happy, too. She’s kept very quiet about romantic relationships and the like, but on Twitter the actress often displays pictures of her dogs and describes herself as a “fur parent.” Spending that time away from the limelight, then, certainly seems to have done her the world of good.