I spoke with Tara Macken from The Hunger Games, Sons of Anarchy, and a ton of other projects. Tara took on Tara in season three of Sons of Anarchy as Luisa. You can see her this weekend as a District 4 Tribute Girl in The Hunger Games. I can’t wait to see her alongside one of my favorite actors, Henry Winkler, in an episode of Children’s Hospital. Tara is not only an amazingly talented actor but she is also a skilled stuntwoman. I’m so happy I got the chance to chat with her because she was incredibly sweet and gorgeous stuntwomen impress the hell out of me. Check out The Hunger Games this weekend and be sure to follow Tara on Twitter (@taramacken).
Lena: I have to mention Sons of Anarchy because I’m a huge fan. Do you still keep up with the show?
Tara Macken: To be honest with you, I watched my season and I’ve been waiting for the new season to come out on DVD so I can watch it as a whole. I like to watch everything back-to-back.
Lena: Yes, then you can watch the entire season without those weekly cliffhangers.
Tara Macken: Yes, that’s the plan. Thank you, Sons of Anarchy was so much fun. It was awesome.
Lena: However, you don’t have many fans from the show because you went after Tara (laughing).
Tara Macken: You know, it’s funny because a lot of people don’t even recognize me. A couple of the other Tributes were huge Sons of Anarchy fans and they were talking about how much they love it and that they watch it all the time. I said, “so you remember last season and there was this girl, she was Latina, and was kind of mean and kidnapped Tara?” They responded, “Oh, I hate that girl.” I said, “thank you.” They were surprised and said, “You look nothing like her.” I had a broken nose almost the entire time and a full sleeve tattoo on my arm, so…
Lena: It’s funny because when I asked my readers if they had any questions for you, I figured the Sons of Anarchy fans would have questions, but they just wanted me to tell you that they didn’t like you. Obviously, you did a phenomenal job (laughing).
Tara Macken: (laughing) That’s actually a huge compliment.
Lena: I told them that I’m sure you’re a nice person (Tara’s character Luisa obviously was not.)
Tara Macken: (laughing) That’s awesome. I had so much fun being such a mean person.
Lena: Yes, you were very mean. How about working with that cast?
Tara Macken: Oh my god. First of all, there are all these big monstrous guys and I’m only 5’4” so when I came to work and went in the trailer I expected them to be hardcore and not care but they were all ridiculously friendly, super cool, and down-to-earth. No offence but they are the most villainous looking group of people that you will ever see, but they are all just the warmest, happiest group of people. My first day in the makeup trailer and Charlie (Hunnam) came in and said (to everyone), “Oh man, my helmet just blew off me on the freeway and I had to stop and get my helmet and scotch tape my helmet to my face.” (They replied) “That’s ridiculously dangerous, you should not be on a motorcycle in L.A. with a helmet flying off of your face. “ They are very legit and also the happiest group.
Lena: I met a few of them at Comic-Con and I interviewed Kim Coates and Mark Boone Jr. at a motorcycle show.
Tara Macken: How was that?
Lena: They were all really nice and Kim Coates is amazing. They are so much like their characters.
Tara Macken: Yes, they are so wonderful and they were so much fun at the wrap party. That was my first really big wrap party and it was cool to see them so happy.
Lena: That’s fantastic and isn’t Ron Perlman (very intimidating) in person?
Tara Macken: Ron is a trip. You’ve been watching Ron Perlman since you were a kid so seeing him in person was like wow… In the trailer he was singing and doing vocal warm-ups and that was really funny to watch. I was sitting in the makeup chair next to him and he asked me if I wanted some of his breakfast burrito.
Lena: That’s awesome. I’m glad that you had fun on the set.
Tara Macken: Thank you and I’m glad that people hate me, that makes me very happy (laughing).
Lena: Yes, that means that you did your job really well.
Lena: Did you just do your own stunts on Sons of Anarchy or did you fill in for other people as well?
Tara Macken: I originally just got hired for one episode to play Luisa but after that the writers liked me so much that they just kept me on the whole season. It was one of those beautiful things that just happened. It think I only did stunts for one or two days and the rest of the times I was just acting.
Lena: You must have gotten along well with Kurt (Sutter)?
Tara Macken: He’s a really cool dude and it’s awesome to see somebody who has created the whole thing.
Lena: Yes, he’s great and it’s my favorite show.
Tara Macken: That’s awesome. Do you ride?
Lena: Oh no, a motorcycle, I can’t even ride a bike (laughing).
Tara Macken: That’s okay it’s overrated (laughing).
Lena: The Hunger Games, everyone is so excited about that film. They are thinking that’s it is going to be the next big franchise like Harry Potter and Twilight.
Tara Macken: I know, it’s pretty awesome and it’s premiering pretty soon. When I got offered the role I didn’t realize that it was going to have such a huge fan following. Now that I’m in this position I get emails from people that just want to talk about it, it’s actually quite surreal.
Lena: Were you familiar with the books prior to your role?
Tara Macken: I actually knew nothing about the books until after the audition. I went into the audition and did the best performance that I could do, but I didn’t want to get overly excited about it until I got the role.
Lena: Do you think it translates well (to film)?
Tara Macken: I absolutely do. I think they did a really good job.
Lena: You play a Tribute, so what is District 4’s specialty?
Tara Macken: I’m from the Fishing District so basically a lot of the things, character wise, that they did to establish it was definitely done by the costuming, the makeup, and other things. I personally thought that it was pretty awesome that I got to be part of the Fishing District just because I’m from the Philippines and I live by the beach.
Lena: Can you talk about your character and your preparation for combat?
Tara Macken: The biggest thing I think in terms of knowing your character is to understand the situation that you are in. In terms of training, we had a week of preparation which is a real nice thing because on TV shows you do your work at home and you come in for the day and you shoot and you aren’t able to develop bonds with your castmates over time. With this it was cool to be actually given a full week prior to filming to start training with all the other cast members. It was definitely a really good strategy to let everyone bond.
Lena: What was the audition process like?
Tara Macken: We just had a bunch of lines and we weren’t really sure which Tribute we would play so we had to read for all the different Tribute roles. Then they would just throw curveballs at you to see if you could play the character a little differently depending what they were looking for in particular people.
Lena: What was it like working with the cast? I know you probably didn’t work with Elizabeth Banks, etc.
Tara Macken: No, I primarily just worked with all the other Tributes. It was really cool working with them. It was a lot of fun and almost felt like a summer camp because there were a bunch of kids running around with swords trying to fight everybody; it was great (laughing). Everyone was really supportive and we all tried to help each other. There were no egos between who’s role was what. It was just about having a good time.
Lena: Were there any people that you really enjoyed sharing screen time with?
Tara Macken: I would have to say Kara Petersen and Ashton Moid from District 6. In terms of filming, I had the most fun with them on the set.
Lena: Are you excited (for the premiere)?
Tara Macken: I’m incredibly excited. You really don’t know how they are going to edit the film together so when I saw the trailer I got extremely excited because the trailer itself was more exciting than I ever imagined. Seeing that made me really curious to see what the production side brought to the film. I was there for the filming but I wasn’t there for any of the stuff afterwards so it’s going to be really interesting to see how the complete film came together.
Lena: You’ve done so much stunt work. When did you realize that you wanted to do that?
Tara Macken: I actually didn’t realize that you could do it as a career. I was always an actor, a dancer, a gymnast and I used to loved climbing up trees and falling down. That was just part of my personality so when I moved to L.A. I decided that I was going to act and dance then I met some friends and they told me to do stunts and that basically just combined my love for both, the physical action and the acting. I focused my attention and I trained really hard and eventually it worked out for me.
Lena: You are going to be in G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Battleship. You also did stunt work on Glee. You were even Maggie Q’s stunt double on Nikita.
Tara Macken: I always have to remind myself that this is what I do for a job. For example, when I call my friends it’s the most random phone call ever. I’ll tell them I got an offer to be on a boat that explodes and I think I’m going to do it. I doubled Maggie for one episode, the pilot, and they shoot in Canada so I did it while she was in L.A. She’s someone that I’ve always looked up to.
Lena: Maggie does a fantastic job.
Tara Macken: She’s great. She originally worked out in Hong Kong and she did a lot of action out there, so she can definitely hold her own.
Lena: I always thought that she didn’t use stunt people.
Tara Macken: She does most of her own work.
Lena: Sometimes it has to feel that being a stunt person is a thankless job because you do all the hard work and someone else takes credit for it.
Tara Macken: Yeah, but you know that going in. You get the most appreciation when you are on set and the cast and crew really appreciate the awesome shots that they just got because of you. That is always the best feeling and after that my job is done.
Lena: You get paid for it no matter what but it has to be funny when people are praising the actors and saying they did such a great job when actually it wasn’t them (laughing). (Remember the Black Swan incident?)
Lena: What are auditions like for stunt people?
Tara Macken: I’ve done a couple but a lot of things are done on referrals and experience and being able to double the actress. It’s a very particular job that’s extremely different. Every now and then you get the opportunity to do a stunt job depending on what it is you could be on an audition and it will be in a swimming pool, or you could do a fight sequence with a choreographer and he teaches you something and you have to go learn it. It’s very similar to how a dance audition is constructed.
Lena: What stunt role are you the proudest of?
Tara Macken: I think I had the most fun and the best learning experience on The Nine Lives of Chloe King on ABC Family. It didn’t get picked up for a second season but it was really cool. It was kind of like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For me it was a good opportunity to double a girl that essentially plays a superhero. I got to do a lot of wirework and jump over buildings and cars. I think that was the most fun.
Lena: I always think it’s funny, especially in old ‘80s movies, when it is supposed to be a stunt featuring a woman but it’s really just a big dude with a wig on.
Tara Macken: Yes, and there are a lot of those.
Lena: Those kill me because they don’t even try (laughing) to hide it.
Tara Macken: Nope (laughing).
Lena: How many bones have you broken?
Tara Macken: You know, I broke all my bones as a kid so now I’m extremely cautious. I’ve broken my arm and I cracked open my head and got a couple of stiches there. That’s about it and that was all in elementary school.
Lena: That’s good because it’s a dangerous career.
Tara Macken: Absolutely!
Lena: I can only imagine the release that you have to sign doing stunt work. If you die, we are not responsible…
Tara Macken: You’re always covered by insurance so that’s good. I just joined the Untied Stuntwomen’s Association. That’s a very prestigious group that I had to join. I’m in a group with a bunch of women that I look up to. They have a lot of skills that I don’t have so they can teach me and vise versa.
Lena: That’s fantastic and it’s always great when people support each other.
Tara Macken: It’s a very male dominated industry so it’s nice when a group of women can get together and mentor each other.
Lena: What else do you have coming up?
Tara Macken: This year G.I. Joe: Retaliation is coming out and I stunt doubled for the character of Jinx. She is the female ninja. That was pretty exciting. I also did some stunts for Battleship. I just recently acted on an episode of Children’s Hospital. I got to play Henry Winkler’s daughter.
Lena: Oh, I love him.
Tara Macken: I know, I love him too. He’s such a trip.
Lena: I did a press conference call interview with him for Royal Pains and Henry has to be the nicest guy ever.
Tara Macken: He’s really nice and he has been doing it for so long that he gets the job done and he’s the most patient person. He’s so professional and he’s not a diva. He’s pretty awesome.
Lena: He is so sweet.
Tara Macken: He is so sweet. He basically had to kick my ass.
Lena: Do you know when that episode is airing? I have to see that one.
Tara Macken: I’m not quite sure but the name of the episode is “A Girl Walks Into a Hospital” and I’m that girl.
Lena: That must have been a surreal moment for you.
Tara Macken: Absolutely!