• Hector Gutierrez

Get Ready to See Marianly Tejada Everywhere

by Hector Gutierrez

Photography by Rachel Palumbo

Mud Magazine talked to the "One of Us Is Lying" star about growing up in the Dominican Republic, her first acting gig, and her similarities with her character, Bronwyn Rojas.

Marianly is wearing MIMI Tran design. Hair and Makeup by Kayle Williams.

The main thing you need to know about Marianly Tejada is that she’s not afraid to go after what she wants. Whether that is putting her architecture education on hold to pursue acting or having some healthy competition involving a film camera with co-star Cooper van Grootel, Marianly goes above and beyond when it comes to following her passions.

And after I had the chance to catch up with her for the spring issue of Mud, I’m not surprised she’s so driven.

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, acting was never a choice for our cover star. In fact, even after she moved to the U.S. for school, becoming an actress was not the original plan.

“When I moved to the U.S. and started my basics for architecture, I sneaked in my first acting class. That’s when it started to feel possible and shortly after, I put architecture on hold and moved to New York,” Marianly told Mud.

Hearing Marianly’s journey to become an artist was not only inspiring, but also reminded me of the arduous challenges she had to face to get to where she's now. While the United States has cities like New York and LA which represent popular hubs for aspiring actors, most Latin American countries do not offer the same opportunities. In fact, some of them still place a stigma on pursuing a professional career in the arts.

Last October, Marianly was cast as one of the leads in NBC’s new upcoming show One of Us Is Lying. Based on the bestselling book by Karen McManus (which I recommend you read asap before the show comes out), the TV adaptation promises to be a major success. Marianly will play Bronwyn, who is the people’s champ, if you ask me. She’s the brains of the group, and with her sights set on attending Yale after graduation, she will do anything to protect her future.

I think our essence is quite similar; thoughtful and driven; and when we put our minds to something… it will get done!” said Marianly about the similarities between her and her character.

Not to brag, but Mud got an inside scoop from the two main leads on what to expect from the show and the one thing they can promise fans is LOTS of chemistry.

Marianly also earned her way into some of the most popular, binge-worthy shows ever. Last year, she got her first U.S. gig in Orange Is the New Black, which was a goal of hers. Her involvement on set was nothing short of dreamy. She had nothing but great things to say about her experience and the cast, which she described as one big family. Shortly after, she appeared on The Purge, where she got to work alongside one of her role models, Paola Nuñez.

But why not hear all of this from her? I caught up with our cover star on her favorite pizza spot in New York City, what’s on her playlist at the moment, and her fashion influences.

While quarantine has made me even more impatient for One of Us Is Lying to come out, I’m super stoked for Marianly to bring Bronwyn to life. Not just for the fans of the book, but for every young Latinx person who gets inspired by seeing a part of themselves represented on screen. If Marianly’s story has taught me anything is that no matter where you’re from, it will always pay off to chase your dreams.

H: You were raised in the DR. Won the Miss Mundo Dominicana 2011. Majored in Architecture in college. How did you decide to go into acting?

M: Ever since I can remember I wanted to be an actor. But growing up in a small town in the Dominican Republic, I didn’t really know that was an option. Much later, when I moved to the U.S. and started my basics for architecture, I sneaked in my first acting class. That’s when it started to feel possible and shortly after, I put architecture on hold and moved to New York. After doing some modeling and commercial acting, the Miss Mundo Dominicana came along and with that a chance to do some film and TV in the DR.

H: There are big advocates for the Latinx community in Hollywood right now. Who do you look up to?

M: So many people! I’m a huge fan of Adria Arjona, Lorenza Izzo, Melissa Barrera and Ana de Armas. They’re breaking all the barriers and it thrills me to see their body of work because the range is so wide. I also love Tanya Saracho’s writing and vision; I think she’s changing the game. Directors like Alejandro González Iñárritu, Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon prove that greatness is not limited to a certain group of people.

H: What does it mean to be young in America today?

M: I’m trying to figure that out myself. But something that applies to being both Dominican and American is that we live in a time where it’s a responsibility to speak up about the things we don't agree with. Our voices and ideas are needed. Our input, and votes are valuable and crucial to creating positive change. Especially being a person of color in the U.S.

H: Latinx representation in pop culture is SO important. How do you go about being a role model for latinx young people?

M: Whether a small or big platform, people are always attentive, especially now with social media. We all have the potential to inspire, influence and empower each other, but can only do so by being authentic. I remind myself of that, and how important it is to do my best. To not take things for granted. I see life as a collective effort: I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me and some day the next generation will stand on ours. I hope that by taking some risks to pursue my dreams and enjoying the fruit of that some little Latinx boy or girl, even in the smallest of towns, can identify that it’s also possible.

H: “One of Us Is Lying” captured me entirely! What are your thoughts on the book? How did you react when you found out you were cast for the pilot?

M: I hadn’t read the book when I first auditioned. Then a few auditions in I was scared to read it and get more attached to the project. So when I was finally cast, I ran to the nearest bookstore and got it. I read it in 2 days. I loved that the chemistry between characters was palpable, it just came off the page. I’m a sucker for books that make the reading experience visceral and One of Us definitely did that for me. I also love how Karen gave each of them a depth that goes beyond their years. When my agents called to give me the news I took it calmly. I think it's because I couldn't believe it yet. Then I FaceTimed my mom and we both cried a little.

H: You’re playing Bronwyn (the people’s champ, if you ask me). How much do you relate to the character? In what ways are you different?

M: I think our essence is quite similar; thoughtful and driven; and when we put our minds to something… it will get done! Her love for family is also something I relate to. Our biggest difference may be that I’m louder and I’m the youngest of five while she’s an older sister.

H: You and Cooper are Instagram goals. What’s your friendship like?

M: That’s sweet. We are all so united as a cast, but Cooper was the first one I met. He’s the most chill and cool person so it’s natural to want to be around that. We share a love for candid photos and a good film. He’s also super talented so there’s some healthy competition happening there.

H: How was filming for The Purge? Was it as scary as it looks?

M: I didn’t get to shoot on Purge day so I missed out on all that fun. Most of my scenes were flashbacks where we see my character’s relationship with her big sister Esme, played by Paola Nuñez. That was the highlight of my shoot: working with Paola. She’s so caring and such a badass actor.

H: You were also on OITNB. Can you share your favorite behind-the-scenes moment with us?

M: Orange was such a quick shoot, and actually my first TV gig in the U.S. I was a bit intimidated to go work on the set of a show I liked so much and dreamt of being a part of. But from the first moment I walked in, I noticed how everyone treated each other like family. And I was welcomed into that big family with such warmth! That left the best impression on me.

H: Our issue pays tribute to how young people use their resources to express themselves. How do you use what’s around you, your clothes, your voice, and other parts of your identity to express who you are?

M: When it comes to how I dress it’s not something I overthink or plan too much. It’s a very intuitive process for me. I see something and can immediately feel if I want to wear it in a particular moment. So I guess unconsciously, what I wear expresses a lot about me or how I’m feeling. Listening to myself keeps it fun and always evolving. I notice that when I’m watching a period movie, show, or look at art, I grab onto details of the costumes and then find myself browsing for them in stores. But then there’s the wild side of me that loves things raw, in its pure state. So I love not wearing makeup and throwing on oversized or flowy pieces. It makes me feel powerful. With my voice, I listen to myself as well. Usually the issues that we can relate to or are the most personal to us, will get our attention. When that happens, I do my best to speak up or act on it. When you’re sharing a story that you care about and that deeply affects you, it’s nice to see that it can impact and serve others.

Marianly Tejada appears on the cover of Mud Magazine's ninth issue "from gucci to goodwill." You can read and buy the issue here.

Stay up to date with Marianly Tejada by following her below:

Photography: Rachel Palumbo https://www.rachelpalumbo.com/

Clothes: MIMI Tran Design https://www.instagram.com/mimitrandesign/

Hair and Makeup: Kayle Williams https://www.instagram.com/kaylewilliams1/