Christine Marzano: a model student actor

A Princeton graduate in psychology and neuroscience and a former model, Irish-American Christine Marzano on why she moved from the catwalk to the screen

The many faces of actor Christine Marzano. Photographs: Warren Remolacio

The many faces of actor Christine Marzano. Photographs: Warren Remolacio

Sat, Jul 27, 2013, 01:00

The star of Brooklyn-born actor Christine Marzano is on the rise. Marzano (27) has played in Martin McDonagh’s acclaimed Seven Psychopaths and acted in Neil Jordan’s Byzantium. The release next month of thriller Paranoia sees her act alongside Hollywood legends such as Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman. Her film resume may be concise but it’s considered.

A former model, she is long and lithe, standing 5ft 11in in her flat black sandals. She’s all glowing good health, gleaming white teeth, just the hint of a dimple, an enviable jaw-line and grey-blue eyes.

Hers is an expressive face that becomes animated in conversation – at times serious when discussing the craft of the actor, at times gawky when she laughs about how naive she was when she started modelling or how her dad cheered her on at Irish dancing feiseanna in New York.

Marzano has been in Dublin for a month filming the directorial debut of Vivienne de Courcey. The film Wild is based on the story of garden designer Mary Reynolds (played by Emma Greenwell) who won a Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal in 2002.

Marzano plays the celebrity florist and landscape designer Charlotte Heavey, who hires Reynolds and subsequently takes advantage of her talents. It’s not the first time Marzano has worked with an Irish director. In Jordan’s Byzantium she played a brothel madam and in McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths a bilingual prostitute.

The corporate espionage thriller Paranoia, which opens in the US on August 16th, sees her act alongside industry greats Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfus, Gary Oldman and Liam Hemsworth.

Hemsworth plays an employee at a large corporation who is spying on the old mentor of his boss in order to secure for him a lucrative advantage. Marzano’s character Nora Summers is unconvinced by Hemsworth’s character and tensions ensue.

The supporting roles she has played to date have been those of strong females or at least of women with some leverage. GQ magazine describes Marzano as a “Princeton-educated former runway queen” too smart to fall into the trap of trashy roles for former models.

The power of her looks and sexuality is something she is becoming more aware of as she gets older and she laughs at her own naivety when she began modelling internationally in 2004. “I got some great tips,” she laughs, “like not wearing full underwear under a tight dress. I didn’t even know what a thong was before I started modelling!”

She has worked in the US, Paris, Milan and Germany as both a catwalk and editorial model. While she has firmly abandoned modelling for acting, and cringes at the general view of the model-turned-actor, she says that some aspects of modelling have helped prepare her for acting, or at least the lifestyle that goes with it.

“I don’t think modelling is good training for being an actor. A model is constantly worried about what she looks like. As an actor that’s not your job, you have to be worried about your character and what they are thinking. As a model you’re constantly looking at the camera but as an actor you are rarely looking into the lens. However, being a model may be good training for the rejection, the types of people you encounter in both worlds and for the inconsistent lifestyle of an actor.

“As a model you’re constantly going to castings, auditions are totally different but you’re still selling yourself to people in audition.”

Murzano says she was a “late bloomer”, wearing athletic swimwear while her teenage friends wore bikinis at summer camp. “They called me lanky for a whole summer! I didn’t want to be the lanky one – I wanted to be the sexy one!” she laughs.

“I don’t think I was ever referred to as a sex bomb but my role in Seven Psychopaths changed that a little. Now I get lots of unusual friend requests from around the world!”

The focus in her home when she was growing up was more about education than good looks and one which instilled in her her love of acting. Her father (Italian-German Edward) would take his three daughters to the theatre to see musicals and stage plays.

“I’d sit in the balcony as a little girl wondering if the director would like to put me in his play.”

As a student of psychology and neuroscience at Princeton University, Marzano involved herself in theatre, while also receiving coaching as an actor in New York and later studying at a Shakespeare conservatory in London.

“I don’t ascribe to a particular acting style but I’ve picked up things from the various places I have studied that have informed my own way of acting,” she says.

She frequently speaks about the importance of character in her work, in having a really good character to sink her teeth into, and how her varied life as a model and an Ivy League student has given her a broad spectrum of characters from which to draw.

“I got to interact with Pulitzer Prize winners and Nobel Prize winners – people who are masters in the fields of maths, physics and neuroscience – and I can draw on that for my acting as well as from the greater wealth of knowledge I have having studied there.”

She says she is “anal” in her attention to detail when it comes to the characters she plays and researches her roles in depth both before auditioning and during filming. She is drawn to play intelligent, strong and independent female characters – those that are also perhaps flawed in some way. She cites Kristen Scott Thomas as both a stage and screen actor whom she admires.

Marzano has close ties with Ireland and has been here many times.“I got the bus to Donegal last week and my aunt picked me up,” she says breezily of her family, the Boyles of Donegal.

Her mother Mary has always had a strong desire to instil a sense of Irish heritage in her three daughters – Christine, Eileen and Maureen. Neither of Marzano’s sisters is involved in acting – Eileen is a nurse and Maureen works in finance – but they all did Irish dancing competitively as children.

“My dad was made go to the feiseanna every week and would take great pleasure in hearing the very non-Irish sounding name Marzano called out when we’d win.”

The actor holds dual Irish-US citizenship, an advantage not lost on agents when looking for an American actor to film in Ireland.

She currently lives in LA where, she says, her driving skills have improved exponentially and where she can now park her Mini Cooper with ease. “I never drove in New York.”

She says LA has tempered her “type A” personality but she’ll return to New York if she ever finds herself getting too soft.

So far Marzano has chosen her films wisely. “I’m just taking those baby steps and giant steps in my career, but the calibre of the people I’m getting to work with is making it easier,” she says.