Having first caught the attention of the masses back in 2003 when she reached the final of Star Search, Marissa Heart has since gone on to appear in TV shows including Glee and dance at the Billboard Music Awards in 2014. A strong supporter of Toys for Tots, Heart also likes to keep fit and her most recent project, the film ‘Breaking Through’ premiered last month and is now out in theaters and available on itunes.
As an ambitious young woman with a bright career ahead of her, Heart kindly agreed to this interview with our staff writer Rebecca.
PW: When did you first realise that you wanted to be a performer/actress? Which film or TV series did you see that made you go ‘Yeah, I want to do that’?
MH: I realized that I wanted to be in the entertainment industry at such a young age! I started performing at the age of 4 and fell COMPLETELY in love with it! It was just a matter of time before acting made its way into my life. I used to watch all of the Mary-Kate and Ashley movies and every single episode of Lizzie McGuire! Those really made me realize how badly I wanted to be an actress.
PW: Your latest project ‘Breaking Through’ premiered last month at the Urban World Film Festival– what was that like? Do you enjoy attending big events such as premieres or do you get nervous beforehand?
MH: It was absolutely amazing! It was so surreal to go to a premiere for a film that I was in! I love attending big events. I actually don't get nervous beforehand. I get really excited and want to document the whole thing!
PW: How does it feel to know that the movie is now in theatres and on itunes for everyone to see?
MH: Honestly, it feels unreal. I'm so proud of the film and how much time and energy everyone put into the entire thing. There's no reason to not be excited!!
PW: What drew you to the role of Tara?
MH: Tara is very similar to who I am individually as a person, so I really connected with her in that aspect. She's very happy and energetic and is full of love. What really drew me to her, though, was the darker scenes that she has in the film. I really wanted to challenge myself and connect with Tara on a deeper level.
PW: What do you want people who see the film to take away from it? Is there any underlying message to the movie?
MH: I really want people to see Breaking Through and learn that they don't have to change themselves in order to be successful. You should always do what makes YOU and your soul happy! I believe the underlying message is "be true to you".
PW: Can you remember much of your audition?
MH: I can. I had multiple auditions and call-backs for this actually! The whole process was so crazy yet so much fun. We had acting auditions, call-backs, and chemistry reads and then on top of that we had a whole dance audition process. I wasn't really too nervous throughout the whole process because everyone was so relaxed and easy to work with!
PW: What was John Legend like to work with as a producer?
MH: I remember the first day he came to set and the whole cast got to meet him! He's such an awesome guy and he is so unbelievably talented. He was amazing to work with and was so professional. He really respected what we all did as artists.
PW: You’re a gifted dancer, having first taken it up at the age of 3. How helpful has your dance background been for you in terms of getting you work?
MH: Incredibly helpful! So many of the jobs that I've had the opportunity to be a part of have incorporated dancing! I definitely wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't have the background that I have in dance.
PW: I think it’s safe to say that Star Search changed your life – what do you remember of your time on the show?
MH: Star Search is what brought me out to LA. I came out with my mom and dance teacher, and then my brother, dad, and grandparents came out when I made it to the semi-finals. I was so happy and all I wanted to do was get on that stage and dance. I remember I was the youngest one by far. Everyone took me in as their little sister though and I felt so comfortable.
PW: You relocated from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to LA soon after – were you daunted by that prospect or did you realise that it was something you just needed to do?
MH: I knew that it was something that I needed to do because I had such a passion for this business and my career! I was so sad to leave my family, dance studio, school, friends, and everything else, but I knew that if I wanted to reach the goals that I had for myself that this is what I had to do.
PW: You’ve since appeared on TV shows including Glee, Victorious and The Voice among others, but from all the shows you’ve been a part of, could you pick a favourite, and if so, which is it and why?
MH: Oh no! It's so hard to pick a favorite! I think if I had to choose one it would be Glee. I was on multiple different episodes and each and every time I came to set it didn't even feel like work! The choreographers were amazing and so easy to work with and the choreography was always so much fun! I was also friends with the other dancers on set a majority of the time so we all got to hangout on our down time.
PW: You also danced in the Michael Jackson hologram performance at the 2014 Billboard music awards – that must have been one hell of a moment for you
MH: Oh my gosh you can't even imagine! I remember I was sitting in my living room watching them with my mom and when it came on I immediately started crying. Such a monumental moment in my life.
PW: You’re very closely involved with Toys for Tots – what was it about that organization that made you want to help?
MH: I am so passionate about helping kids in need, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I believe every kid should be happy and should be given the chance to have that toy that they will forever remember remind them of their childhood and how it brought them so much joy.
PW: How important is keeping fit and well to you? I’m aware you’re quite an outdoorsy girl and that you practice yoga – does that help keep your life in balance would you say?
MH: Incredibly important! If I don't work-out for a day my body feels like it's missing something and my mind doesn't feel as focused! It absolutely helps keep my life in balance. Yoga is my "me time" that is definitely a necessity for me.
PW: Where would you like to see yourself five years from now? What’s your ultimate ambition?
MH: I have so many ambitions that it's hard to choose just one! I love to set different goals for myself because I always love to be working towards something greater and staying inspired.
PW: Finally then, what’s next for you? Do you have any projects in the pipeline you can tell me about?
MH: I filmed an episode of CW's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" a few weeks ago and it aired last week. Also, I filmed an episode of "Lip Sync Battle" last week so that should be airing soon as well! I'm always looking for new opportunities and new projects to be a part of.
Check out the trailer for "Breaking Through" below and be sure to follow Marissa on Twitter.