Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Getting Mean with Mya Stark

Written by Esther Kim

Child actors always seem to be marred by their early success in life. I mean whatever happened to D.J., Stephanie, and Michelle from Full House? I haven’t heard a thing from the first two, but the Olsen twins seem to be doing okay. They’re worth like a billion dollars, right?

Child actors always seem to be marred by their early success in life. I mean whatever happened to D.J., Stephanie, and Michelle from Full House? I haven’t heard a thing from the first two, but the Olsen twins seem to be doing okay. They’re worth like a billion dollars, right? 

So there are exceptions, and if the Olsen twins are any proof of success after being on a nineties sitcom, I have to say, Mya Stark is more proof of that. As a child actress, Mya had roles in The Man with Two Brains, Growing Pains, The Wonder Years, and more, all by the time she was entering high school. Since then she has gone on to write and direct films and is currently the editor-in-chief at Mean Magazine. She can go in front and behind the camera and almost single-handedly puts together six, artsy, stylish issues of Mean Magazine a year.

Mean Magazine, by the way, is the most amazing movie magazine you’ve never heard of. The likes of Sir Ben Kingsley, Kate Beckinsale, Anna Faris, James McAvoy, Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, and Dennis Hopper have not only been featured in the magazine, but have filmed really cool experimental shorts and candid snippets for their "MeanTV" section. I have no idea how they get these big stars to loosen up and agree to these things, but they do.

Even with this mean resume, (pun intended), Mya is not the crazy, mini-mogul, “Hollywood” girl you might think she is. She gives off serious brainiac vibes but in a disarmingly non-threatening way. Half the time you might not know the esoteric pop cultural references she is making, but she’ll still give you the benefit of the doubt. I was really excited to interview her ,and I tried to get her to tell us the secret of having a cool career like hers. So come and get some face time with Mya. I assure you it’ll be worth the read.

Esther: It's impossible for me to imagine doing both: how exactly do you manage being the editor in chief of a magazine and also directing films?

Mya: Actually—I hate to disappoint—but I’ve managed by NOT doing both at the same time. Rather, I’ve alternated journalism and filmmaking; the last time I did them simultaneously was as a film student at UCLA, and I ended up conking out from overwork and losing a whole summer of my life to a hearty case of mononucleosis. It helped a lot that when I made the transition from being a freelance writer for Mean Magazine to editing, it was during the screenwriters’ strike, so I had a lot of time—and angst—on my hands.

Esther: How did you get started at Mean Magazine?

Mya: Well, one night around the turn of the century, I met this guy Kashy Khaledi, founder of Mean, by chance at the house of a comedian we both knew. He said he published a magazine; I asked if I could send him some clips of my student journalism work. He liked my writing and invited me to pitch him article ideas. So, I showed up at the Mean offices in a state of total anxiety and did so.

All of the pitches were pretty weird, but Kashy’s a very forward-thinking guy, and he and the editor at the time, Andy Hunter, were both kindly tolerant of my somewhat out-there ways and writing style. Mean was always a phenomenal place to experiment in form and have adventures in popular culture. I was flabbergasted that my contribution was welcomed, and that was a big part of me having enough confidence to direct a short film, called P.E.

Esther: And you know the follow-up question is going to be, how did you get started in film--in-front and behind the camera?

Mya: Thanks to hilarious writing from Jacob Meszaros, terrific performances from the actors including the legendary Dave (Gruber) Allen, and the help and support of our mentor Michael Patrick King, that short was well-received, and [it landed] Jacob and representation with the Endeavor Agency--who rule extremely hard and began to get us work as screenwriters.

The urge? Compulsion? To work in film has a lot to do with my shameful background as a…this is embarrassing…child actor. I started acting when I was four years old. My parents weren’t “stage parents,” thankfully, but neither of them had gone to college, and they knew they weren’t going to be able to afford it for me, so they found a way I could earn the money myself. Growing up in that world left me feeling comfortable and at home on sets and among film crews, as well as having some degree of insight into what actors are doing and feeling out there in front of the camera.

Esther: I know it's hard to top having a part in Steve Martin's The Man with Two Brains, but what have been some of your favorite projects over the years? What do you have coming up?

Mya: Golly gee. One time I made a Sea World commercial and got to work with a walrus. I was pretty stoked about being on Growing Pains because I loved Kirk Cameron. I also really enjoyed being in Max Headroom. A movie Jacob and I co-wrote got directed by Paul Feig, the creator of Freaks and Geeks and a personal hero… All the projects have been such great experiences, it’s ridiculous. Sometimes I feel so lucky I just want to stab myself in the face to make up for it.

As for what I’ve got coming up? I will send that question along to God.

Esther: I'll watch anything that's abstract and foreign or has really great fashion. What are your movie turn-ons and turn-offs?

Mya: Turn-ons: Cartoons, prog rock, full frontal male nudity. Turn-offs: Romantic comedy and walks on the beach.

Esther: Since you are an official tastemaker in film and media, I'm curious...what are some good books you've read lately?

Mya: Ha! Tastemaker! I don’t read that much fiction…mostly, I read about science. Obsessively and constantly. I am fascinated with biology, how molecules work together as cells, and how cells work together as organisms. This encompasses everything from genetics to embryology to evolutionary psychology to biochemistry to plant physiology to neuroscience to as much physics as I can get my math-deficient brain around. I would recommend the work of microbiologist Lynn Margulis, (such as Acquiring Genomes: The Theory of the Origins of the Species), as being something that stands a chance of revolutionizing your perception of the world from the smallest amino acid fragment of your DNA on up. That might not have been quite the answer you were looking for.

Esther: As an insider in the movie industry, you must have seen a lot of tantrums and egos. Not to get too analytical here, but why does it seem so hard to stay level-headed and down-to-earth in Hollywood?

Mya: Because anyone who wants to go into show business is, by definition, nuts.

Esther: Lastly, can you leave some words of wisdom for readers who want to
go into film or media?

Mya: See above.

Illustration by Esther Kim

Share this post