Meet The New Eden

YOUNG AND RESTLESS’s Vanessa Marano (Eden) may only be 16, but she already has a career that most adult actors would envy. Her looong resumé includes memorable stints as Lisa Kudrow‘s obnoxious stepdaughter Frenchesca on THE COMEBACK, Luke’s precocious long-lost daughter April on GILMORE GIRLS and outcast Layne in the movie version of THE CLIQUE books. Digest caught up with this young, intelligent actress and got a first-hand glimpse of just how wise beyond her years Marano is.Soap Opera Digest: How are you enjoying Y&R?

Vanessa Marano: I love it! So far, everyone’s been really, really great.

Digest: How did you end up on the show?

Marano: The part came up and I auditioned, and it seemed like a good role.

Digest: Was it tough coming in as a recast for Erin Sanders?

Marano: It was tough in the sense that no one ever likes to come into a recast role. It’s difficult knowing that someone lost their job. That sucks. But it’s a business and so far, everyone’s been trying to make it work out. I know that for an audience member, it’s probably hard to see someone new in the role, but viewers have been responding well, so that’s good.

Digest: How has it been working with Michael Gross (soon-to-be-ex-River)?

Marano: Oh, my God, I was addicted to FAMILY TIES when it was on Nick at Nite. I’m very happy that I’m here when he is and have gotten to work with him.

Digest: You were on one of my favorite shows THE COMEBACK. How was it doing that show?

Marano: That was an awesome experience. I was so young, I was 12 when I did it. But it’s such an industry show that a lot of people didn’t understand it. The show was a big inside joke. My character was a typical spoiled L.A. kid. All of the characters were nuts. I loved working with Lisa [Kudrow]. She made her character [Valerie] so real.

Digest: In the scene where your character Franchesca was smoking, was that a real cigarette?

Marano: It was herbal and if you notice, I was never actually seen putting it to my mouth because there would’ve been some legal issues. Right before we did one of the takes, there was a technical problem, so the cigarette was just burning and burning and burning, and it finally got to the point where it almost touched my hand. Now I’ll never have to “smoke” in real life [laughs].

Digest: How was GILMORE GIRLS?

Marano: That was my favorite show before I was on it, so I was so excited when I got that job. When I got on-set, I was snapping pictures, but not of the cast. I snapped pictures of the scenery. It made it feel like Stars Hollow was a real place.

Digest: How did you get into acting?

Marano: I’ve wanted to do it since I was 6. My mom, Ellen Marano, was an actress when she was younger and then she stopped and became a drama teacher. I asked her when I was 6 and she said, “No!” because she knows how difficult the business is. There’s a ton of rejection and it gets very superficial at times. But I begged my mother for two years, “I want to do this, I want to do this.” I started taking one of her classes and I loved it. I loved memorizing lines and performing on stage. Finally, she decided to bring me to an agent, but picked one who rumor had it, turned away 95 percent of the people who walked into her office. That was my mom’s goal, for me to get turned down and then be like, “Maybe you can try when you’re older.” I went to the agent and she took me and my little sister Laura, who just came along for the ride. My mom literally almost had a heart attack in the office. But every day after that when we were driving to jobs or auditions, she’d be like, “You guys are sure. You guys are sure you want to do this.” We were like, “Yes, we want to do this!” It’s still fun and exciting for both of us.

Digest: Have you and Laura ever been in anything together?

Marano: Yes, we were on WITHOUT A TRACE. We played Anthony LaPaglia‘s [Jack] daughters on it. That was our first job that we ever got. I just shot an episode where she comes back as the rebellious teenager.

Digest: Have you and Laura had a lot of fan encounters?

Marano: The only people who usually come up to me are middle-aged women and older gay men. On shows like THE COMEBACK and GILMORE GIRLS and SIX FEET UNDER, that was the type of audience they had. With a lot of people, I get the once-over. They’ll squint their eyes and be like, “Do I know you?”

Digest: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Marano: I like to read, write, paint. My friend and I are writing a screenplay. I really like Broadway soundtracks; I’m always listening to them. Right now, I’m listening to Jesus Christ Superstar. But I don’t think I’d be in a musical because I can’t sing well enough.

Digest: What kind of books do you like to read?

Marano: My favorite is Animal Farm by George Orwell. I think it’s so funny. So much satire is involved in it, and I think it’s brilliant. I wrote a comparative essay with those involved in the Bush administration. For me to get involved in a book, it has to capture me. It really has to entertain me, and that one did.

Digest: What grade are you in now?

Marano: I’m actually in college. I started a program at the community college where you could take classes that count as high school and college credit, but I finished high school, so now I’m getting my associates degree. Then I’ll transfer to a USC school, where I’ll come in as a junior. I don’t know what I’ll major in, though.

Digest: Wow, you’re going to be the age that most people start out as freshman.

Marano: I know, it’s kind of crazy.

Digest: But I guess you’re getting to be more of a “typical” teen through your characters.

Marano: That’s right! I’m getting it all out of my system [laughs].