Mara Wilson’s Transition From Child Star To Literary Maven

Child stars don’t often turn out as well as Mara Wilson. After achieving early international success as one of the Mrs. Doubtfire child stars, and later as the titular character in Matilda, Wilson emerged from her child star chrysalis as a successful word smith. She regularly contributes to national publications, and, in 2016, dropped knowledge in the form of a memoir. She’s prominent on Twitter, where she jokes about international politics and her own social awkwardness. With her cynical, self-deprecating wit, Wilson is far from Matilda, as these Mara Wilson facts will attest.

If you’re experiencing some 100% natural curiosity over how Mara Wilson became a Twitter star, you’re in luck. This list will tell you everything you need to know about Matilda all grown up; you’ll find all the facts and stories you need to answer the nagging question, what happened to Mara Wilson?

She Quit Acting After Her Mother Died

Many people have asked Mara Wilson why she quit acting so early in her career. She sometimes traces her decision to disillusionment with Hollywood after her mother passed away in 1996. Though her career slowed down dramatically in 1996, she didn’t officially quit acting until 2000, when she was 13.

As she told Parade,

“I found it kind of overwhelming. Most of the time, I just wanted to be a normal kid, especially after my mother died. I think if I could do it over again—as much as I loved meeting the people I did on the films after Matilda—I wish that I had stopped after Matilda.”

Wilson has written that acting was more a hobby than a passion, and that she had never planned on pursuing it forever. Waxing philosophical on her blog, she wrote,

“A philosophically-inclined friend once remarked, in a conversation about ethics, that he thought it was fine to forsake a task as long as you knew there was someone else who could perform that task as well or better than you could. I agree, and I think that there are many much more talented, much more conventionally attractive actresses out there who are taking the roles I would have been offered. To paraphrase the showtune, anything I can do, Anna Kendrick or Ellen Page or Jennifer Lawrence (or any actress from the plethora of actresses waiting to be ‘discovered’) can do better.”

She Turned Down A Role In Donnie Darko

Wilson described to The AV Club what it was like to read the script for Donnie Darko while suffering from sleep deprivation and nausea during a publicity tour for another project:

“It was just the most terrifying thing. I was sleep deprived and I was exhausted and I was hungry and I didn’t know what was real anymore and then all of the sudden there was this goddamned 6-foot metal rabbit who may or may not predict the future and there was time travel and there were wormholes and there was all this crazy sh*t and I thought it was the scariest thing I’d ever read.”

Would you quit life after that? Yes. Yes, you would.

She Came Out As Bisexual In Solidarity For the LGBTQ Community After The Pulse Nightclub Shooting

In the wake of 2016’s shocking massacre at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, Wilson took to Twitter with a message of love for her LGBT fans and to announce her bisexuality. She declared herself a two on the Kinsey scale, and wrote “the LGBTQ community has always felt like home, especially […] when I, uh, learned something about myself. So thank you.”

She Suffers From OCD And Works With A Mental Health Organization To Raise Awareness

In the mid-2010s, Wilson began speaking publicly about her mental health issues, which are rooted in her OCD. In an interview with Daily Dot in 2014, she commented, “I’ve always been an extremely anxious person. I have panic attacks, I have OCD, I’ve always been nervous. I’ve always had a lot of really strange fears, most of which I’m embarrassed to admit.”

In 2015, Wilson partnered with nonprofit mental health organization Project UROK to raise awareness for mental health issues, saying, “There was a big stigma around this. We were all worried… especially with me being a child actor, how the public would approach it and would understand it. Twenty years ago, we didn’t talk about mental illness.”

Wilson recorded a video for Project UROK, in which she discusses her experience with OCD and offers advice for dealing with mental health issues. She also wrote and performed a live theater piece entitled What Are You Afraid Of? addressing her anxiety, fears, and mental health.

She Wrote A Critically Acclaimed Memoir To Reclaim The Public Narrative Of Her Life

Wilson’s well-received 2016 memoir Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame introduced readers to the real Mara Wilson, wit and all. Though she didn’t shy away from the harsh realities of child stardom and her mutual breakup with Hollywood, Wilson presented herself as a charming, hopeful young adult with a bright future and an inextricable past.

Wilson wrote the book to reclaim the public narrative of her life, and in doing so humanize those who fall through the cracks of popular culture and become the butt of cruel jokes and apathetic conjecture. As she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times,

“When you see that somebody’s last credit is ‘Thomas and the Magic Railroad’ when they’re an awkward 12-year-old, you’re, like, ‘Oh, how sad.’ You don’t know what happens between those IMDB entries. I knew there were people who felt sorry for me and people who were making up stories about me. I think I wanted to reclaim that narrative.”

She’s Very Active, Very Insightful, And Very Funny On Twitter

Why are you still sleeping on Mara Wilson’s Twitter account? She posts a billion times a day (okay, fine, that’s hyperbole) and is witty and informative. As of May 2017, she has 347,000 followers, and has posted nearly 100,000 Tweets. Join the revolution, people.

She Returned To Acting In 2013 With A Recurring Role On A Podcast

In July 2013, Wilson originated the recurring role of Faceless Old Woman on the Welcome to Nightvalepodcast. Other a 2011 short in which she starred, it was Wilson’s first acting role since quitting Hollywood in 2000. Among other things, her character runs for mayor, and lives secretly in various peoples’ homes.

She Jumped Into Television In 2016 With Roles in ‘Broad City’ And ‘Bojack Horseman’

While 2016 wasn’t the best year on record, it was Mara Wilson’s year. She landed a role as a waitress in a critical (and Mrs. Doubtfire spoofing) episode of Broad City, the brainchild of comedians Abbi Jacobson and (longtime Wilson fan) Ilana Glazer, with whom Wilson has some mutual friends. As Wilson tells is, she got the role, at least in part, by letting Jacobson know via Twitter she was totally down to make an appearance. She followed Broad City with a recurring role on Bojack Horseman, in which she voices a demanding, pretentious, intellectual black widow spider known as Jill Pill.

She Wrote A Poignant Public Letter To Her Younger Self In 2014

In 2014, Wilson wrote a letter to herself as a child actor in a blog post entitled “Answers For My Younger Self.” In it, she provides 81 itemized pieces of information for her younger self, which range from affirmations of self to jokey asides like “F*ck yes, you will swear a lot” (number 66).

The letter includes some poignant revelations concerning Wilson’s struggles over the years with fame, Hollywood, OCD, and conceptions of the self. The letter ends,

“Let’s end on a perfect square, I know that will make you happy. Yes, I do: stop trying to control everything. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Being insecure doesn’t make you more endearing. Forgiveness feels GREAT. Please take time to enjoy being your age. Things might suck right now, but they will be better someday. And even when they’re not, at least you can always write about it.”

She Pursued A BFA In Acting At NYU, Where Socially Awkward Classmates Were Weird About The Whole Child Star Thing

Mara Wilson gets recognized a lot in public (and private), which made it difficult for her to keep a low profile when she pursued a BFA in acting at NYU. In her very first, a group of awkward fellow freshman girls knocked on her dorm door at midnight to ask if she was Mara. As she recalls,

“I would find people knocking on my door late at night, like Thursday night at 12 am. I would open the door in my pajamas and there’d be a crowd of freshman girls, saying ‘Are you Mara?’ ‘Uhhh, yeah’. And they’d say ‘Well, we just really wanted to meet you.’ And then they’d look really disappointed, because they probably expected at least for me to be wearing more than my pajamas. I felt bad, like I was letting them down because I wasn’t being glamorous, because I wasn’t the exciting person they thought I would be. And then they would often ask me to party with them…”

Despite the bizarre interruptions and occasionally awkward social situations, Wilson graduated from NYU‘s Tisch School of the Arts in 2009.

She Staged A One-Woman Show While In College

Wilson wrote and performed a one-woman show while attending NYU. Entitled Weren’t You That Girl?, the show addressed her past as a child star and her present as a student struggling with constant recognition and expectations from her peers.

In an interview with NYU Local, Wilson explained her desire to do the show:

“I started writing a lot more in college — I’ve been writing plays, mostly — but when I started to write autobiographical stories, people were saying, ‘You know, you’ve had a really interesting life.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, well, maybe I have. Maybe I should tell more people about it.’ And I got a little more comfortable sharing my stories. This was sort of an experiment; I wanted to open up about these things and also to explain myself, because I don’t talk about it that often. I’m not what I was. Obviously, I’ve grown up since then. But it is still a part of who I am, and this is me coming to embrace it.”

She Started Blogging In 2011 And Has Published On Sites Such As McSweeney’s And Cracked

In December 2011, Mara Wilson started a blog called “Mara Wilson Writes Stuff.” This marked the official start of her writing career, which has included pieces published on McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies and Cracked, among other notable publications. Wilson claims she has always wanted to be a writer, and her passion for the craft is apparent in her charming, self-deprecating ruminations on fame and misfortune.

Her Play ‘Sheeple,’ About A Teenager Saving The World And Scoring Pot, Debuted At The New York Fringe Fest In 2013

Wilson’s premiered her play Sheeple at the New York Fringe Festival in 2013, where it attracted decent reviews. The plot sounds perfectly quirky:

Sheeple is a new play by Mara Wilson about the teenage burden of having to know everything. It’s a summer day during Bush’s reign, and Nick is determined to save the world, score some pot, make Soo-Min his girlfriend, and have his LaVeyan Satanist brother talk his best friend Alberto out of enlisting.”

It had everything! Far off places, sword fights, magic spells, Satanism.

Puberty Was A Nightmare For Her As A Child Actor

An unfortunate truth of life in the film industry is that the focus on appearances isn’t reserved for just adult actors. Wilson spoke with NPR on just how horrifying it was to be reminded of her body’s pubescent changes while working on the film Thomas and the Magic Railroad. Not just reminded but, but shamed.

She said in her interview, “I came to set one day after a few months away, and people were kind of giving each other worried looks…And I had to have the director come and sit with me and explain to me that my body was changing.”

She Really, Really Loves Saltine Crackers And Writes Of Them Eloquently

Wilson writes about a number of topics she holds near and dear at her website. One subject that warranted an entire entry was on her love of saltine crackers…the unsalted kind. Anyone could understand a love for salted carbohydrates, but her very specific interest in this bland cracker warrants noting. Her lifelong relationship with the snack item stemmed from a nervous stomach as a kid – saltines are the food of choice for those suffering nausea – as well as the food item being a common “side dish” with family meals.

Everything She Knows About Sex She Learned From Melrose Place

When she was six, Mara Wilson auditioned and was cast in a role on the TV show Melrose Place. Initially her parents didn’t allow her to watch whole episodes, recording and then skipping ahead to her parts so she could see herself on television. Eventually they relented and just let her watch the show, figuring she was to young to understand what was happening on the show anyway.

From that show she was exposed to extra-marital sex, gay relationships, and promiscuity. Between Melrose Place and early exposure to Hollywood where sexuality was flaunted everywhere she came to the initial conclusion that sex was at the heart of corruption. She said in her memoir that her first kiss gave her a change of heart on the subject.

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