Interview: Maria Menounos
by Scott Juba
Published: October 1, 2004
For most people, achieving success in just one area of the entertainment industry is a major challenge. Maria Menounos, on the other hand, is involved in a wide variety of projects that span the spectrum of show business; and in each instance, she makes her success look easy. Whether she’s acting, producing, singing, or reporting, Menounos is always at the top of her game. “I have never been happy doing just one thing,” she says. “A lot of people criticized me at a young age, because I wanted to do a lot of different things. And that’s just how I am. I’m happiest when I’m doing a million things. I don’t see my career going in any one direction. I see myself doing a potpourri of things.”
Next summer she will star in the highly anticipated comic book film, “Fantastic Four”. She will play a nurse who is romanced by Chris Evans (Evans has been cast as the Human Torch). “I was really excited to get the part,” Menounos tells me. “I love comic book movies, and Marvel Comics obviously are the best. Tim Story is a fantastic director, and I’m so excited to get to work with him. I have already been to the set once. I shot my first scene last month, and I go back in December to shoot the rest. I got to hang out with the entire cast, because my first day of shooting was the very first day of shooting all together. That kind of christened the whole production. We had the cast and crew dinner the night before. We all got to have fun and got to know each other.”
Menounos currently has a recurring role on the WB hit show, “One Tree Hill”. “I had met with Mark Schwahn (the creator and executive producer) about the show,” she says. “He was amazing. He went off and wrote this wonderful role for me. I’m really excited, because the character, Jules, is a really awesome character. I’m really excited to be playing her, and overall, I’m really excited to be getting back to my acting roots."
While most people recognize Menounos for her hosting and reporting duties on “Entertainment Tonight”, her passion for acting emerged long before her journalism career flourished. “A lot of people didn’t realize that I acted before I did anything else,” she says. “I was living in Boston, so there wasn’t very much I could do in the Hollywood arena. My parents were really against it. And that’s how I ended up getting into television and broadcasting, because my parents wouldn’t allow acting. So most of my acting experience came in college when I was living away from them. I acted in various independent films, and I got some commercial work and stuff like that.”
As far as future acting roles are concerned, Menounos is interested in portraying Manon Rheaume, the first and only female hockey player to ever compete in the NHL. “I would love to portray her in a movie,” she comments, “because I just think it’s fabulous that a female could ever enter the NHL, first of all. And her journey to getting there is amazing I’m sure.” She adds, “I always wanted to play hockey, and my parents wouldn’t let me. I swear, they’re not bad parents, they just wanted to protect me [laughs].”
Menounos would also like to take on the role of Mildred Burke, a female pro wrestler from the 1930s who wrestled men at fairs across the country. “That would be one I’d really have to bulk up for,” Menounos remarks playfully, “but I think that role would be amazing too.”
Besides the time she’s spending in front of the camera, Menounos enjoys producing films as well. She is the producer and executive producer of the upcoming movie, “In the Land of Merry Misfits”, which is expected to be the next big independent film. She is also involved in the holocaust documentary, “Paper Clips”, which will be distributed by Miramax. “I love producing,” she says. “I think it’s something that I’ve always really enjoyed. There’s something about taking a film from concept to script, through production, and then to see the final thing happening in the edit phase. It’s almost like a miracle in the making. I love it. I know that producing will ultimately mean more longevity in the business, so when I’m tired of everything else and want to be behind the cameras, I know that I can produce.”
Singing is another one of Maria’s many talents. “I’ve sung my whole life from a very young age,” she tells me. “I was in choir my whole life. I’m hoping at some point to be able to explore singing again as well, because I still take singing lessons every week.”
Menounos is also actively involved in charitable work. She formed “Take Action Hollywood!”, a non-profit organization that uses the power of the entertainment world to improve human conditions all across the globe. Menounos finds it rewarding to make a positive impact in the lives of others. “It’s fabulous, especially because 'Take Action Hollywood!' is still very small, and it’s not this huge, major organization. It’s really run by very few volunteers who volunteer their time and efforts. It’s wonderful. We’ve made great progress with our projects, and we’ve got some new ones on the horizon. It’s very fulfilling. That’s why charity work is very selfish at the same time, because it makes you feel good. I’m excited for what we have getting ready to go in the future.”
One of the charity’s next projects will be an auction of the dress Maria wore at the Emmys. “The designer of my Emmy gown is donating my gown to the charity for an auction,” she explains. “I’m going to try to get some of the celebrities that actually won Emmys to sign the inside of the gown, and we’ll auction it off for the benefit of 'Take Action Hollywood!'.”
As a household name on “Entertainment Tonight”, Menounos interviews Hollywood’s biggest stars. She ranks Vin Diesel, Jim Carrey, and Reese Witherspoon as three of the friendliest actors in the business. When asked if Diesel is as macho as he appears to be in his movies, she responds, “He’s a teddy bear [laughs]! He’s the sweetest thing. All he does is take care of the people around him, and he cares so much about people. And Jim Carrey’s the same way. They’re all just super nice.” She remarks, “For the most part, you don’t get to that level because you were mean or unkind.”
Before Maria became a famous face on “Entertainment Tonight”, she first worked at “Channel One News”, where she gained valuable experience as a journalist. “I think Channel One was very integral in my career,” she says. “The thing that people don’t know about Channel One is that it’s very much on the level of a CNN, but for teenagers. If you take the more general role of going to local stations around the country in Montana or South Carolina or wherever, and start in the local news, it’s a lot more difficult to get to the stories that you want to really cover. In those cities, they’ll start you off at store openings and things that a real reporter doesn’t cover. When you’re at Channel One, you’re getting thrown right into the thick of things. One of the first things I did was interview the President of the United States. Some people work their whole lives and can’t interview someone of that stature. I went to South Africa and did this wonderful three part series on the AIDs epidemic. I went to El Salvador and covered the earthquakes. The things that we got to do there were things that Diane Sawyer was doing. We really got wonderful training and wonderful experiences under our belts. A lot of the people that come out of Channel One really only have one step to go, and that’s the next big step.”
Menounos has certainly made that next big step. Not only do her peers respect her; she has drawn the attention of some the nation’s top publications. Maxim Magazine named her one of the one hundred hottest women in the world, and People Magazine included her in its Fifty Most Beautiful People issue. “Fifty Most Beautiful is people like Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston,” Menounos says. “Someone like me from Medford, Massachusetts would have never expected in my wildest dreams that that would ever happen to me.”
It doesn’t take twenty/twenty vision to realize that Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston have nothing over Maria Menounos. Menounos is a rare beauty whose dazzling good looks are comparable to Hollywood’s most acclaimed screen icons. In addition, she is a charming, intelligent individual with an unyielding desire to excel. And despite her budding success, she remains down to earth and is entirely unaffected by her fame. Not only is Maria Menounos one of the most beautiful people in the entertainment industry, she’s also one of the nicest.
Photos by Charles Bush
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