Disney Channel fans know Cory In The House star Maiara Walsh for her colorful, sweet, and funny portrayal of Meena Paroom, daughter of the ambassador of the fictional country of Bahavia. Recently, IML got the chance to discover Maiara's serious, thoughtful side, and found that this talented young performer has a lot of great advice for other young people!
IML: Meena seems like such an interesting character. What's your favorite thing about her?
Maiara: I like that she's kind of quirky, and that she's struggling to fit into American society and not lose her culture. She's a lot of fun to play.
IML: How are you and Meena similar, and how are you different?
Maiara: Well, there's definitely the whole cross-cultural thing that makes Meena and me similar. My mom's Brazilian so she and I definitely grew up with different perspectives. I was born in America and she's from Brazil, so we have different ways of doing things. There's a bit of culture clash there. But we got through it. Meena and I are different in that she's a bit more of a worrier than I am, like on the show, whenever they're planning their “schemes” she gets really nervous. I'm more laid back.
IML: You developed Meena's accent. What did you base it on? In your mind, where is Bahavia?
Maiara: I felt like if you bring all the continents together, smack-dab in the middle of that is Bahavia. It's a little bit of everything.
IML: A lot of Meena's storylines are about her trying to fit in. Is that something you've experienced yourself?
Maiara: Definitely. Especially in middle school up until about 10th grade. There's so much pressure to fit in, to be the same as everyone else. What I finally learned out of all of that, in the middle of 9th or 10th grade, is that I was just going to be myself. I'm so much happier that way. I say, embrace your individuality, be who you are. There's like this one "image" that you're supposed to fit into. There's millions of people out there; not everyone is going to be able to fit into that! I just think it's sad for us to even put that kind of pressure on kids when they could be focusing on stuff that really does matter.
IML: That's hard for most people to keep in mind from day to day.
Maiara: Yes, it's kind of a tough thing and that's why it's nice to be a role model, because I can tell them, be yourself. Surround yourself with people who support you and know the real you and accept you for that, and nothing else will matter. Because no matter what, there's going to be people out there who like you and people who don't. You have to take it as it comes and not let those negative thoughts affect you too much.
IML: It seems like Meena is inspiring to Cory fans that way. Have you heard from viewers about that?
Maiara: It connects with them. It sparks something inside of them to maybe start thinking a little bit differently. I feel like once you've accepted who you are, you can't even imagine trying to go back to fitting into this perfect mold. So if I can spark that in even one person's mind, maybe that will help them grow as a person.
IML: It must have been interesting growing up with a multicultural background. What's your fave thing about Brazilian culture?
Maiara: Definitely just how embracing, lively, and friendly people are there. You can be walking down the street and smile at someone and they'll smile right back at you. You can be sitting at a restaurant and start talking to the people next to you and end up hanging out, having a great time. I mean, here in the U.S. it's a little bit different. You walk down the street and smile at someone, they might be like, "What do you want from me? Do I have something on my face?" It's really nice down there, you feel like you're part of a family. Not just my family, but the family of Brazil. It's really great.
IML: What part of Brazilian culture do you try to keep in your life day to day?
Maiara: Just the friendly, positive, energy that I get. It's hard as I'm growing older, spending less and less time with my family. But I still make sure I do have those dinners with them because it means a lot to all of us. I try to keep the family bond going.
IML: What is it like when you go to Brazil and see your extended family?
Maiara: It's amazing. There's so much love and joy. No matter how long I stay, there's always tears at the end. I have a lot of cousins. We always have so much fun together and I wish I could bring them all out here!
IML: You get to wear these colorful clothes on the show. Do you like them?
Maiara: I generally like what they put me in. They put me in pink all the time and pink isn't my favorite color, but every episode they have to put me in at least one pink outfit.
IML: You did a lot of moving around when you were younger -- you lived in Seattle, then Brazil, and then California. Are you able to keep in touch with your friends from when you were younger?
Maiara I've always had really good friends and I finally found them again over the Internet and we started talking. It's hard because people become so different and have their priorities, and our lives are at a crossroads going in different directions. The best kind of friendship to me is the kind when you might not talk for years but then when you see them again, it's exactly the way it was when you saw each other all the time.
IML: Have you found that your friends' attitudes towards you have changed since you starting working on Cory in the House?
Maiara I don't understand people treating me differently, they kind of put you on a pedestal a little bit. To me, I don't want that. I'm the same as everyone else. Just because I have a different job doesn't mean I should have all these special privileges. All my friends know exactly who I am, I have created that support system around me. It doesn't change how they act towards me. I'm really happy with that.
IML: How are you getting along with the other cast members?
Maiara We have a dynamic cast on the show. Everyone has gelled together so well and there's chemistry with everyone. We're having so much fun! There aren't that many people out there who can say, I'm excited to go to work today. I'm so lucky and I'm very grateful for that.
IML: What have you learned from the more experienced cast members?
Maiara Definitely comic timing. Also, making sure there are different levels to your character, so you're not just playing it the exact same way each time. You have to think about that character and go back and think, how would they act in this situation. It's so great to work with the older people like Rondell Sheridan. I've learned stuff about the business too, they'll sit me down and talk to me about moving out or buying a house. It's almost like going to school sometimes, learning stuff you're really interested in.
IML: Do you have any role models?
Maiara I would definitely say my dad. He's kept that childlike spirit in him and I think that's so important because it seems like when some people grow older, they lose that curiosity for life…but my dad is still like a little kid that way. He's playful and goofy. Professionally, I really respect Natalie Portman. Her career choices, actually going for stuff with substance.
IML: You've done some theatre work, too. How does being on stage compare with shooting a TV show?
Maiara You only get one shot on stage, I really like that about it. You either got it or you don't. On set, you can mess up a bunch of times and they'll get it eventually. But I get that sense of excitement with both. And we shoot the show in front of a live audience.
IML: What do you hope to do in the future?
Maiara I'd like to branch out. I have a versatile personality so I like a bunch of different parts. I love playing characters who are opposite of who I am. Film, definitely. And I would love to be a part of an organization that helps women's rights or children, a cause like that.
IML: I'm sure you'll do all those things! Good luck, Maiara!
Maiara Thank you!
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