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Tara Macken, a woman of many talents, stars in the new blockbuster hit film, The Hunger Games. Naturally athletic, Tara grew up harnessing her outdoor skills into gymnastics, rock climbing, dance, and parkour in which she had progressed into doing stunt work and then acting. Her previous stunt work and acting credits include: Sons of Anarchy, Hawaii Five-0, Nikita, The Lincoln Lawyer, Glee, and Nine Lives of Chloe King. Tara spoke with TheCelebrityCafe.com about her experience in The Hunger Games and her transition from stunt performer to actress.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Tell me a little about The Hunger Games and what role you play in the film.
Tara Macken: Well, The Hunger Games was originally a novel written by Suzanne Collins. The story is about a young female heroine, Katniss Everdeen played by Jennifer Lawrence, who is put in a situation where she has to participate in the Hunger Games in order to save her family and to oppose the current regime. It’s basically a post-apocalyptic world where they take two people (or Tributes) from all 12 districts to battle against each other ‘til the death. There can only be one victor left who wins the game. I play one of the Tributes from District 4 that competes in the Hunger Games.
TCC: How did it feel working in this film with such a diverse cast of both newbies to the film industry and legendary stars?
Tara Macken: Originally, I was kind of intimidated because the movie does have a star-studded cast and also a lot of newcomers. But I knew a few cast members prior to working in this film. So I was pretty comfortable knowing that at least I had some comrades to be able to do this movie with. There wasn’t any sense of hierarchy of who was more or less famous. It was a very welcoming environment. We were all there to make a movie and that’s exactly what we did. It was a lot of fun.
TCC: How did you prepare for your role in the film?
Tara Macken: Since I do stunt work, I already have my own regimen of training every single day. [Prior to filming,] cast members had to undergo extensive training to be physically fit. We did unconventional types of workouts like rope swing exercises, pushing a big tractor wheel across a warehouse—a lot of jumping over things, rolling, punching, kicking, and fighting. It was really cool.
TCC: Now I know The Hunger Games mostly appeals to a younger audience, but do you think adults will like this movie as well?
Tara Macken: I think so. That was the same thing I wondered about as well. I thought, ‘Is the movie only going to be something that a certain age group will appreciate? Or is it something everyone can enjoy?’ Upon watching the film, I realized that not only kids, but everyone can relate to it because of the honesty in the story line and the talented cast.
TCC: In your career, you started off as a stunt woman. What inspired you to want to do that?
Tara Macken: Growing up I was basically doing stunts even before I knew there was such a thing called stunts. I did a lot of dance, gymnastics, martial arts, and rock climbing just for fun. So when I came out to L.A. I wanted to do acting. Then I realized there is this whole community that’s a part of the film industry and involves doing stunt work. It was a way for me to get into the industry and a great stepping stone to be able to pursue stunts and acting. It’s really cool to be able to transition between the two. But I still love doing stunts. I think it is something that I will never get out of my system.
TCC: As you know working in the stunt industry can be a dangerous job that gets a person little recognition, do you think stunt performers deserve to have their own category at such award shows as the Oscars or the People’s Choice Awards?
Tara Macken: Absolutely! The stunt community has a huge presence in films. In movies some want to believe that all actors do their own stunts, but in actuality they have stunt doubles that help with making such amazing action scenes come to life. It’s a pity that stunt work has yet to be recognized at such events like the Oscars. Though the Emmy Awards do have a stunt category, which is amazing. I think it’s only a matter of time before stunts performers are acknowledged by other award shows.
TCC: Do you think there should be more leading roles for young women to play action heroes, like Jennifer Lawrence’s character in The Hunger Games?
Tara Macken: There should be. That was the one thing that really attracted me to this project. There are not as many action films with a strong female presence and if there are some it’s only a like a handful, whereas every other film has a strong male presence. So I think it would be really good to change up the pace and introduce strong female action heroes that take the lead in films. It could even inspire people.
Growing up, I was an extreme tomboy and didn’t have that many female role models to look up to in terms of action. The only action stars I looked up to were Jackie Chan, Tom Cruise, and Keanu Reeves from The Matrix. Though being male figures, I was inspired by them. But female action heroes can be inspirational too. Young girls would look up to such strong women and say things like, ‘Wow! That chick is freakin’ dope. I wanna be like her one day.’ Girls don’t always have to play just beautiful creatures in films. They can be kick-ass, look nasty, and be with the guys while still being respected and recognized.
TCC: Going back to the subject on The Hunger Games appealing to kids and adults, do you think the audience might view this film as being too violent? Because the basic premise of the film is kids killing kids in order to survive the games.
Tara Macken: In my personal opinion, I don’t think it’s violent at all. It’s a PG-13 movie. So the violence is curbed more dramatically than one would expect, which is good because it allows more people to focus on the story rather than on the violence, because the violence is only an aspect and not the main part of the story.
TCC: Aside from this film, are there any other projects you are currently working on?
Tara Macken: Yeah, I’ve been working in a couple of new films this year. But I do have some projects coming out pretty soon. I did some stunt work on the movie, Battleship, and in, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which will be out this summer. And I also did an acting spot on Children's Hospital.
'The Hunger Games' is in theaters now and also stars Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, and Stanley Tucci.