Interview with Marisa Baram

She’s been on ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder” and Nickelodeon’s “Henry Danger” and now she’s on one of the funniest new comedy A.P. Bio on NBC. Marisa Baram costars on the NBC series and she took the time to answer some questions about the new series and becoming an actress.

How long have you been acting and what inspired you do choose this profession?
I’ve been acting since I was a kid… around 6 or 7 I think? From what my mom tells me, my love for performing began with dance classes. After a couple of years hamming up the stage in dance recitals, I auditioned for my elementary school’s production of The Wizard of Oz. I ended up playing an added in character, the Wicked Witch’s “Daughter.” I performed in dozens and dozens of musicals after that. Initially, my dream was to be in musicals on Broadway but my focus eventually gravitated to tv/film while studying drama in college.

You’ve been on shows like How to Get Away with Murder and Henry Danger, what’s it like being on two completely different popular shows?
I find it so thrilling to be able to play characters on shows that live in such wildly different realms. Shondaland and Nickelodeon couldn’t be more different but it was a dream come true to work on both of these projects, as they both also marked special little firsts for me. HTGAWM was my first time working on a Drama, and it was so cool to experience the absolute force that is Viola Davis both on set and off. I remember on the first episode that I worked on, Viola was basically leading a casual masterclass on scene study /character analysis at the cast chairs.

Henry Danger was my very first Multicam sitcom, which was a CRAZY go-go-go type of week but it was so fun to get to tackle such a bold role in a world where the sky is the limit. It’s also been really sweet interacting with Henry Danger fans on Social Media, which is a pretty new arena for me!

You’re on the new NBC series A.P. Bio, who’s your character and what the show is about?
AP Bio is a comedy about a deliciously cynical disgraced Harvard philosophy scholar, Jack Griffin (Glenn Howerton), who suddenly finds himself living in his dead mom’s apartment in his hometown of Toledo with a temporary gig as a high school Advanced Placement Biology teacher. With a bunch of nerds at his disposal, he decides to use them in various schemes to get revenge on his nemesis, Miles (Tom Bennett), who he believes stole his dream job. I play a character named “Marissa” who is a shy student that sits in the front row of Jack’s AP Biology class that’s genuinely terrified by his outrageous antics.

How did you know about the show?
Okay, so that’s a funny story. My journey to finding AP Bio was a really unusual one because I was actually written into the show as cast after the season already started…I was initially what is known as  “Core Background” (an extra). I technically found out about the show from an announcement on Deadline, but it was Central Casting that got me through this particular door. I was having a pretty slow pilot season last year when this opportunity came my way to go on an interview with the showrunner, Mike O’Brien, and the director of the pilot, Osmany Rodriguez, to round out the main classroom for what was then called the “Untitled Mike O’Brien Pilot.” I loved Mike O’Brien’s work from SNL, so I figured I’d take the chance to meet him and sneak in my unrequested headshot/resume. I’m honestly not sure if it was due to my resume or my love for Little Shop of Horrors and 2 Chainz (…which I somehow managed to chat about in the same breath during that awkward interview), but I ended up being placed in my front row seat right in Mr. Griffin’s line of fire, which gave me a lot to play off of throughout the season.

I’m assuming that from what we see on the show that it must be hilarious on the set when filming. Is that true?
Oh, so very true! I think a couple of scenes that were the hardest to stay in character for were Glenn Howerton’s impeccable impersonations of Anthony, Victor, Marcus, and Sarika in episode 12 and Helen’s Sex Ed lesson. Paula Pell who plays Helen is a comedic GENIUS and had us all on the brink of seeing that day. Sadly, there was only time for like half of that hilarious scene in the final cut, but everything she did was pure gold.

What’s it like working with Glenn Howerton and Patton Oswalt?
It’s amazing! Beyond being comedy gurus, they’re both incredibly nice humans.

Who’s the funniest person on the set to make everyone laugh and could you give an example?
I think it would be a tie between Jacob Houston (“Victor”) and Spence Moore II (“Dan Decker”) for very different reasons. Jacob is so deadpan with funny offhand remarks whereas Spence is literally bouncing off the walls. I randomly remember a day when Tucker’s (“Colin”) mic pack fell out of his shorts during a take, and Jacob Houston yelled, so seriously, “AH! He’s wearing a wire!!!” — it was that type of set.  

Who’d inspired you to become an actor?
Oh man, it’s hard to pinpoint just one person but three that immediately come to mind are Kathy Bates, Kathy Najimy, and Melissa McCarthy.

Do you have a favorite episode of the show?
My favorite episode would have to be episode 8, “We Don’t Party.” After spending basically two months sitting in those rigid desks, it was a nice change of pace to shoot an episode that filmed mostly on location. Also, the “Toe Clothes” scene had me literally crying tears of laughter when I watched the episode.

Your show is on Thursday nights on NBC, the classic Must See TV night of Friends, Fraiser, Mad About You, Seinfeld and ER, have you seen one of those shows and have a favorite?
I think the only show in that list I haven’t seen is Mad About You (I guess I need to do some digging!) but my favorite in the bunch would probably have to be Friends.

What’s your current must-see show to watch and why?
I’m definitely late to the game on this, but I’ve finally binged all of Shameless and it’s masterful storytelling. The writing is stellar and the acting is just brilliant. Every single actor on that show is doing such great work, and I don’t think I’ve laughed just as much as I’ve cried with any other series. It’s this beautifully tragic blend of dark humor and drama.

What have you taken away in your experience of being on A.P. Bio?
Oh man…I know it’s cliché, but my personal experience with this show made me realize that anything can happen if you listen and really commit to being present in the moment.

You can catch Baram on A.P. Bio this Thursday for the season finale at 8:30/7:30c on NBC.