I recently had the opportunity of chatting with the lovely Danika Yarosh. Danika is best known for her work as Holly Herkimer on Shameless, and most recently, as Malina on NBC’s revival miniseries Heroes Reborn. Danika is one of several new actors joining the cast of the miniseries along with a few veteran actors from the show’s predecessor. Her character, Malina, is one of the powered individuals coming together to fight the Renautas Corporation.
Had you seen the original Heroes before you became a part of this series? Were you familiar with the general concept of it?
Yeah, I knew what Heroes was about. I didn’t watch it when it first came out but when I was going through my audition process, I started to watch on Netflix. I binged watched it, so I watched the first two seasons in like a week. [Laughs]. So I was familiar. [I was] totally familiar with it by the time we started filming. I was totally caught up.
So what drew you to audition for Heroes Reborn and, especially, for the role of Malina?
Actually, it’s actually kind of funny. When I auditioned, I had…it’s so secretive, so I didn’t know anything about the project or who I was going to be playing. You know, there was a fake name, fake description. But I felt this connection towards it. I didn’t know why or how but I knew I had to be a part of it, so, you know, I auditioned and I went for it. Then when I got it, I found out who I was going to be playing and what the show was and my power and whatnot. I kind of freaked out. [Laughs].
That’s so cool. When we first meet Malina, she is very mysterious and vague and we don’t really know much about her. How did that affect how you went about playing her in the beginning?
Actually, on my first day on set, I was kind of filled in about my entire life and my backstory. So, I knew everything and who I was. To you guys it was kind of vague, but I was aware of who Malina was.
Did that make it difficult for you to play her? Because you knew so much of her, but there was only so much that we could see about her. Did you struggle with making sure that you didn’t reveal too much of her in those first few scenes?
No, I wouldn’t say so. I mean just because of what was going on in those first few scenes, it was kind of impossible to reveal much about her and her backstory, if that makes sense. [Laughs].
Okay, yeah that makes sense. So by the third episode we see much more of her and her power but she still kind of pretty mysterious, like what her background is. But what we do know about her is that she is supposed to save the world, which is kind of a big responsibility for just one young girl. Can you talk about how Malina handles that pressure?
[Laughs]. Oh yeah. There is a huge amount of responsibility that she takes on at this much larger level. I mean, from the time that she was born, she was told that this is her destiny. So, she’s aware of the wonderful things she’ll have to go through and what she’ll have to put in. On one side, there’s this sense of calm and confidence about it, where she is like “Okay…this is what it is and it will all work out.” But on the other hand, there’s so much riding on her. I mean she kind of has the weight of the world on her shoulders. The stakes are too high for her to mess anything up. So there’s definitely a pressure, and she feels that.
Yeah. So, we have seen her use a few different abilities. Like she’s stopped a big storm, she’s grown a tree, and all kinds of stuff. So how exactly would you describe her power?
Well, Malina has the ability to harness all the elements. And if you think about that, it’s actually just…she has the ability to manipulate energy. So, that’s kind of what you’ve seen already. But actually, the scene where I grow a tree, it was originally supposed to be this big training sequence scene where you kind of see what she can do. She uses her fire, and she uses water and wind, but that never made it to the show. [Laughs].
Aw! Well, growing the tree was still really cool.
I know, it’s awesome.
The Heroes universe is known for its sci-fi aspect, so how do you keep such a powerful character like Malina grounded in reality and keep her human?
That’s the thing with the Heroes universe, it’s not really a typical superhero show. I mean, these people…they are human, and that’s what the show is. It’s about ordinary people and how they cope with powers. I mean I’m not gonna say that she is an ordinary person…she is extraordinary, and she has had a very different life. But she is a person. She is just a teenaged girl, you know. She can be strong-willed and stubborn but she’s also…she’s a sixteen-year-old girl, so she’s vulnerable, you know. She’s real.
Yeah, that makes sense. So, what do you think are some of Malina’s strengths and weaknesses?
I think one of Malina’s greatest strengths is that she is so determined about fulfilling her destiny, and she’s so optimistic about it. But because of this, she can also be stubborn and naive about things, which definitely gets in the way sometimes, so I would say that that’s one of her greatest weaknesses.
Yeah I think so too. When we meet her, she’s very eager to take on her role, and she’s very ready for it, and I think that’s really cool.
Mhmm. Yeah I love that about her. [Laughs].
So, is there anything more you can tell us about our mysterious savior and what’s in store for her now that she has left the Arctic?
Ooh…I don’t know if I can say much about it. So, now she’s left the Arctic and she’s traveling south to fulfill her purpose, which you’ll see…I mean you kind of know what that is, but you get to see more about that later. You’ve already kind of seen that she’s struggling with her powers. She knows how to control them but she just has to use them in this massive, massive way. So over the season, you’ll get to see how it all plays out.
That’s super cool. Speaking of the Arctic, was that real snow that you guys filmed in?
Yes and no. When you see me by the edge of the water, that was actually Lake Ontario, which we filmed at in March. But then all of the stuff that you see where I’m trekking through the snow? That was actually shot in Iceland with a photo double. So it wasn’t…I’m not in Iceland. I never got to go to Iceland, but that is in fact real snow.
That must have been cold!
Yeah. In [episode] three, when I’m doing my lines, that was at the studio here in Toronto. But again, with the whole wide shots and trekking through the snow, that was all in Iceland. It’s was beautiful!
Yeah that makes sense. I was really curious. So, when you filmed on Lake Ontario, that was real snow.
Yeah that was real snow, that was in March. You see, I’m right at the edge of the lake, and the water was all icy and it was gorgeous out!
Wow! Okay so stepping a little away from Heroes and talking more about you, what first drew you to acting?
When I was four years old, they were shooting a movie called Stepford Wives in my hometown, and my mom was one of the Stepford Wives in it. Since they needed some child extras, she brought me and my siblings along. As we were filming it, I found myself absolutely loving it, so I asked my mom if I could try it out, and she said no. [Laughs]. But I still continued to ask for three years straight, so she finally agreed to let me take a class when I was seven. I mean I just loved everything about it. I loved being in front of the camera and getting to live as someone else, walking in their shoes and telling their story. I also find that that becomes such an extreme version of expression. I’m continuously learning things about myself and the people around me, which is kind of awesome.
Yeah, that’s really interesting. So your persistence paid off, and now you get to do what you love!
So is there a dream role that you want to play, or that you hope to play, sometime in your career?
Oh my God. I…that’s a hard question! Maybe a galactic alien warrior-princess or like a sociopathic supervillain.
Ooh that’d be fun to see! Malina gone bad.
[Laughs]. Yeah. I love villains. I just love how their minds work.
Yeah, I can definitely agree with that. It’s very interesting to watch, and I’m sure it’s even more interesting to play.
Do you have a favorite TV show that you watch?
Game of Thrones, for sure!
Our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us, what is something that you are nerdy about?
Ooh, that’s tricky! [Laughs]. I’m nerdy about everything! I would say that I’m actually pretty nerdy about science, and space especially. It’s just kind of fascinating to think about what’s out there and what could be out there, and how little we know about anything. Just the possibilities…it’s just kind of fascinating.
Don’t forget to catch Heroes Reborn every Thursday at 8/7c on NBC!