The song “Time Moves Slow” by BADBADNOTGOOD is a glimpse into Felix Mallard’s mind as he processes the pandemic. “This song has been on repeat,” the Ginny and Georgia actor shares. “[It’s] a reminder that time will move slowly, but love, and that deep, true, honest connection is worth weathering any storm. It was a reminder to keep going. Put my head down, hold onto the ones I love and keep hope that brighter days are ahead.”
In both Ginny and Georgia, his new Netflix series, and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, a musical comedy currently airing on NBC, Mallard is an absolute standout, commanding the screen with a wonderful complexity. It’s immediately clear Mallard is experienced; he built a fanbase as the star of CBS’ Happy Together, where he played a character based on Harry Styles, before appearing in All The Bright Places with Elle Fanning and Netflix’s Locke & Key among many other roles.
Now, as Ginny and Georgia becomes a stunning success, Schön! spoke to Mallard for a personal take on his character Marcus, learning ASL, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and what he hopes to do next.
It looks like you filmed Ginny and Georgia and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist around the same time. What was that experience like? Was it difficult to switch between the characters?
I actually filmed Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist about a year after Ginny and Georgia! Thankfully there wasn’t the need to switch between the characters. However, that would definitely be an interesting and fun challenge, especially with the differing accents. There’s a certain rhythm and muscle memory that builds up when you’re getting up every day and speaking in a different accent. I haven’t come across the challenge of having to break that muscle memory and swap between Australian and US accents while working yet, but I’m always open to something new. I imagine it would really keep you on your toes.
Did you know any sign language before Ginny & Georgia? How was the process of learning it?
Before Ginny and Georgia, I knew no sign language at all. Production had ASL tutors on set, and we would learn our dialogue with them and bring that into our scenes. Chris Kenopic, the wonderfully kind, talented and patient man who plays our dad, is deaf, and we were also constantly looking to him for little tweaks and changes we could make to our ASL so that we could really try to give the most accurate representation possible. Learning about ASL and being given the responsibility of representing how other families communicate was incredibly humbling and shone a spotlight upon my own privilege. Because of that privilege, I had never considered how a deaf family might communicate with one another. I had never considered that while children of deaf adults may not be deaf themselves, they need to sign and speak so everyone in their family can understand each other. I was also ignorant about so much of deaf culture. Deafness and deaf culture is not a monolith; it intersects with many other kinds of cultural identity, and the deaf community is in reality made up of a vast number of incredibly diverse communities across the world. The Baker family dynamic is just one of many, many different ways deaf families communicate, and being given the responsibility of reflecting just one of those stories truthfully and honestly on screen was an incredible honour. I just hope we brought the story justice.
At the beginning of the show, Marcus has sex with Ginny and the two hardly talk after; we only see Ginny navigate buying the morning after pill. Marcus looks shocked but grateful to hear Ginny’s side of the story. I think a lot of teens go through this, and it’s important to see this confusion while both people figure it out. What did you think of this moment?
After reading this story in the script, I was initially quite reticent to play the clueless antagonist. In the pilot, Marcus is dismissive and hurtful and selfish in his actions, and I was wondering where the story was going to go from there. Of course, we later come to realise his bad behaviour stems from his own insecurity and inexperience, and that was the point where it clicked. I realised that so many teens do go through this. So many young men are dismissive and hurtful and selfish with their actions, and it ends up hurting others around them. In setting that up, the showrunner/creator duo Deb Fisher and Sarah Lampert created the opportunity to tell a truly meaningful story. I love this moment in the story because it not only accurately reflects how callous and indifferent young men can be, but also how that can make other people feel. While it quite often stems from their own inability to understand or work through their own emotions, it demonstrates that this should not be an excuse or a crutch to lean on but all the more reason to take responsibility for yourself and treat the people in your life with the kindness and respect they deserve. It was important to me to be a part of communicating the idea that your behaviour has consequences, honesty is paramount, and above all, to treat women — and everyone — with respect. If young men can see themselves in Marcus, then hopefully it can inspire them to shake things up a bit and validate that it is okay to be vulnerable, it’s okay to have insecurities, and that it is your responsibility to work through them and reconcile them in a healthy way. I think most importantly Marcus’ story demonstrates that it is not okay to hide behind those insecurities and behave in a hurtful way to those around you as a result.
As Ginny becomes more distant to Marcus, he realises he cannot live without her. Ginny also struggles with her feelings for Marcus, while also having a hard time at home. What do you think of this dynamic and the role Marcus plays within it?
Marcus and Ginny see so much of themselves in each other. I think to Marcus, Ginny is the only person that makes sense to him. He is an outsider, deeply misunderstood and dealing with emotional trauma that leaves him quite uncertain in himself and how he interacts with others. He can identify that same pain in Ginny, and throughout the series they become a support and a refuge for each other from the messy, traumatic and challenging world around them.
If the series gets renewed for a second season, how do you want to extend Marcus’ story further? Any themes or issues you want to explore?
At this stage, all I’m focused on is getting people to watch season one! But, should we be given the opportunity, I would love to delve deeper into Marcus’ emotional journey and awareness and how that affects his relationship with Ginny as a whole. Their relationship and their connection provides such a window into his own thoughts and feelings and breaks down a lot of the barriers he has built up. It would be interesting to see what happens when we shake up that foundation a bit.
After a day of filming, how do you unwind?
I usually try to come home, walk my dog, have some yummy food and jump on the couch and zen out with either music or TV. However, quite often shooting days are so long that I end up crashing out as soon as I get in the door.
The premise of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is a software developer who discovers she has the ability to hear the innermost thoughts of people as songs. What song(s) would you say represent your innermost thoughts from the last year?
“Time Moves Slow” by BADBADNOTGOOD has such a wistful and haunting melody, with a skittish yet steady beat that reflects the slow monotony of the pandemic perfectly, not to mention Sam Herring delicately musing on time moving slowly. The chorus brings a shifting sense of hope above the melancholic verse, reminding us that while ‘Running away is easy, it’s the living that’s hard’. The brighter chords however suggest that while yes, that living is hard, there certainly is something worth staying for — that there is hope hiding just behind the horizon and that we should resist that impulse to run away. This song has been on repeat throughout the pandemic as a reminder that time will move slowly, but love, and that deep true honest connection is worth weathering any storm. It was a reminder to keep going. Put my head down, hold onto the ones I love and keep hope that brighter days are ahead.
In Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, you sing and dance! Can you tell us a little about your musical background?
Music has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. My dad used to play guitar and sing to me when I was growing up. I picked up my own guitar at age 7 and I have loved it ever since. I had a thorough education in rock classics – Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Ever since I first heard Jimi wailing Voodoo Child, all I wanted to do was sound like him. I started playing the piano a couple years later. Booker T and the MG’s had a song called Behave Yourself — fast, complex, but soul searing blues riffs, ooze from Booker T. Jones’ organ, and I listened to it over and over and over again trying to figure out each little lick. Inspired by Booker T and the likes of Ray Manzurak and Jon Lord, I started to plonk away at the keys and try to emulate something similar. A couple years after that I started playing drums! I would fill in for my high school band’s drummer here and there any time he couldn’t make a session. I loved the steady that anchor drums could provide a song and started to listen to big drummers with big sounds — Jon Bonham, Ginger Baker, even Dave Grohl were huge influences growing up. I took a music production class in high school and started to learn how to produce and record music, and since then that has been an incredibly fun and challenging pursuit. In the last few years I’ve been straying away from the bigger distorted tones and playing more and more blues and hip hop tracks. Music is different for everyone, and for me right now it just provides an incredible emotional outlet that almost serves as a type of meditation, a time to reflect and to feel and to visit emotions, but also to let it all go. An ebb and flow of breathing in everything you’re feeling, and breathing it out again, all at once.
What is the first memory you have of singing or dancing whilst filming?
The first time I had properly danced while filming was on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist! I don’t have as much of a dance background as I do with music, so quite honestly the first memory I have was stepping on set at Zoey’s and thinking “oooooooooh man I hope I can do this!” Luckily Mandy Moore is such an incredible choreographer, she works so well within your comfort level, and finds a way to make it all shine. I was lucky to have had her steering the ship!
What do you like the most about Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and acting your character, Aiden?
Zoey’s has this incredible power to blend extreme and elevated circumstances with grounded, truthful and raw storytelling. Every episode has made me cry at some point, and also burst out laughing, which is the exact kind of storytelling I love. It’s life! The good with the bad, the ups and the downs – it is an honest and truthful reflection of the human experience, and I absolutely love when a show can reflect that. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sing and play music – a combination of my two most favourite creative passions – on a show, and to have been a small part of such a wonderfully talented cast was an honour. My favourite thing about playing Aiden was that he is just open to anything. He is so free-spirited and kind and ready for any adventure. It is just so much FUN to embody that attitude. He is a living breathing example of the “yes, and” improv rule and is just a joy to bring to life, and that lent itself to the story of helping Zoey out of her grief and providing her with an escape and reprieve. He is a charming, playful, cheeky human vacation.
What’s been your favourite moment from making Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist?
We shot all of the drug-trip storyline in one day, so getting to spend a whole day playing with two incredibly wonderful and talented actors – Noah Weisberg and Jane Levy – was definitely a huge highlight from the series. They are blisteringly funny, and we could make an entire show just from their outtakes. I also loved playing in a band on screen, working with Andres Joseph, Levi Wall and Andrew Leeds was so awesome, and getting to hang out and perform as a band was a massive highlight.
What else can our readers look forward to from you soon?
Zoey’s returns to its Sunday time slot on March 28th! I’ve got a couple more episodes coming, so you can look forward to more Aiden. There are a few other exciting things in the works that I unfortunately am not allowed to talk about. In the meantime, I just hope new people continue to discover Ginny and Georgia every day!
Ginny and Georgia is currently streaming on Netflix.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist returns to NBC on 28 March.