Getting To Know Mary Neely

Mary Neely

LA-based writer, actress and filmmaker Mary Neely tells us all about herself: 

I am weirdly obsessed with ‘Friends’ right now?? I think it’s because I’m fascinated by this group of people who have so little responsibility and are like winking at the camera and are put in really low stakes situations with really high stakes attitudes. Also some of the plot-lines are totally psychotic and I love identifying those and laughing at them because it makes me feel like I’ve somehow figured it all out and that I know what is insane and what isn’t (I’ve figured nothing out, I don’t know if insanity even exists). I’ve always been anxious and nervous and worried so maybe that’s why I’m also obsessed with it because I’m like “oh Ross is in a fight with his gf but he keeps being silly and putting his pants on backwards while he’s trying to be serious how is this real life?!” Anthropologically wondering if this silliness can be maintained in non-sitcom setting. Feels like it super can’t otherwise life wouldn’t be life. There’s definitely a part of me that hates how vulnerable and confused I can feel but then when I’m writing or acting I’m thankful for those parts so I’m currently trying to manage that dichotomy and not get angry at myself when I feel a lot of feelings (ie, coping by watching a lot of ‘Friends’).

Wacko Smacko is an eight episode web series I made in 2015. The whole series is an ode to the year 2014, which was a challenging year. It’s a reflection of my life in a way–some of the storylines are things that happened in real life, others are fictionalized. My whole thing is that culture informs reality so I want to make things that mirror my life as much as possible because then people can be like, “Ohhhhh cool here’s this young woman acting like a real, flawed, interesting person and not a pre-conceived idea.” This concept is really important to me because there obviously/absolutely needs to be more realistic representation in film & tv & general media of women but also so, so, so, so, so many more kinds of people (POC, LGBTQ). Once that actually starts happening more I really believe it will create empathy and understanding of other people’s experiences, which will lead to a better society–omg hopefully!!! Plus I just really want to make stuff that I would want to watch and that inevitably includes things with fully formed, funny female characters.

The Dresser is the first short film I made. It taught me so much that I needed to know. I was tired of being tired of the kinds of roles I was going out for/playing as an actress so I decided to make something so I could stop listening to myself complain. It’s about this real-life experience I had trying and failing to hook up with a guy. I wanted to achieve three things with this film: 1. To portray two women who were friends that reflected my own experience with female relationships / 2. To portray a woman with a sex drive who is just a person with a sex drive / 3. To find out what the word “jib” meant. The shoot was so crazy–I stayed up for 23 hours and got my friend’s car towed. The outcome, though, was awesome and it was the thing that inspired me to make Wacko Smacko because people kept saying they wanted more so I expanded the world and kept the two main characters. The Dresser is the seedling of Wacko Smacko.

I spend too much time thinking about catastrophic events that haven’t happened and probably will never happen. One time I went so deep into a thought spiral that I fully convinced myself two of my best friends were going to become addicted to heroin–I’m talking like vividly imagining the fights we would get into when they were first casually just trying it out and I was like what are you doing this is horrible what about your families then conjuring up the nuances of seeing them devolve into full blown addicts to the point where I was sobbing in my car yelling, “They’re so talented!! So young!!” Like this is so unnecessary for myself and gets me nowhere please if someone is reading this who knows how to get rid of these thought processes let me know immediately.

Home is Los Angeles. I’ve lived here my whole life and in so many different parts–Glendale, Altadena, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Santa Monica, West LA, Westwood, Los Feliz. I actually designed a tattoo that’s on my right ribcage all about this. It’s really simple and geometric and the idea came to me while I was listening to Grimes’ album Visions. If you put the lines of my tattoo over a map of LA, each point would be a neighborhood I’ve lived in. I have a super love/hate relationship with this city–I used to tell people that LA and I are like that really erratic couple who are constantly breaking up and getting back together again and everyone is confused as to whether or not they should ask if they’re still together but when they see us we’re either throwing shit at each other or have our tongues down each other’s throats. We’ve mellowed out though, don’t worry–totally stable in the kind of way where we’ll see each other at a party and make meaningful eye contact and hug and ask how the other is doing and actually feel happiness for them.

Mary Neely

It might surprise people to learn that I play a lot of video games. I’m a low-key gamer. I was very into N64 growing up but my interest kind of tapered off and then when I started dating my partner we decided to play Halo on their console and it was amazing. It became a huge part of our relationship, actually, because we were a team fighting aliens together so it was badass but also built up trust and communication between us. We played Halo 1-4 and then I actually asked my dad to get me an Xbox for Christmas so my partner and I could play side by side on games that aren’t split screen (Destiny, Halo 5, etc). We’re extremely committed to the *gaming lifestyle* now. I recently played online for the first time wearing a headset talking to other people who I can’t see and it was so so crazy. Just conceptualizing these other people who I’m communicating with who have these lives I’ll never know about was so interesting to me. Side note: I was so scared to let people know I’m a woman because I’m very scared of misogynistic gamer culture but nobody said anything weird except this one dude who started complaining about his wife, which wasn’t about me obviously but it was still very like woah please stop bro.

I’ve never understood why all chip bags aren’t re-sealable. Honestly. Wtf.

In the future I want to be able to come home to a giant lived-in couch where I can cuddle with the person I love and our very well trained very chill cuddly dog. That’s all I really want besides owning the entire Criterion Collection and maybe being lovingly written about in a rap song.

You can find out more about Mary at her website.

bobby t


Interview by Bobby Townsend