“Acting professionally is a dream shared by nearly half the population of Los Angeles” is a statistic I made up, but it sounds accurate, right? It takes ambition, talent, grit, and luck to be successful in the entertainment industry – all qualities possessed by my good friend Maddie McCormick.
A Winnetka native and New Trier graduate, the 28-year-old actress was drawn to the arts at a young age, performing in productions at the Winnetka Community House and taking acting and singing lessons. It didn’t take long for the blue-eyed starlet in training to realize that acting was a passion that she had to chase.
McCormick has called Los Angeles home since 2009, trading Trevian blue and green for UCLA Bruin blue and yellow. The aspiring actress would continue to hone her talent by minoring in film and performing in plays. Shortly after graduating, McCormick was casted in “Self Promotion,” an MTV pilot directed by Zach Braff. Six years later, Maddie’s credits include several TV series, most recently appearing in Showtime’s his show Shameless where the sweetest person I know convincingly portrays a loudmouthed brat named Corey. It was surreal to see my friend in a show I’ve been watching since day one. I was so very proud!
Between long days on set and preparing for auditions, McCormick’s free time is limited, but when she’s not working Maddie enjoys spending time with family, friends (she has a lot), and her fiancé (just one of these). 2019 is going to be tough to beat, but McCormick somehow finds a way to make each year sweeter than the last.
SAOR’s latest ad campaign is “What are you wearing?” To celebrate, I caught up with my friend and budding actress to talk about life, love, and staying true to yourself in La La Land.
Christina: How would you describe your style?
Maddie: Over the past few years my style has become more laid back – I would describe it as tomboy meets 90’s. I wear a lot of crop tops, mini skirts, and Levis and I live in my black Doc Martens. They’re the best.
C: Recent purchase that you’re obsessed with?
M: When Michael and I went to Florence this summer I bought this great mustard yellow backpack at an Italian leather market.
C: Mustard yellow is having a moment.
M: It sure is!
C: Let’s talk red carpet. What looks do you gravitate toward for premieres and special events?
M: I love the tomboy rock n’ roll look. I wore this amazing plaid jumpsuit for the Versus premiere and to this day it’s one of my favorite red carpet looks. I always think the people that look the coolest on the red carpet aren’t trying too hard and are just being themselves.
McCormick at the premiere of Versus.
C: Do you have any style crushes?
M: I think everything Lucy Boyton wears on the red carpet is amazing. My street style celeb crush is Hailey Baldwin, excuse me, Hailey Bieber. But my biggest style influence (and role model) will always be my mom. It’s been really inspiring to watch her create her blog Catherine Grace O and inspire women in their midlife to have a voice and express that through fashion.
C: How do you stay positive in such a competitive and intense industry?
M: My career is very self-starting. It’s 98 percent “no” and two percent “yes,” so it’s important for me to be comfortable and confident in who I am, rather than constantly seeking validation. Some things I do to help keep a positive mindset are meditation and journaling. I also have a set of mantra cards that I run through before every audition. Something that’s been really helpful for me that I learned from a former teacher of mine is to frame your mantras in the form of a question. It forces your subconscious mind to answer positively.
C: What do you like about SAOR’s signature scent, a hAon?
M: SAOR is so unique to the point that when I wear it people ask me “What is that scent? I’ve never smelled that before.” The message of SAOR is to be free and I think that translates to the scent. It’s a reminder to me that I am free to express myself however I want. It’s light and airy and not overwhelming, which offsets the hecticness of my life. My fiancé loves it, too. It’s the last thing I put on before date night.
C: What drew you to performing? Is there a movie or show from your childhood that you remember watching and thinking “I want to do that”?
M: I’ve been performing since the minute I could talk. My mom loves to tell the story of how at a Christmas Party during karaoke, I wouldn’t share the microphone with any of the other kids. I told my parents at age 5 that I was going to move to California and become an actor and here we are! My grandmother was an actress, and when I was really little I used to go see her in plays. For her role in “The Curious Savage” she dyed her hair blue at age 70, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. She was definitely a big influence on me and always encouraged me to take up space on that stage and in life.
C: What project are you most proud of?
M: I am definitely most proud of my role in Shameless. Sitting in the table read across from William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum and watching them applaud when they introduced me and my character was definitely a career high. The writers also wrote my character an additional episode which was really exciting because it was supposed to only be a one-off.
C: What role was most difficult to take on?
M: My most difficult role was Penny Wednesday in Camera Store, which is currently on Netflix. It was my first leading role in a feature film opposite some heavy hitters like John Larroquette and Cheryl Ladd. We filmed for 2 months in New Orleans, and I really took the time to inhabit Penny’s world as a 16 year old runaway with no family or money. I also decided to give her a Southern accent in the audition, which the director ended up loving and keeping. It was a risk because she wasn’t written Southern, but I really felt she needed something that gave you a sense that she was a drifter.
C: I read that Robert De Niro worked as a cabby in order to prepare for his role in Taxi Cab. Have you done anything extra to prep for a role or audition?
M: For my AwesomenessTV Series VERSUS, I trained for a month prior to filming to learn how to play lacrosse. It was Gatorade’s first scripted series, and we were shooting all of the games with professional NFL cameras so they wanted it to look good. I did of course have a lacrosse double, but I’m proud to say that a lot of the scenes are actually me playing!
Maddie In Action
Just recently, I learned some sign language to prep for an audition. The character grew up in a deaf family but she was hearing. I really wanted to understand how hard it would be being a liaison between her family and the outside world, even though I didn’t actually have to sign in the audition.
C: Are there any actors you’ve met that have left you feeling starstruck?
M: It’s funny, the longer I’ve been here, the less “starstruck” I get. When you start working with people you admire, you realize that everyone is human and just here to tell a story and do a good job. I will say I just filmed an episode on the new Reese Witherspoon/Kerry Washington show Little Fires Everywhere, and afterward Kerry came up to me personally to tell me what a good job I did which was a crazy moment for me.
C: I loved that book and can’t wait for the show!
C: Tell me about the project you directed. What are the unique challenges that directing presents?
M: I directed an episode of my best friend Natalie Pelletier’s comedic web-series “Sh*t Girls Used to Say.” Some of the best directors I’ve worked with have been both behind and in front of the camera. I think it gives you a different vantage point to really be able to communicate with actors. One of my long-term goals is to get behind the camera more and create more of my own stories.
C: If you weren’t an actress, what would you be doing?
M: Wishing I was an actress. Haha – but it’s the truth! I can’t see myself doing anything else. I feel most alive between “action” and “cut” or under the bright lights of a stage.
You can learn more about Maddie on her IMDB page and on Instagram @madrymccormick. Season 9 of Shameless is available on Netflix; Timecrafters, starring Maddie’s good friends, Denise Richards and Malcolm McDowell, is in post-production and Little Fires Everywhere premieres on Hulu January 2020.
About the author: Christina Lundin is a local stand up comic and youngish professional (lethal combination). In her free time she enjoys playing soccer, trying new restaurants, and sleeping. For upcoming shows, visit her blog turned comedy website xtinamistakes.com.