Movieline June 2nd 2010

If you are a fan of little girls committing big, gory acts of violence, then you should check out Shannen Doherty’s latest project, the animated web series Mari-Kari premiering tomorrow on FEARnet. The anime-inspired project splits Doherty — who just this year, returned to the 90210 zip code and competed as a celebrity contestant on Dancing with the Stars — into identical twins Mari and Kari. The latter is a ghost who goes to great lengths to protect her bubbly, optimistic sister Mari from bullies at school. And as Doherty explained to Movieline last week, tapping into her “saccharine sweet” side is enough to give the actress a major headache.

So I just watched the first two episodes of Mari-Kari —

There was a lot more schoolgirl violence than I expected, but I really liked it. I did not recognize your voice as Mari at all, but we’ll get to that later. How did you first get involved with the project? [Creator Jody Schaeffer] just came to me and asked me if I would be interested, and after reading it I said, “Yeah.” I think that the whole idea of a Web show idea is really interesting and a cool way to present material and try different things. Series like this really make you appreciate what you can do with the Web.

Had you been a fan of anime before this? [Laughs] Not really, no. I never really watched a lot of anime and was not really familiar with it. I knew what they were going for and they showed me comic books and some pretty weird stuff and i was like, “That looks cool. You guys are in charge of that though. Have fun. I’ll do the voices.” They did a great job.

The series features two young sisters, one of whom wreaks some surprisingly graphic violence on her peers. There was one sequence in particular — where Kari takes a chainsaw to one of her enemies as pop music plays in the background — that had a very Quentin Tarantino-like quality to it. Yeah! There are parts of our show that are reminiscent of Lucy Liu’s character in Kill Bill. That whole sequence and the anime adds a little bit of that flavor for sure.

The series centers on a pair of twins who have completely different personalities and outlooks on life. Mari is endlessly optimistic and energetic. Kari is darker, cynical and driven by revenge. Did either character resonate with you in particular? To be honest, I can’t really identify with either character, which I think was good because then I did not feel any particular affection for either. I think that is what made it the most fun for me — to be so emotionally detached from two characters like that is something I have never done before. You know, it’s hard to like Kari when she chops off kids’ heads and rips out their intestines, but I think there is something really funny about watching it, too.

I showed the tapes to my parents recently, and my dad was laughing so hard but my mom was going between laughing and being absolutely horrified. She said, “This isn’t going to be for kids is it? What kind of message is this sending them?” I was like, “Well, it’s not sending them a very good one, clearly, but what messages are horror movies sending out? Not great ones. Kari is our Freddy Krueger in a way.

But Kari is trying to protect her sister.
If we are searching really hard, we can say that Kari’s heart is in the right place because these kids are so mean to her sister and she is just looking out for her sister. But murder is never the answer.

How conscious are you of the possibility that the show could be picked up for a full season on television? Is that the ultimate goal when you make a Web series? For me, I am pretty happy with it just being on the Web. I certainly hope that it does a couple more seasons because telling the story of Kari — I actually want to know what happens to her. Is Kari going to turn on her sister? You just don’t know. I am definitely curious to see where they would go with it.

I did not recognize that you were also voicing Mari the first time I watched. Her character is so upbeat and child-like. She sounds nothing like you or any of the characters you’ve ever played. Did a lot of work go into finding that register? No, I tried not to practice Mari at all because I thought that I would get too self-conscious and it would not sound good. So I waited until the day we recorded, and I kind of threw out a couple of different voices, and they loved the first one that I did for Mari. I just had to try and go to a higher register with my voice and be as bubbly as I could possibly be. It actually gave me a headache! Like halfway though, my head started hurting from trying to be such an optimistic and saccharin-sweet person.

That has to be draining. It was, and after awhile, I just started thinking, “Mari is so annoying!”

Did you record all of those episodes in one session? All in one day. We did Mari and Kari in one short day. I think we recorded from 11 to 2. It’s one of the best gigs I’ve had, that’s for sure.

Let’s talk about another gig of yours: Breaking Up with Shannen Doherty. In terms of celebrities offering relationship advice to couples on television, you were ahead of the curve. Now, NBC has The Marriage Ref, Lifetime is developing a similarly formatted show for Heidi Klum and her husband but you’ve been there, done that already. And unlike the couples on The Marriage Ref, it seemed like you really cared about the couples you were counseling. I know you executive produced that show — where did the concept come from? Thank you! I developed it with the guys that I worked on Scare Tactics with [Hallock Healey Entertainment]. We wanted to work on another show together and I remember that we were tossing around different ideas in Calabasas one day and we got to talking about relationships. I was in the middle of a break-up and it was like, “Oh, this is really hard and I wish that someone could do this for me.” We started playing around with the idea and came up with the concept and went for it. You hope that the show comes off the right way, you hope that people take it for what it is. You hope that it’s a show that teaches women and men the tools to break up and that you don’t have to drag something on. You don’t have to hurt someone. You can just sort of end it because that is what is best for both of you.

While we’re on the subject of moving on, what do you think about the fact that all of the original cast members have left 90210? I think it’s kind of appropriate, right? We went in, we helped however we could help and we all sort of got the opportunity to do it again for our fans that really missed the show and missed our characters. Now, it’s about the new characters and them establishing relationships amongst themselves. They are doing a great job. It’s kind of, “out with the old and in with the new.”