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An interview with Mariya Ranieli, the creator of Dollhouse

Updated: Oct 6, 2019

Mariya Ranieli is a Los Angeles based screenwriter, actress and director. Her web series, Dollhouse, recently won Best Web Series at Top Shorts for its second season. We invited Mariya to join us for an interview, here's her story.

Mariya, thanks for joining us! Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us about your childhood. Where did you grow up, and what made you want to become a filmmaker? 

Thanks for having me! I grew up on the East Coast. I always knew I wanted to be an actress, but not necessarily a filmmaker. I've always been a writer, and so, the more I acted, the more interested I became in creating my own projects. 

What was the first film project you worked on and what was your role in it?

I was an extra in a film called The Fortune Theory.

Before working on Dollhouse, you’ve played in several web/TV series, such as Strings, and Little Brother. What have you learned in the process? 

Honestly, just to be as creative as possible while having as much fun as you can. Also, definitely to trust your instincts as both an actor and a writer. 

Let’s talk about Dollhouse, an independent series you wrote, produced and played in, which recently won Best Web Series at Top Shorts for its second season. How did you come up with the idea? 

Dollhouse, especially it's first season, takes a look at what's actually going on behind the fake lives people sometimes portray on social media. I got the idea from constantly scrolling through my own social media and thinking, "That can't be real!" or "That can't be the whole story." Strings, which I wrote as well, was also continual with the theme of fake lives and the reality behind them. I just find that topic very interesting. 

In Dollhouse we follow several characters, who are all connected to each other in some way, as they portray their best selves on social media while reality is catching up to them. It looks like you’ve had a lot of fun! Take us behind the scenes- what were some of the best moments of the production so far? 

For me, the best moments were the everyday filming. Everyone worked together really well, and it was just an amazing experience to watch it all come together scene by scene. And of course, shooting the very last scene (for both seasons one and two) was a surreal and emotional moment that I'll never forget. Oh, and we partied a lot together. 

We bet you enjoy playing Natasha! What do you like most about her character? 

I love Natasha! She's my favorite character that I've ever played. She's actually someone I look up to in certain ways. She's extremely intuitive and can easily assess situations to know what's real and what's fake. She sees behind the fake and knows exactly what's going on. The other thing I like about Natasha is that she's very down to earth. She was written originally as the anti-Primrose and Ashleigh, who are both very fake and obsessive over all things social media. She's just about as real as you can get. She's a total badass, in my opinion. 

Tell us about working with Nathan Bock, who plays your husband Christian. Your chemistry on-screen creates some amusing moments (“Christian, this woman took my vibrator!”).

Nathan is really fun and easy to work with, so it all just came very naturally. Christian and Natasha (or Christasha, as we like to call them) are this very passionate and in love couple, but they're also each other's best friend. As they came to life, the writing became easier. Instead of "I wonder what these lines will sound like in person", which was an element present before season one was cast, it became "Oh, I could definitely picture this person saying this and then me responding in this way." 

How did you manage to complete two full seasons in one year? 

Well, originally, there was only supposed to be one season. Once we began production, though, it ended up being so much fun and everyone just gelled together so well, that I started writing season two before we were even finished. Once that was all written, we just started up again almost right away. I have to give all of the credit to our incredible cast, who always gave one thousand percent. They made it so easy! 

What was the most meaningful moment for you in the entire process?

Watching everything come together and manifest into something real. It's very cool to see something you created come to life, and the dedication and professionalism everyone brought to this project made it all the better. 

What’s going to happen in Season 3? Have you started writing the next season? 

We have no plans for a season 3, but nothing's ever entirely off the table. 

What are you currently working on?

I'm currently writing a comedic web series that I hope to start production on early next year, and I'm always auditioning. 

What’s next for you? 

I have a few projects I've started and put aside that I'll get back into, as well as new ideas for projects I haven't started yet. I'm constantly being inspired with different ideas to write about, so I'm sure that will keep me busy!

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