The Fosters’ Annika Marks says Monte is no villain

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ABC Family/Tony Rivetti
ABC Family/Tony Rivetti

Stef and Lena Foster’s marriage on The Fosters may have hit a bit of a rough patch as of late. The problems between the two certainly weren’t helped by the fact that Lena’s co-worker Monte (Annika Marks) kissed her at the end of Season 2. Lena (Sherri Saum) and Stef (Teri Polo) seem committed to working through any issues in their marriage, and Monte swears the kiss was a one time thing–having been married previously to a man, she claims that she’s not interested in Lena romantically.

Whether or not that is the case remains to be seen, and the Season 3 premiere saw Lena turn down Monte’s invitation to attend a work conference together in D.C. Can viewers, and Lena, believe Monte when she says she’s not interested? What happens when Stef, unaware of what happened between her wife and the principal, invites Monte over to the house? The TV Junkies caught up with the woman behind all this trouble, Monte herself, actress Annika Marks, to get answers to all of these burning questions.

 

The TV Junkies: So you’re quite the troublemaker on The Fosters.

Annika Marks: She’s definitely causing a lot of unrest among Fosters fans that’s for sure. I like that she’s a complicated person to dislike because she’s not a bad person. She’s just causing some trouble.

TTVJ: What was it like coming onto a show that’s so established, where the cast is so close like on The Fosters?

AM: I hadn’t watched the show before I got cast. I came in halfway through the second season and I binge watched the whole first season and first half of the second. I became obsessed with the show, like obsessed with everything about it because it’s brilliant! The writing is so sophisticated, they are so brave, the family feels like it’s your real family. I totally fell in love with this family.

When I got the role I had no idea where it was going. I just knew I was the new principal of this charter school. I didn’t know there was any kind of romantic storyline at all. It was a surprise to me, and I also had mixed feelings about it as well because I’m such a huge fan of that family.

I will say they are the nicest group of people. It’s the warmest, most welcoming set I’ve ever been on. They are such fans of actors. Both Peter Paige and Joanna Johnson started as actors, they really love actors. I couldn’t have walked onto a set that was already established and had their dynamic, that was any warmer or more welcoming. It was pretty exciting to discover that.

TTVJ: Monte says she’s not looking for anything more than a friendship with Lena, but can we really trust her?

AM: I mean it’s a really good question. Honestly, I don’t even know. I wish I had secrets to spill for you. I discover the story with each script as well. My feeling is, having taken her this far, is that Monte is a very genuine person. I don’t think that she’s a scandalous person. She’s not a devious person. I think she’s curious. I think she’s a little confused. I think she started her life over in a way at a time when she never thought she would. Obviously she didn’t intend to get a divorce, and she didn’t intend to go from the world of business to education, and she didn’t intend to move to San Diego.

All these huge life changes happened to her at a sensitive time and then she walked into this world where this woman she’s working with is so passionate about education. I think it was just a very organic thing that just happened. Obviously from The Fosters fans’ perspective she’s a villain, but I don’t think she’s a villain at all. I think she’s just there and something happened and now she has to deal with the consequences. I don’t think Monte is trying to break up the marriage or anything like that. I think she’s just trying to figure out who she is.

TTVJ: Monte also said she’s not gay, but aren’t we all a little hot for Sherri Saum?

AM: [Laughs] I personally feel like sexuality is a fluid thing. There’s the Kinsey scale and everyone is somewhere on that scale. I don’t think of people as being gay or straight, personally I don’t feel that way about people. So I think it’s funny to hear people defend anything that way. I think sexuality is a confusing thing. I don’t think anyone is exactly clear on where they are and yeah, you’re right, you interface with someone like Sherri Saum and suddenly you feel differently. She’s a goddess!

TTVJ: And her hair is perfect!

AM: Her hair IS perfect, she’s perfect! You know what’s amazing about Sherri is that she’s obviously the most beautiful specimen in the world, but she doesn’t lead with that. Her confidence and her ego is not wrapped up in what she looks like. She’s the most generous, kind, loving, grounded, funny, she’s like a complete ham on set. She’s so funny. It’s very disarming to be around somebody so beautiful that is so ego-less about it.

TTVJ: The Fosters seems to be tackling the issues of labels this season, with Monte declaring that she’s not gay and Jude not wanting to be labeled as gay. What message is the show trying to convey about labels and sexuality?

AM: I think Monte does think of herself as straight. So for Monte the confusion is an internal struggle. You’re right, with Connor and Jude they are asking themselves these questions for the first time. Monte is quite a way into her life, having identified as a straight person, so I think in her mind this is just a weird thing that happened. It has nothing to do with her identifying her sexuality. Where as with Connor and Jude they are stuck in a world where people are asking them to identify it. I’m not the writer. I don’t play those characters, but it’s hard to be able to articulate anything that you are when you’re changing so quickly as a teenager. So to be asked to identify something is tricky, and I love that they are brave enough to have those kids come out, fall in love and still struggle with that stuff on screen.

ABC Family/Tony Rivetti
ABC Family/Tony Rivetti

TTVJ: In an upcoming episode Stef tries to set Monte up. Can you preview how that goes?

AM: I don’t know what I’m allowed to say but it’s definitely awkward. I had such an amazing time filming that episode and I wish I could tell you everything about it. I’m excited for everyone to see it because I think it offers quite a bit of insight into Monte’s perspective in all this. I’m so grateful that these writers are giving Monte the chance to go on her journey as well. When you get a role on a show that’s so established, like you were saying, you know you’re serving someone else’s storyline. So it’s such a gift when you get a script and realize, ‘Wow, they really considered Monte’s perspective.’

TTVJ: Did you have any idea when you got the role how long you’d be around or how large the role would be?

AM: I really had no idea and I still have no idea. Every time I show up and get a new storyline and I know I’m there for another episode. It’s really a practice of staying in the moment because they don’t preview for you where you’re going or how long you’re going to go on for. It’s an exercise in staying present and being grateful. I really do feel like every day I get with this cast and on this set is a gift. I try to just remember that because it really is such a special job and I’m so thankful to have it.

TTVJ: What is it like playing a character that you know so many people are going to hate? How do you deal with the negative feedback?

AM: It’s really interesting, I don’t think of her as a villain. She’s certainly not a homewrecker, she’s not that character. She isn’t a seductress, she isn’t any of those things. I actually think even The Fosters fans who claim to hate her are actually conflicted about her. I get a lot of messages on Twitter from people who really want to hate her but then find themselves liking her. It’s confusing and I think it’s another example of how the writing on this show is just so good.

No one is a pure villain or purely good. Your heroes on this show are so flawed and making mistakes, and they make mistakes in patterns where you think, ‘No you already learned that lesson, don’t do that again.’ But that’s human, that’s what we do. It’s another example of where this writing is so sophisticated. I actually really enjoy it, and I challenge people to just really hate Monte. I don’t think if you’re really available to the storyline that you can assume she’s just a bad person. I think she’s complicated and I actually think she’s a very good person who is a little confused.

TTVJ: I want to believe that but then other times I am just like, ‘Back off Lena, come on!’

AM: [Laughs] Well you’re invested–that investment in that marriage, as a fan, I have that same investment. I know that marriage is going to be fine. I think it’s very, very clear and it’s always been clear to me, that that marriage is going to be absolutely fine. What this storyline is really about is what all marriages go through, which is just because you get married and you meet a partner you want to commit the rest of your life to doesn’t mean you aren’t going to have other experiences where you come into contact with someone who makes you feel something. I feel like it would be dishonest to pretend that you could go through an entire marriage and never have those experiences. I have always known that marriage is going to be fine and I’ve thought, ‘Well how brave of them to put that on screen.’

TTVJ: Other than The Fosters, what other projects are you working on and where else can fans see you?

AM: I’ve created a PSA series, it’s very funny and kind of raunchy and filthy, I’ll say that upfront, but they are PSAs for the California drought. Bruce Campbell did all the voice overs and they are called Stay Filthy, Cali. Other than that I have a film called Grace that I star in that I really, really care about a lot. My co-star is Sharon Lawrence who has been one of my heroes as an actress forever. She’s one of those women who actively tries to pull other women up. It’s about a young woman struggling with alcoholism and considering recovery. It’s on DVD, VoD and OnDemand. I would love people to see that film and support that film. I’ve gotten such incredible feedback from people who are struggling with alcoholism who’ve watched it. Then I have a film called Anguish that I’m really excited about. It’s three female leads in a psychological thriller that I think is wonderful. I’m also doing a one woman show that opens in LA in a little while that’s called All American Girl. (Note: It opens July 3rd at The Lounge Theatre in Hollywood. For more info go here.)

What do you think about Monte? Is she really just confused and not trying to get between Stef and Lena? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

The Fosters airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC Family and ABC Spark.

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