SPOILER ALERT: The story includes details about Season 2 of Netflix’s Ginny & Georgia.
Felix Mallard, who, like many successful Australian actors, had gotten his start on the country’s long-running soap Neighbours, was still a teenager when he was cast as the co-lead opposite Damon Wayans Jr. and Amber Stevens West in CBS’ comedy pilot (and later series) Happy Together. In it, he played a character based on Harry Styles, who executive produced the show, and, by Mallard’s own account, called him to tell him that he’d gotten the part. Roles on NBC’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, and Netflix’s Locke & Key followed in quick succession, leading to the actor-musician being cast as Marcus on another Netflix series, coming-of-age comedy-drama Ginny & Georgia.
In Season 2, Marcus and Ginny’s romance is in full bloom after the two overcome Marcus’ ill-advised “it was a mistake” comment in the Season 1 finale. Marcus is the perfect boyfriend, supporting Ginny (Antonia Gentry) during the rough patch with her mom, and the two live happily ever after… for seven episodes, until Marcus’ depression comes back. As he is spiraling, he breaks up with Ginny, which leaves her devastated. As he gets help from his mom Ellen (Jennifer Robertson), dad Clint (Chris Kenopic) and twin sister Maxine (Sara Waisglass), Ginny also reaches out to him and makes it clear to him that she will be there for him even if they are no longer together.
In an interview with Deadline, Mallard discusses Marcus’ depression, detailed in Episode 8, which was narrated by him. He talks about filming Marcus and Ginny’s emotional breakup scene and what their relationship might be like going forward as well as his reconciliation with Hunter. Mallard also shares whether we will see Marcus doing more music in Season 3 after he briefly played with Hunter’s band this season, how it has been filming sex scenes on the show and how proficient he is in ASL. Additionally, Mallard talks about the “strange thing” he has going on with Styles career-wise and why he is indebted to the famous musician, and now also actor. (For a deep dive into Season 2 of Ginny & Georgia, its finale cliffhanger and a potential Season 3 renewal, read Deadline’s interview with creator/EP Sarah Lampert, who leads the series alongside showrunner/EP Debra J. Fisher.)
DEADLINE: In Season 2, your character tackles a difficult issue, depression. Talk about Marcus going through that and your approach portraying it on screen?
MALLARD: I think with Ginny & Georgia as a whole, we want audiences to feel seen, and I think it’s a big goal for Deb and Sarah to reflect honest, truthful stories in a way that’s obviously heightened and exciting to watch for TV but the main goal is that we want people to see themselves and their own struggles reflected back on screen.
I think everyone struggles with something, and it’s no different for Marcus. Tackling this depression storyline, it wasn’t lost on me how important it is to have a storyline like this for young men, and I was really, really honored when Deb and Sarah let me know that Marcus was going to have a bit of a deeper storyline. For me, it’s really important to show young men that it’s okay to struggle with depression, it’s okay to struggle with all of these emotions. Because their representation isn’t necessarily seen that often, if young men can look at it and assess their own stuff, and I think that is always the goal.
DEADLINE: For you, what was the hardest scene to film in Season 2?
MALLARD: Obviously the more emotional stuff is tougher, and I think pulling yourself into a dark and deeper place to reflect that honestly is always a challenge because your body doesn’t really know the difference. You still go through three hours of stress, you still go through the same emotions, these kind of dark places. I guess to pinpoint it, I reckon the hardest thing for me to shoot was when Ginny and Marcus broke up. Antonia is such a talented actress. for me to have to stand in front of her and break it down was really… I didn’t really need to act, I could just react off Toni’s stunning performance.
And I think that the beauty and the poetry of that scene is really two people who love each other so much but can’t be with each other because of Marcus’ depression, because of the fact that he doesn’t want her to be the only thing that brings him happiness. I think the reason he lets her go is because he loves her so much. And that’s drama at its core — having to let go of something that you love because you love it is; it’s a really, really beautiful circumstance for drama but also quite challenging and quite tough to live through it.
DEADLINE: The episode with the breakup was done through Marcus’ eyes, you did the voiceover, so we can see the events through his perspective, and then in the next episode, we saw it from Ginny’s perspective. Talk about that technique and being able to reveal more about Marcus.
MALLARD: That was such a joy. I think big creative choices come with a certain amount of risk, and it is a big risk to play with the format, especially with a long-form TV show like this. It’s a commitment to show a different perspective, especially eight episodes in. So the risk wasn’t lost on me but also it really is in line with the core theme of Ginny & Georgia, which is that everyone is struggling with a battle that you can’t see, Marcus says that in his opening monologue. What we do for seven episodes is paint Ginny’s story and show exactly what she’s going through. Marcus is Ginny’s support, and myself as an actor, my goal is to always support Toni and to always make sure that Ginny’s storyline has something to play off, she has that constant love.
We get to explore that and see Marcus be this stand-up boyfriend, doing everything he can for the woman that he loves. But then we get to Episode 8 and we get to actually look behind the curtain and see what he’s struggling with that you can’t necessarily see for seven episodes. It’s so nice when you get to reveal something that isn’t necessarily there and then selfishly, as an acting challenge, to have seven episodes of Marcus really trying to hold it together — still having that depression under the surface and trying to put on his biggest smile for the rest of the world. For me to be able to temper it and show little glimpses of it until Episode 8, when we can completely let go and show how much he actually is struggling inside, was such a joy, and I’m really, really thrilled that Deb and Sarah took the risk in playing with the format.
DEADLINE: There is this moment toward the end of the breakup scene where you, as Marcus, are in the hallway, Antonia’s Ginny is just a few feet away around the corner, crying and whispering, “follow me, please.” How hard was it for you to just stand there?
MALLARD: It’s brutal. it’s almost Shakespearean. It’s a tragedy, and he wants nothing more than to follow her. She wants nothing more than for him to follow her but he can’t. He can’t get past this feeling that she can’t be the only thing that makes him happy. That’s the only reason he’s letting go. He has nothing else in his world that matters to him, and I think when someone gets put on that pedestal so much, it’s really an act of love in not following her.
But it’s brutal as an actor, you want to live in those impulses, you want to follow her, and I think it’s that longing, those moments in between that really shine on screen, it’s those moments where people have to stop from getting what they want. That’s where drama lives, and that’s what I love exploring as an actor.
DEADLINE: How did you and Antonia feel as actors after you finished that scene? For the audience, it certainly came as a shock after seven episodes of bliss in Marcus and Ginny’s fairytale romance suddenly ended.
MALLARD: It’s interesting. in theory, there was a sense of loss. As an actor, you have your scene partner for seven episodes; it’s a person that you work with very closely for a long time and then when that changes, subconsciously that does change how you come to work and it changes the dynamic.
I think for Marcus, he feels so alone anyways, so for him to let go of that relationship brought that feeling of loneliness to the forefront, I guess, in terms of for both of us letting go. That kind of fell in line with the ethos I subscribe to as Marcus, which is that Marcus knows he’s going to be in her life. He knows as soon as he saw her in the first episode that he loves her and he’s going to be in her life.
In what capacity he is going to be in her life changes, and I think we’re really exploring that in the final three episodes. He’s depressed, he needs a friend, he needs the girl that he loves but he can’t be with her, he can’t support her in the way that she needs. So they need to retool, revisit things. Ginny realizes that what Marcus needs is a friend and he needs support. So I think exploring that, being there for each other while understanding what they’re going through, it’s a sense of mutual love and mutual respect, it’s true love, it’s exploring that connection.
DEADLINE: How do you see Ginny and Marcus’ relationship develop going forward?
MALLARD: I don’t think they can escape each other, I truly don’t. I think that for two people to be so in tune with each other and so vulnerable and so open with each other, that doesn’t just go away, especially if one person is struggling, which is why I love showing that on screen. it’s showing that you can go through things and you have the capacity for change, and that’s okay. People can support you through hard times. Your relationships, they may change, they may go in and out of complete connection but if you can rely on the people around you, that is a really important tool.
So I really don’t think Marcus and Ginny are ever going to not be in each other’s lives. Obviously, as I’m playing Marcus, I’m rooting for Marcus and Ginny, I think their love is everlasting but whether that happens or not is yet to be seen. We’ll see what happens from Sarah.
DEADLINE: Through Ginny, Marcus now knows Georgia’s secret that she killed her ex-husband Kenny. What do you think he will do with it? Will he be able to keep it in or could it slip out at some point?
MALLARD: It all comes down to Ginny. Everything in Marcus’ story always comes back to Ginny. He loves her, and he wants to protect it. I don’t think turning on Georgia would ever be something that would come across his mind because he wouldn’t want to jeopardize Ginny’s happiness. So I really think he is going to keep that secret. He means that when he tells Georgia, he’s just drunk, so he says it in his own way.
DEADLINE: You are a musician. I asked Sarah, and she said that it was your decision for Marcus not to do anything musical in Season 1 because that was Hunter’s thing. In season two, we saw a tiny glimpse of you playing alongside Hunter. Is it something that you’re now more willing to explore? There is a school musical every season, so you could do something — Maxine and Marcus could be the leads of the musical next year.
MALLARD (laughs): He could. But I think it’s an exploration of character and studying how people behave. Me, Felix, I love music, I can’t live without it. I play guitar, I play a bunch of instruments. I just, I can’t live without it. But Marcus isn’t necessarily that way inclined. I think he explores artistry, and I think, especially in Season 2, he is exploring more of his visual art side, we get to see his bedroom.
Marcus in general is trying to find his place in the world, and he’s trying to find himself and where he fits into it all. And it overwhelms him. So quite often, people like that need an outlet to express themselves, need an outlet to find who they are. And that comes through artistry. For me, it’s music and acting and for Marcus, it’s visual art.
I think it was a strong choice in Season 1 to not do that because it is Hunter’s thing. But also, I felt like I have done a lot of different roles that incorporate music, and I’ve wanted to have Marcus be his own character that explores all those things like every teenager but isn’t necessarily the focus for Season 1, at the very least.
And what I loved about that scene in Season 2 with Hunter was, it showed more than anything, two young men trying to reconcile over their differences more than the music; the music was kind of a vehicle for them to forgive each other or at least for Hunter to forgive Marcus. And that was what I really loved exploring more than the music side of things.
As for the musical, I think Maxine deserves to be the star of it, Sara kills it every time. I think with Marcus, the added attention and all the eyeballs on him on stage, is something that he would want to avoid at all costs. I think he’s so introverted, he loves being quiet and reflective and showing these little glimpses and moments of, like when he gives Ginny a painting of her, the little moments of him showing people around him that Hey, I’m listening. I’m still here, even if I’m not saying much. So I think that is more the kind of artistry that I love exploring, I love the quiet, reflective side of Marcus, which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to getting on stage with Maxine.
DEADLINE: Did you know American Sign Language (ASL) before the show and how did you master it?
MALLARD: No, I didn’t at all, and I have not mastered it. Marcus doesn’t say much. So it’s really lucky for me. We have an ASL team who works with Chris, who plays our dad, to make sure that we’re doing things authentically and honestly and for the deaf community to not just watch people on screen, trying to do ASL, but we want to reflect a deaf family, a family that communicates differently. So I was really lucky that I only had to learn a minimal amount of ASL, I know the lines that I’ve been given.
But everyone else in the Baker family absolutely killed it. Sara and Jennifer have these massive monologues, they did an amazing job. The scene between Sara and Chris, where Chris encourages her to be the funny act to inspire her, that’s one of my favorite scenes, and it’s all done in ASL. What I love about the show is, it represents different families. Not necessarily nuclear picket white fence, but it showcases how different families live. And the ASL stuff is just part of the Bakers’ story.
DEADLINE: When you read the pilot script, there was a pretty quick introduction to Marcus — before the character could say a few lines and we get to know him, he and Ginny have sex. What was your reaction to that and how has it been filming the sex scenes on the show?
MALLARD: The great thing about Sarah and Deb’s writing is that when I first read the pilot, there was this sense of a bit of a — for lack of a better word — a trope of the star and a boy-next-door that she falls in love with who is aloof and not very kind to her, and as soon as I saw that they were setting up this 90s Bad Boy kind of image to then subvert it later on, I was hooked. I was like, Okay, great. This is what’s going to get people watching.
People are going to know who they think this character is and then almost immediately that is going to be thrown under the bus, and they’re going to actually realize who he is, he is a kid who just struggles to articulate himself and struggles with the emotions that he’s feeling. And like I said before, as soon as Marcus sees Ginny, he’s in love. And that’s such a beautiful, honest, raw emotion to play.
Alfred Hitchcock said drama and filmmaking is life with the dull parts cut out, and that’s exactly what this is. Love is the truest form of expression that we can look at, and I think if we can explore that honestly onscreen… It’s premium drama, for lack of a better expression.
So for those intimate scenes on the set, we work with an intimacy coordinator. We have an all-women team who really makes sure the set feels safe and feels like we can have open creative experiences, But at the end of the day, it’s a stunt and it has to be blocked out that way, and people have to make sure that they’re as safe as possible, which I think is the way things should be moving forward. We need these intimacy coordinators on set, we need to make sure that sets are a safe environment, and I really think that the producers did a good job on both seasons.
DEADLINE: In your first American role, a co-lead in CBS’ comedy series Happy Together, you played a character based on Harry Styles, who executive produced the show. Then a couple of years later, you performed his hit ‘Watermelon Sugar’ on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Talk about that connection.
MALLARD: I have this really strange thing with Harry Styles, I owe a lot of my career to him, which is never something I expected to have.
America was always the goal. I always wanted to be here, to be working here, to explore the kind of projects that are offered here. So I had America in my sights for a long time in Australia before coming over, and for that to be the thing that came up really, really quickly. I consider myself so lucky to even have been considered, to even have auditioned for it and then for that to be the result was mind-blowing and honestly such a wild introduction to LA and to Hollywood and to working here.
Everyone on Happy Together was so, so incredibly kind and giving and thoughtful, and we created such a fun show that was just as much a joy to be on that as it was to watch. We genuinely had the best time every day on set with Damon and Amber.
I think the fact that it was based on Harry Styles was this crazy anecdote, and I could barely believe it, I still can’t really believe that ever happened. But to get to play that song on Zoey’s was such a nice little homage to that. It was a nice little wink to the audience that that was how I got my start.
I was so grateful to [series creator] Austin [Winsberg] for putting that in the show. Because he could have chosen a different song; I think it was going to be “This Love” but Maroon 5, and then they changed it to “Watermelon Sugar”. It’s just such a fun song to play and to pay homage to Harry was so beautiful.
DEADLINE: Are you staying in touch with him? Has he watched Ginny & Georgia?
MALLARD: No, I’m not in touch with him at all. He’s a world famous mega superstar. I don’t think he knows who I am. but I’d love it if has watched Ginny & Georgia. I really don’t think he has though. Maybe Season 2 he will tune in.
DEADLINE: Maybe if he reads this, he will.