Malina Weissman Will Make You Fall In Love With Violet Baudelaire All Over Again

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At 13, Malina Weissman is playing my dream role: Violet Baudelaire. In the Harry Potter versus Series of Unfortunate Events debate, I land squarely on the side of Lemony Snicket's melancholy literature — only because of Violet. When I was little, I didn't want to perfect my swish and flick. I wanted to tie my hair back with a ribbon and flex my inventing muscles. In Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Weissman regularly perfects this move as my girlhood idol Ms. Baudelaire. She slips a ribbon underneath her unruly mane and smoothly ties it in a ponytail. Hair up, she's ready to take on the world.

As a rising star herself, Weissman is poised to take on Hollywood. Her résumé reads like one of an actress twice her age. Last year, she appeared with Kevin Spacey in the kitten-themed flick Nine Lives. Fans of The CW series Supergirl will recognize her as a young Kara Zor-El, and in 2014, Weissman played a young version of Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Her role in A Series of Unfortunate Events, released on Netflix January 13, is her most prominent yet. Not only is the series based on a story beloved by legions of fans, the role itself is a hefty one. And I'm not the only one with a deep admiration for Violet.

"I think Violet is a great role model for people. She stands up for what she believes in, and she's very protective over her brother and her sister. And she's just a great person in herself," Weissman tells me over the phone.
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In part, the series itself is an exploration of Violet's resiliency. Throughout the novels, Violet and her siblings are subjected to a number of evils (one might call them unfortunate events) and, despite it all, they continue. One prominent story line features Count Olaf (played by the inimitable Neil Patrick Harris) continually trying to marry young Violet (I'll say it again: played with aplomb by Weissman). In the second episode, Violet agrees to marry the Count under the condition that her younger sister, Sunny, be released from a cage. But the eldest Baudelaire isn't one to simply acquiesce. Violet builds a pulley system that launches her toward her sister's cage, which, incidentally, is hung from a tower. (This show gets weird.)
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Pictured: Neil Patrick Harris and Malina Weissman in "A Series of Unfortunate Events"
Like her fictional counterpart, Weissman is inventive. Growing up, the New York-based actress used to get creative with household recycling.

"When was little, I would take things out of the recycling bin or, like, old cereal boxes, and I would make dollhouses," Weissman says. The dollhouses may be in her past, but the newly minted teenager still loves to create art. "I love to paint and draw and just make art on my free time."

As far as inventions go, Weissman is a lady after my own heart. If she could invent any machine — this is something I think about often — what would she invent? Why, a robot that makes pizza.

"So, wherever you are, you can just reach into your bag and you have like this little robot. And you could just say, 'Hey I want a slice of pizza' and it would come out," she explains. Weissman's invention sounds A. genius and B. like a robot version of Ratatouille.

I tell her that I want to invent a machine that brushes your teeth, which already exists. Weissman's invention is far superior.

The world will likely have to do without Weissman's talent for invention, though — she's far too good at acting. Peeking from behind a thick row of fringe, Weissman's Violet is equal parts determined and plaintive. The Atlantic calls Weissman and her counterpart, actor Louis Hynes, "terrific and instantly likable, ably holding their own against more experienced actors." Weissman's placid melancholy acts to temper the work of the show's hardworking star, Harris. As the How I Met Your Mother star preens about in breeches and various fake noses, the Baudelaires must maintain the seriousness of the situation. When I asked Weissman about working with Harris, she says exactly what I expected to hear: It's incredible.

"I learned so much by working with [Neil Patrick Harris]. He just — he really knows what he's doing," she says. "He puts his spin on everything. He's just really himself."

So if Violet is my role model, and Harris is everyone's role model — because, yes, we should all aspire to his greatness — then who is Weissman's role model?

"I love Audrey Hepburn. I've watched a bunch of her movies with my mom and my family," she says quickly. She pauses, then adds: "And Violet."

A Series Of Unfortunate Events is currently streaming on Netflix.

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