If you developed a sense of humor around 2004 there’s a high likelihood you watched the indie cult classic Napoleon Dynamite. Tina Majorino, playing lead love interest Deb, was an integral part of that film’s humor, with her awkward stance and monotone delivery perfectly embodying the neurodivergent teen in a rural community. While that was a defining role for her, she’s racked up a few more since then.
Born to working-class parents in Los Angeles in February of 1985, Tina Majorino would get her acting start early in films like Andre and Waterworld as well as a regular character in the short-lived series Camp Wilder. She would step away from acting as a child to finish high school after her last role in 1999 as Alice in a made-for-television Alice in Wonderland film.
Her triumphant return would come just five years later in the indie Napoleon Dynamite, playing the awkward girl at school and main character Napoleon’s love interest Deb. It’s really hard to explain the cultural chokehold this film had on America from 2004 until around 2007. Quite literally a few friends in Idaho and $400,000 mostly raised from cast, crew, and family. The film was declared by the state of Idaho to be a massively influential piece of art and praised the writers and directors for bringing attention to the small state.
Tina had a big part in that as well, helping to choreograph the famous dance at the end of the film. It would end up leading to a revitalization of her now wide-open acting schedule, hitting the ground running after her five-year absence from screens. Though she would stick more to the small screen than the large, she made a mark in critical and audience darling shows like Veronica Mars where she would Mac throughout the three seasons and movie of the much-loved series.
She was just getting started though, with another recurring role on the HBO hit Big Love throughout the series run. She would return and reprise her cult-classic role of Deb for the Napoleon Dynamite animated series, which would only run for a criminally low six episodes in 2012. Though it didn’t stick around long it wasn’t a big loss for Tina, as she not only got a recurring role in True Blood season five as well as a regular role in season nine of Grey’s Anatomy the same year.
She would play surgical assistant Mousy on the show, a main character of the small new batch that joined that season. While fans would love the character, unfortunately, she was up to the mercy of Shonda Rhimes, and her character was killed off in the season ten premiere. A terrible death too, being shocked by a live wire in the flooding hospital basement. Have we considered that Seattle Grace is built on an ancient burial ground or something? There’s a disproportionate amount of drama when compared to other healthcare providers.
An Electrifying Exit
Despite being just the latest victims of a Rhimes-induced character exit, Tina Majorino would keep the momentum going, jumping to new series like the Sean Bean starring Legends, in which she would star as a regular for the first season. She would slow her roles down a little from here, only taking in a couple of indie roles before a small break, resuming in 2017 with a regular role in the short-lived crime procedural Scorpion.
Tina would stick to mostly indie film roles for the remainder of the 2010s and going into the new decade. The majority would be small horror films and shorts, included in anthology series like Hulu’s Into the Dark and Etheria. Most recently she was seen in one episode of The Good Doctor, returning to the medical drama genre she made a splash in a decade ago.
With only a couple of upcoming projects, it seems she’s taking more time to focus on living her life. Tina regularly posts on Instagram these days, often just of everyday life and her outings with friends as well as her bulldog, Stan. She currently works on a podcast with her brother called No Pressure where they discuss whatever they feel like ranting about at the time, usually music and acting as their professions.
Even though Napoleon Dynamite hasn’t shown the staying power of other cult classics (yet! We’ll get it there!) Tina has made her impact in every way possible across film and television. In her off time, she even has a band formed with her brother, playing music together and occasionally performing shows.
Tina no doubt will continue at this point living out whatever she wants to do. She seems content to keep taking roles if they come her way and interest her but doesn’t make a big deal out of campaigning for roles or anything. It’s good to see that her humble beginnings as Deb in an Idaho portrait studio led to such an illustrious career in greater Hollywood.