By Stephanie DuBois
"The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win you're still a rat." - Lily Tomlin
"I think that everyone thinks life is this race -- and in the end it's only with yourself," says "Veronica Mars" sidekick Tina Majorino, exhibiting a wisdom far beyond her 20 years on the planet.
On the CW drama, Majorino plays Veronica's (Kristen Bell) best buddy, Mac, a social outcast like Veronica. In real life, Majorino also chooses to stay on the fringes of the Hollywood hustle being played out by such peers as Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan.
"There are a lot of young actresses not setting very good examples and there should be some that show us that that's not really how it's done," says Majorino. Her advice: Get a real life!
"It definitely gives you a different perspective on life when you actually have a life outside of your work," says Majorino. "It's important when working in any kind of medium, but because of the temptations in this business you have to have some kind of reality that you can fall back on instead of just always living in this world of make believe - because that's really what it is."
That recognition, says the actress who started working in the business at age 7 is "what sparked my decision to quit when I was 13."
The Westlake, CA, native made her acting debut in the 1992 series, "Camp Wilder" and went on to such big-screen fare as "When a Man Loves a Woman," "Corrina, Corrina," "Andre" and "Waterworld" before opting out.
"I wanted to experience the things that a little kid can experience and get to know myself so when I came back I could be tough enough and strong enough to keep a good attitude, keep my head on straight and make the right decisions for myself and my family," says Majorino adding, "I totally credit my mom for always allowing me to be a kid -- even when I was working -- and instilling in me the importance of family in real life. I'm very grateful to have an awesome mom."
Ironically, it was during her sabbatical from acting that Majorino met and left a lasting impression on "Veronica Mars" creator Rob Thomas.
"Rob actually used to write books for young adults and I interviewed him for a book report when I was a freshman in high school," she recalls. "He asked me what I did and I told him I was an actress and he said 'Wow, let's get together and have lunch and talk about something we can do together."
The two kept in touch over the next six years and when "Veronica Mars" became a hit, Thomas kept his word.
"He created the character of Mac for me," says Majorino. "I was very, very thankful that he remembered me and wanted to fulfill our desire to work together. And what was cool about it was that he could have just blown it off because I was just some 14 year old kid you know? It's great to work for people who have moral fiber and are wonderful people in real life. "
Majorino believes everyone would be better off if we just learned to "count your blessings. I just think in general if people were happier for themselves and for each other we would all have such better lives and feel so much more fulfilled.
"There's this idea that success is this destination that one day you're going to wake up and realize 'I'm successful,'" she continues. "People don't realize it's actually the journey?the getting to different goals you set for yourself that is the real success.
"It's not something you're just going to wake up and realize some day, so you need to find the successes in the little things in life. I think a lot of women, like in higher society, are uncomfortable with the idea that other women could want things different than them. A lot of people make fun of me because there've been lots of opportunities for me to get really famous or make a lot of money - all of these things a lot of people want.
"But in the end there are certain things you have to turn down because you don't stand for those things," says Majorino. "And I would rather be able to wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror and feel proud to know that I didn't sell myself out for something that's not going to mean anything in ten years.
"I try to keep focused on that because it's great that I'm an actress and I'm so lucky and blessed that I get to do what I love every morning, but when it comes to fame and all that other stuff, it is so trivial."
"And," she adds, "If you don't have any kind of base or anything you believe in or are passionate about, and don't have a good attitude about it, what do you have to look forward to? You have to find joy in the real things in life because fame is not real."