Marla Sokoloff, who earned a cult following at the age of 12 when she played Gia, Stephanie Tanner’s arch enemy-turned-best friend in “Full House,” has been acting for the last 20 years. These days, however, she’s balancing her busy acting career with motherhood. The mom of two girls, Elliotte, 4, and Olive, 1, recently returned from Vancouver where she was filming a movie for the Hallmark Channel that will air next month. (She’s also had big roles on TV shows such as “The Practice” and “Party of Five;” and she’s starred in several movies, including The Baby-Sitters Club, Whatever It Takes, Dude, Where’s My Car?, and Sugar & Spice.) Additionally, she writes a popular parenting blog for People.com. Recently, Sokoloff chatted with us about playing Gia, how she handles haters online, whether she’ll have a third baby, and more.
MS: What was it like playing Gia on “Full House”?
MT: It was crazy and really exciting because that was my very first big job. I was 12 and ‘Full House’ was a big deal to me. Being on that set was so surreal. I often wonder what my career would have been like if I hadn’t had that job. It really opened up so many doors for me.
MS: Gia was a rebel. Were you like her at all as a teen?
MT: Yes! I went through a rebellious stage and I feel like Gia ignited it. I remember being so excited that I got to smoke herbal cigarettes. I was allowed to smoke in front of grown-ups! I thought I was so cool, but the second they would yell ‘Cut!’ a prop guy would rip the cigarette out of my hand. Somehow I managed to keep one and my friend and I smoked it behind a building at Universal Studios when we were, like, 14. I kept it for two years! It wasn’t even a real cigarette. It didn’t even have nicotine in it. But we thought we were being so bad.
MS: Were you surprised that people were so upset that Gia didn’t appear on season 1 of “Fuller House”?
MT: Yes! I wasn’t a series regular and I wasn’t on the show for eight years. I think I did 10 episodes or something. And 20 years later the fact that people were so interested in what Gia was up to, that they even remembered a character that wasn’t one of the main characters, was really touching. Once a day I would get some sort of Tweet or somebody on the street asking me about it. It was really nice.
MS: In addition to acting, you also released an album in 2006. Any plans for a follow-up?
MT: No. I was attached to a TV show that had a music component through Maverick records, so I got a record deal. Then, Maverick folded so the show didn’t go. I was left with all of these great songs so I made the choice to release them on my own. I played a bunch of shows and wanted to pursue music as a career for a while, but I took the rejection so much more personally than I ever have with acting. Music was my first love. So I decided to keep music as my own special thing.
MS: Switching gears: Olive, who was a preemie, turned 1 last March. How is she doing now?
MT: She’s amazing and her health is perfection. You would never know that she’s a preemie, except that there are a few things that have taken her a bit longer developmentally, which I’ve totally given her some slack for. For instance, she just started walking at 15-months-old. I think if I were a first-time mom I would have been stressed that she wasn’t walking earlier but I knew she’d walk in her own time. She’s not talking yet, but I know she’ll hit that milestone at some point, too.
MS: How has Elliotte adjusted to being a big sister?
MT: She’s obsessed with Olive. If Elliotte happens to wake up before Olive, she’ll say ‘I want to go get my sister!’ We got really lucky in that department. We have some friends whose older kid is beating the crap out of the younger one. As they get older, I know, sisters are tough, so I’m bracing myself.
MS: You’ve said it was difficult to get back to yourself after Olive was born. Are you there yet?
MT: Having the second baby threw me so much. I was so surprised by that. In the first six months I was so overwhelmed. Now I don’t even remember having one kid. It feels like that was so long ago. As far as working goes, when I was in Vancouver I kind of had this moment where I felt like this is so different and so weird being here with two kids. I felt like I was missing a limb almost. I was trying so hard to concentrate on my job but at the same time I was tracking everybody, like ‘Where’s Olive? Who’s picking Elliotte up from school?’ So I had to proactively put myself in the moment.
MS: Now, how do you balance motherhood with honoring the person you were before you became a mom?
MT: Little things like focusing on my job and giving it the time it deserves. Putting the phone away when I’m home with my family. Not obsessing for hours about things that I would obsess about before having children. It goes both ways. Honestly, I used to cry for an hour or two if I didn’t get a part. Now I think it’s hilarious that I would actually cry about not getting a job. I don’t have time for that anymore. I also don’t want my kids to see me crying about not getting a part. It’s so silly.
MS: What’s the thing that’s surprised you most about having two daughters?
MT: How adorable my husband [composer Alec Puro] is with our girls. I always felt like he might want to have a son but now I don’t believe that at all. I think that he’s such a girl’s dad. He’s so cute around them and they just love him so much.
MS: How do you handle it when people ask you nosy questions?
MT: People do ask the most invasive questions. When I had Elliotte I was having a lot of trouble breastfeeding and people would just ask me out of the blue. ‘Are you breastfeeding? Why aren’t you breastfeeding?’ It’s just so personal and because I was having trouble with it and because I felt so guilty about it I would be so upset and I’d feel like such a failure. Since both of my children are girls, everyone asks me, ‘Are you going to try for a boy? Was your husband upset?’ It’s like they’re implying that we wish we didn’t have Olive. It’s so weird…but people who ask those questions just look silly.
MS: Do you respond to haters online?
MT: I used to respond but now I don’t. It’s hard sometimes. For example, in one of my blog posts there was a picture of my girls in the backyard with my swimming pool. And there was a comment, ‘Why is she taking her children out when she doesn’t have a cover on the swimming pool?’ We do have a pool cover; it just wasn’t visible in the photo. I felt fired up because I didn’t want people to think that I’m not into pool safety. But I’ve had to learn to let that stuff go.
MS: How do you decide what to write about?
MT: When I started blogging, I promised myself that I would write about whatever was on my mind. But I only blog about what I can be completely honest about, without holding anything back.
MS: Have you ever confessed something to your readers that totally blew up?
MT: During my first pregnancy I needed to get an amnio and I wrote about it. I got so many negative responses! People thought that I was the devil. Because what would happen if these results came up positive? Would I get an abortion? So it turned out to be this conversation that I could never have anticipated. But I was totally okay coming out and telling my story, since I was writing the post after it all happened. We knew it was going to be okay, so I wasn’t holding anything back.
MS: You’ve also talked about the bittersweet emotions you’ve had about Olive’s firsts because she’s your last baby. How have you been coping with those feelings?
MT: It’s still hard. Sometimes I’m like, ‘Does this mean I’m not done?’ I have a few friends who are so done. They’re like, ‘OMG, two kids are enough!’ I don’t feel that way, but I also don’t feel the desire to have another baby. I don’t know what that means. My husband is so done, so I don’t know if I have a choice, unless I get a new husband [laughs].
MS: Did you always see yourself as a girl mom?
MT: I had hoped that I’d have at least one girl. I always wanted a girl. When we found out that Elliotte was a girl I was beyond excited. And then with Olive I felt like we were kind of like whatever we have this time around will be great. I was very certain that she was going to be a boy though, because the pregnancy was so different. So when we found out I was having another girl I was pretty shocked.
MS: What are some of the challenges of raising daughters today, in your opinion?
MT: I’m terrified of raising a mean girl. We live in Los Angles, which is the capital of mean girls. There’s this new generation of bullying. It’s very scary. I have a friend whose daughter is dealing with it in second grade and she had to switch schools! So I’m making it my life’s mission to make sure my girls aren’t mean girls and so far they’re the sweetest things. I don’t want them to be bullied, either. I’m also very aware of things I say about my body around them. I’m not one of those weird actresses who won’t eat sugar or carbs. I love my food. If I can give my kids those morals of being nice people who eat sugar I’m good with that.
MS: What’s one of your biggest parenting frustrations right now?
MT: Naps are the most infuriating thing. Eillotte gave them up when she was 2. She was the only kid in preschool who didn’t nap. I’m determined that Olive is going to take naps until she’s 3. I need that time!
MS: When you’re not with your girls or working, what are you probably doing?
MT: I like to work out. Spinning is my main source of cardio and I’ve been really into BBG workouts. It’s so hard and every week it gets harder and harder. I’m on week 6 right now and I’m already starting to see a change. I also like to cook; I make dinner most nights—nice, healthy food.
MS: What’s your idea of the perfect date night?
MT: Our favorite date night is to go to an early movie and then walk to this really amazing sushi place. And then we’re home at 9. It’s perfect.
MS: Last Q before we let you go: What’s something that would surprise others about you?
MT: We are Disneyland fanatics. We are those people who go to Disney about once a month. We get there super early in the morning, we know all the tricks for avoiding long lines, and we know all the good food to eat. Some people who know me and know that I’m kind of fancy and really particular about things are like, ‘You go to Disney? How is that even possible?’ I’m like, ‘Not only do I go to Disneyland, I go a lot and I love it.’