Mara Wilson

Mara Elizabeth Wilson (born July 24, 1987) is an American actress and writer. She rose to prominence as a child for playing the role of Natalie Hillard in the film Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), and went on to play Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street (1994), Matilda Wormwood in Matilda (1996), and Lily Stone in Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000). Wilson retired from acting in 2000 to focus on writing, and later returned to acting in 2012.

Mara Wilson
Wilson in November 2017
Mara Elizabeth Wilson

(1987-07-24) July 24, 1987
Alma mater
  • Actress
  • writer
Years active1993–present
RelativesBen Shapiro (cousin)[1]

Early life

Wilson was born in Burbank, California, on July 24, 1987,[2] the oldest daughter of KTLA 5 News broadcast engineer Mike Wilson and homemaker and Burbank PTA school volunteer Suzie Wilson (née Shapiro; 1953–1996).[3] Her mother was Jewish, while her father is half Irish.[4][5][6] She was raised Jewish[7] and became an atheist when she was 15.[8] She has three older brothers named Danny, Jon, and Joel, and a younger sister named Anna.[9] Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer on March 10, 1995,[10] and died on April 26, 1996. The film Matilda was dedicated to her memory.[11] Wilson later recalled that this affected her passion for acting.[12] Wilson attended Idyllwild Arts Academy near Palm Springs, California. After graduation in 2005, Wilson relocated to New York City, where she continued her studies at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She graduated in 2009.[13] She appeared in her own one-woman show called Weren't You That Girl? while at university.[14]



Wilson became interested in acting after watching her older brother, Danny, appear in television commercials. Initially, Wilson's parents were disinclined, but eventually agreed to allow her to act.[15] After appearing in several commercials for businesses like Lunchables, Bank of America, Texaco, and Marshalls, Wilson was invited to audition for the 1993 comedy film Mrs. Doubtfire. Producers were impressed and awarded her the role of Natalie Hillard. The following year, Wilson appeared in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street.[16] In 1994, she was cast in a recurring role as Nikki Petrova on Melrose Place, and played Barbara Barton in the television film A Time to Heal.

Wilson sang "Make 'Em Laugh" at the 67th Academy Awards broadcast on March 27, 1995, with Tim Curry and Kathy Najimy.[17] In 1995, she won the ShoWest Award for Young Star of the Year. Her film work caught the attention of Danny DeVito, and Wilson was cast as the main protagonist, Matilda Wormwood, in the 1996 film Matilda. Wilson was nominated for three awards for her performance, winning the YoungStar Award for Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Comedy Film. In 1997, she starred in A Simple Wish alongside Martin Short.[18] Although Wilson was nominated for three awards, the film mostly received negative reviews by critics.

In 1997, Wilson went to a table reading for What Dreams May Come starring Robin Williams, but she did not get the part.[19] A year later, Wilson unsuccessfully auditioned for the 1998 remake of Disney's The Parent Trap; the role was given to Lindsay Lohan after Wilson was deemed too young.[20] In 1999, she portrayed Willow Johnson in the 1999 Disney Channel television film Balloon Farm, based on a fiction book.[21] In 2000, Wilson appeared in the fantasy-adventure family film Thomas and the Magic Railroad, which was her last film as a child actor. Wilson retired from film work shortly afterward.[22] Wilson received a film script for the 2001 film Donnie Darko, but she declined to audition for the film.[23]

In 2012, Wilson appeared briefly in one episode of a web series called Missed Connection in the role of Bitty and made special appearances on internet review shows for That Guy with the Glasses—most notably a comedic turn playing an adult Matilda during a review of Matilda by The Nostalgia Chick, Lindsay Ellis. That year, Wilson explained why she quit film acting; "Film acting is not very fun. Doing the same thing over and over again until, in the director's eyes, you 'get it right', does not allow for very much creative freedom. The best times I had on film sets were the times the director let me express myself, but those were rare."[24] However, Wilson made a return to acting in the 2015 comedy-drama film Billie Bob Joe.

Wilson has a recurring role on the podcast Welcome to Night Vale as "The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home", as well as her own storytelling show called What Are You Afraid Of?[25][26] In 2016, Wilson made a brief return to television in a Mrs. Doubtfire-inspired episode of Broad City; she played a waitress where the comical Heimlich scene from the movie was reenacted.[27][28] That same year, she also voiced Jill Pill, a writer/director anthropomorphic spider, in season 3 of BoJack Horseman.[29]


In May 2013, Wilson wrote an article for online magazine, offering her opinion of the delinquency of some former child stars.[30] As of 2013, she worked for Publicolor.[31] Her play Sheeple was produced in 2013 for the New York International Fringe Festival.[32] In an interview that December, Wilson stated that her film acting days are over,[33] and that she is instead focusing on writing.[34] Her book Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame was published on September 13, 2016.[35]

Personal life

At age 12, Wilson was diagnosed with OCD.[36] She has also been diagnosed with ADHD.[37] In 2015, she collaborated with Project UROK, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to aid teens with mental illness.[38] She appeared in a video to discuss the mental illnesses she has experienced, including anxiety, depression, and OCD.[39] She also discussed her history of mental illness on Paul Gilmartin's podcast The Mental Illness Happy Hour.[40]

As of 2013, Wilson resides in Queens, New York.[41] She is bisexual.[42] In a 2019 interview with the website, Wilson stated about her sexuality:

I remember thinking to myself when I was young that bisexuality made more sense to me than being straight or being gay. It made more sense to me intrinsically. I thought, "Well, yeah, it makes sense to me that people would be attracted to more than one kind of person." And I remember having that thought, but thinking: "But that's just sort of an abstract thing; that's not a real thought."

And I remember being attracted to girls and having crushes on girls in middle school, and at a really young age, too. I think that when I was like prepubescent, I didn't really realize that they were crushes. In middle school and high school, I would think that they were crushes, but then be like, "No, of course not, it's something else." I would blame it on something else. It took a really long time.

There were also a lot of reasons I didn't identify with it for a really long time. I think [by] the time I was coming of age in the 2000s, there was sort of this idea of: "you're doing it for attention."[43]

In a 2017 NPR interview, The Simpsons voice actor Nancy Cartwright stated that a young Wilson was the inspiration for a character's voice on the episode "Bart Sells His Soul".[44]

In a 2017 op-ed in Elle magazine, Wilson defended 13-year-old child star Millie Bobby Brown after commentators sexualized Brown's public image.[45][46]

On February 23, 2021, in a The New York Times op-ed, Wilson commented on the documentary Framing Britney Spears, and parallels between their lives as child stars.[47] She described being asked to comment on the burgeoning sexuality of 18-year-old Spears, when she was barely 13. She expressed relief at largely escaping oversexualization of her public image compared to Spears. She described her disappointment when a reporter called her a "spoiled brat" when she honestly stated that she wanted the day off on her 13th birthday instead of granting interviews.[47]

Wilson's maternal cousin is political commentator and media host, Ben Shapiro.[48][49] Wilson has stated in public interviews that she has disavowed her cousin for his political views and the two do not interact. She is a progressive.[50]


1993Mrs. DoubtfireNatalie "Nattie" Hillard
1994Miracle on 34th StreetSusan Walker
1994A Time to Heal Barbara Barton TV film
1996MatildaMatilda Wormwood
1997A Simple WishAnabel Greening
1999 Balloon Farm Willow Johnson TV film
2000Thomas and the Magic RailroadLily Stone
Year Title Role Notes
1993 Melrose Place Nicole "Nikki" Petrova Recurring, 5 episodes
1996 Pearl Samantha Stein Episode: "The Tutor"
1999 Batman Beyond Tamara (voice) Episode: "Mind Games"
2016 Broad City Waitress Episode: "Burning Bridges"
2016 BoJack Horseman Jill Pill (voice) Recurring, 4 episodes, Season 3
2018–19 Big Hero 6: The Series Liv Amara/Diane "Di" Amara (voice) Recurring
2020 The George Lucas Talk Show Herself May the AR Be LI$$ You Arli$$ marathon fundraiser;

The George Lucas Holiday Special

Year Title Role Notes
2012 Nostalgia Critic Herself Episode: "A Simple Wish"[51]
2012 Nostalgia Chick Herself Episode: "Matilda",[52] also writer
2012 Demo Reel Donnie DuPre's wife (voice) Episode: "Lost in Translation (Bromance Version)"
2012 Shut Up and Talk Herself Episode: "Guest: Mara Wilson"
2012 Missed Connection Bitty Episode: "Bad Dates"[53]
2013 Welcome to Night Vale Faceless Old Woman (voice) 10 episodes
2014 Keith and The Girl Herself Episode: "2002: Boobs"[54]
2014 Nostalgia Chick Herself Episode: "Nostalgic Foods of Yore"
2014 Amy Poehler's Smart Girls Herself Episode: "The In Too Steep Tea Party"
2014 Maven of the Eventide Herself Pumpktoberfest Vlogs, Episodes 5 & 12
2014 I Don't Even Own a Television Herself Episode: "016 — Covert Conception (w/ Mara Wilson)"[55]
2015 Keith and The Girl Herself Episode: "2147: Gang Dick"[56]
2015 Gilmore Guys Herself Episode 4.21
2015 That's the Show with Danny Herself Episode: "117: The One with Mara Wilson"[57]
2015, 2017 I Don't Even Own a Television Herself Episodes: "026: Treacherous Love (w/ Mara Wilson)",[58] "081: I'm With the Band (w/ Mara Wilson)"[59]
2016 Mouth Time with Reductress Ruth Hrorgen Mouth Time LIVE! With Mara Wilson[60]
2019 Passenger List N/A Writer of "Cyberspace" (episode 5)
2020 Helluva Boss Mrs. Mayberry Episode: "Murder Family"[61]


  • Cinderella (2005)
  • Weren't You That Girl? (2009)
  • What Are You Afraid Of? (2014)


  • Sheeple (2013)
  • Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame (2016)

Awards and nominations

Year Organization Award Work Result
1995 ShoWest Award Young Star of the Year N/A Won[62]
1996 YoungStar Award Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Comedy Film Matilda Won
Young Artist Award Best Performance in a Feature Film — Leading Young Actress Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Performance by a Younger Actor Nominated
1997 YoungStar Award Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Comedy Film A Simple Wish Nominated
Young Artist Award Best Performance in a Feature Film — Leading Young Actress Won
Saturn Awards Best Performance by a Younger Actor Nominated
2000 YoungStar Award Best Young Actress in a Comedy Film Thomas and the Magic Railroad Nominated
Young Artist Award Best Performance in a Feature Film — Leading Young Actress Nominated


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  2. Kaufman, Amy (September 15, 2016). "Actress Mara Wilson has a memoir. She's not Matilda anymore". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  4. @MaraWritesStuff (May 27, 2012). "I'm half Jewish and a quarter Irish. I BURN. RT @Pixiebybirth Do you burn, tan or none of ze above?" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  5. @MaraWritesStuff (February 2, 2012). "@rare_basement He is short, half-Jewish, dark-haired, acted in an adaptation of a British kids' book and has a nickel allergy. HE IS ME" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  6. Mara Wilson Interview Pt. 2 — Running Late with Scott Rogowsky on YouTube
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  37. Wilson, Mara (May 19, 2015). "Kill Me Now with Judy Gold - Episode 3". Omny Studio (Interview). Interviewed by Judy Gold. Archived from the original on April 16, 2018. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
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  44. Prescott, Julia; Goertz, Allie (August 8, 2017). "Allie Goertz and Julia Prescott interview comics, writers, animators and show creators about their favorite episode of "The Simpsons."". Feral Audio. Archived from the original on August 8, 2017.
  45. Mara Wilson (November 14, 2017). "Matilda Actress Mara Wilson: A 13-Year-Old Girl Is Not 'All Grown Up'". Elle magazine. Retrieved February 25, 2021. As soon as I’d hit puberty, it had become okay for strangers to discuss my body. Every time I stumbled across an article about myself, every fear I had about my pubescent body was confirmed: I was 'ugly,' which as a woman, made me useless, or I was 'cute,' which made me an object. I was 'grown up,' which made me vulnerable. Because I was a child actor, my body was public domain.
  46. Zoë Weiner (November 16, 2017). "Mara Wilson Defends "Stranger Things" Star Millie Bobby Brown In a Powerful Essay". Teen Vogue. Retrieved February 25, 2021. Last week, a grown man tweeted a photo of Millie dressed up for a premiere noting that the actress 'just grew up in front of our eyes,' and Mara says that it made her feel 'sick' and 'furious.'
  47. Mara Wilson (February 23, 2021). "The Lies Hollywood Tells About Little Girls". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 24, 2021. Retrieved February 25, 2021. I learned I would be talking to reporters all day. Working on my birthday wasn’t new to me — I had celebrated my eighth birthday on the set of “Matilda” and my ninth filming 'A Simple Wish' — but this was still disappointing.
  48. McNamara, Neal (January 24, 2014). "Justin Bieber a symptom of a big problem". KTTH. Archived from the original on July 3, 2015. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
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  59. "081 — I'm with the Band (w/ Mara Wilson)". i don't even own a television. May 14, 2017. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  60. "Episode: "Mouth Time LIVE! With Mara Wilson"". Mouth Time with Reductress. June 1, 2016. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  61. Wilson, Mara [@MaraWilson] (October 31, 2020). "What a lovely teacher!" (Tweet). Archived from the original on November 1, 2020. Retrieved November 1, 2020 via Twitter.
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