Here’s What Happened To Tina Majorino After She Played Enola In ’90s Sci-Fi Epic Waterworld

Tina Majorino launched to worldwide fame before the age of ten, and she became something of an on-screen fixture in the mid-1990s. But after playing Enola in the post-apocalyptic blockbuster Waterworld, the youngster decided that it was high time to take a break from the world of Hollywood. And it turns out that she had good reason, too.

After all, by taking on a role in Waterworld – at the time, the costliest film ever made – Majorino was subject to more scrutiny than ever before. And when the post-apocalyptic epic starring Kevin Costner failed to meet the audience’s expectations, she struggled to deal with the fallout. By the time the actor reached her teens, in fact, she was suffering from total burnout.

Thankfully, unlike a number of stars who had to grapple with fame at a young age, Majorino didn’t allow her story to end in tragedy. And after taking a hiatus from the acting industry, she then bounced back onto screens in the mid-00’s with style – and looked stunning. So let’s take a closer look at her journey as well as the movie that defined the actor’s early career.

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Born in the Californian city of Westlake in 1985, Tina Majorino began her acting career at the age of just seven in Camp Wilder. Yes, the youngster took on the role of Sophie Wilder, appearing alongside Jerry O’Connell in the ABC show. But the family sitcom failed to connect with a U.S. audience and was taken off air after just a single season.

Majorino soon put that disappointment behind her, though, as she landed her first film role in 1994. The child star played nine-year-old Jess – the daughter of Meg Ryan’s alcoholic school counselor – in emotive drama When a Man Loves a Woman. And following this, the fledgling actor enjoyed a glut of good fortune.

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In that same year, in fact, Majorino shared the screen with none other than Oscar-winner Whoopi Goldberg in 1950s-set drama Corrina, Corrina. The youngster took on the role of Molly, the daughter of Ray Liotta’s grieving widower. And her character’s touching relationship with Goldberg’s nanny arguably gave the tale much of its heart.

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Shortly after that, Majorino landed her first leading lady role in heartwarming family flick Andre. The actor starred as Toni, a seven-year-old who forms a close bond with the titular seal. And the 1994 film was actually adapted from Lew Dietz and Harry Goodridge’s true-life tale, A Seal Called Andre.

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However, it was Majorino’s next role that promised to take her career to another level. You see, in 1995 she starred alongside Kevin Costner in Waterworld – a post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick that made headlines for its gigantic budget. As the blockbuster cost around a staggering $175 million, it was – back then – the priciest film to have been produced in Hollywood’s history.

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And Waterworld’s futuristic oceanic setting is no doubt one of the reasons that it cost so much to make. According to the movie’s production designer Dennis Glasner, you see, Waterworld is set somewhere around the year 2500. The film also depicts an Earth that’s been devastated by rising sea levels that have left the majority of the planet submerged in water. But this outlandish premise seemingly wasn’t set to be the film’s sole draw.

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No, the studio no doubt hoped that the movie’s A-list cast would attract audiences. And one star in particular was presumably sure to bring in in the crowds: Kevin Costner. Costner was the film’s leading man, portraying an anti-hero drifter known simply as The Mariner who sails around the world bartering with soil in his trimaran ship. In this futuristic world of water, you see, dirt has become the number one commodity. However, it was another – much younger – actor whose character is arguably more pivotal to the plot.

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Majorino played Enola: a young girl who has become a target for a villainous pirate gang led by Dennis Hopper’s The Deacon. But why has the youngster attracted these hoodlums’ attention? Well, rumor has it that the character’s back is tattooed with directions to the mythological place known as Dryland. And after Enola’s guardian, Helen, saves The Mariner from the gang’s clutches, the pair work together to protect their young charge at all costs.

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By the time that the movie arrived in cinemas in 1995, though, Waterworld had already developed a troublesome reputation. For one, the film had far exceeded its initial $100 million budget – racking up a further $75 million or so in additional costs. But at least some of this extra expenditure was out of the studio’s hands entirely: a hurricane actually ripped through parts of the expensive set during filming, requiring pricy repairs.

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And to make matters worse, Costner nearly lost his life while filming one particularly hair-raising scene. The A-lister actually got into some serious trouble while attached to his ship’s mast when a powerful gale whipped up around him. Luckily, the star was able to see out the storm and was finally brought to safety once it had died down. He was, however, also reportedly responsible for causing many of the film’s problems himself.

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Indeed, it’s been said that the Oscar winner interfered so much behind the scenes that director Kevin Reynolds apparently felt he had no option but to quit. Costner also reportedly didn’t respond warmly to Mark Isham’s original score as he branded it “too bleak” and so another composer was drafted in to replace him. Joss Whedon – who was brought on to help rewrite the script in the later stages of production – later described his stint on the film as “seven weeks of hell.”

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Inevitably, the critics were more than ready to stick the knife in once the movie eventually hit theaters. In fact, Waterworld was even compared to notorious costly flops Heaven’s Gate and Ishtar at the time of its release. But although the movie failed to set the box office on fire, it was far from the commercial disaster that many had expected.

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Sure, Waterworld’s worldwide tally of $264 million may pale in comparison to the likes of Titanic, which took more than a billion dollars just two years later. But it was far from a box office bomb. And thanks to its sales on home video and the money that came in via TV rights, the movie did in fact turn a profit.

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So perhaps the fairest review of the movie comes from critical aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The site’s brief summary of the flick reads, “Although it suffered from toxic buzz at the time of its release, Waterworld is ultimately an ambitious misfire: an extravagant sci-fi flick with some decent moments – and a lot of silly ones.”

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Yet even though Waterworld is now seemingly less maligned, at the time the negative publicity surrounding the movie sadly had a devastating impact on a number of its stars’ careers. Costner, for one, took a few years to recover from the double whammy of Waterworld and the similarly reviled The Postman. And after a promising start to Majorino’s big-screen career, the young actor moved into the world of TV movies.

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In fact, it would be nearly a decade before Majorino graced the silver screen again. Following Waterworld’s release, you see, Majorino appeared in TV movies Before Women Had Wings and True Women as well as the festive special Merry Christmas, George Bailey. And 1997’s Santa Fe – a thriller about a dangerous cult – went straight to video.

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Majorino did enjoy a brief return to center stage, though, when she took the lead in 1999 TV movie Alice in Wonderland. Yes, the teen played the titular character in NBC’s adaptation of the classic Lewis Carroll tale. And she once again shared the screen with her Corrina, Corrina co-star Whoopi Goldberg in the four-time Emmy-winning production.

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Alice in Wonderland, however, was the last time that Majorino appeared on screen for five years. You see, the teen was exhausted from seven years of working in Hollywood and opted to take a break from showbiz. She returned, then, to the type of everyday life enjoyed by teenagers across America – a decision that the former child star later described as the smartest thing she’d ever done.

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Majorino expanded further on her reasons for taking time out in a 2006 interview with Pop Gurls. She said, “It’s so important to have a good sense of self – especially in this business. There’s a lot of rejection, and there’s a lot of BS that goes on in Hollywood. And you have to have a good head on your shoulders. You have to know yourself well enough to know what you can take and what you can’t.

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“I didn’t have that at the time – and I knew that,” Majorino continued. “That’s why I wanted to take the time off. I knew that I couldn’t make it in the industry if I didn’t get a bit of real life experience. And I knew I would regret it if I didn’t take the time, because you’re only a kid once, and my main priority is to have a good quality of life.”

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Majorino added, “I wanted to get to a point where I was confident enough in myself that even if I didn’t get a job that I really wanted, it didn’t turn around on me to the point where I [became] depressed… I wanted to make sure that I was in that place, mentally, for myself before I came back.” And in 2004, she appeared to have successfully cultivated this mindset.

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Yes, 2004 was the year that Majorino returned to our screens in the oddball indie comedy Napoleon Dynamite. Still in her teens, the star played Deborah “Deb” Bradshaw, a reserved high schooler and entrepreneur who becomes friends with the eponymous nerd. The film enjoyed a much better critical reception than Waterworld and is still widely regarded as a cult classic.

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That same year, Majorino also returned to the small screen with a guest spot on Without a Trace. What’s more, the actor went on to cement her triumphant comeback by nabbing a recurring role on Veronica Mars, where she played the titular character’s computer-expert friend Cindy ‘Mac’ Mackenzie for 34 episodes. And in 2014 Majorino returned to the part of ‘Mac’ once again, appearing in the movie that was based on the show.

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Rather impressively, too, Majorino’s role in Veronica Mars was designed specifically for her. Indeed, showrunner Rob Thomas created the part for the actor having previously met her when she was only 11 years old. A young Majorino had once quizzed Thomas for a school assignment about his book, Rats Saw God, you see – and clearly made a lasting impression on the Hollywood creative.

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Majorino’s comeback continued when she landed a part in Big Love, the HBO drama about a polygamous family in Utah. In this show, Majorino played Heather Tuttle, the best friend of young Sarah Henrickson and eventual spouse of her brother, Ben. The show also featured Majorino’s Waterworld co-star Jeanne Tripplehorn in its main cast.

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But Majorino didn’t restrict herself to solely appearing in Big Love – far from it. After all, during the actor’s five-year stint on the show, she also appeared as drummer Michelle Baer Ghaffari in What We Do Is Secret – a biopic focused on The Germs’ frontman, Darby Crash. Majorino also secured guest spots on popular procedurals Castle and Bones. And in 2010 she was cast as first-year associate Addy Fisher in short-lived legal drama The Deep End.

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Two years later, Majorino revisited her Napoleon Dynamite character, voicing Deb in the show’s animated spin-off. That same year, the actor also ventured into Louisiana’s vampiric town of Bon Temps when she took on the role of bloodsucker Molly in the fifth season of True Blood. And she added to her filmography, too, nabbing a part in ensemble dramedy Should’ve Been Romeo.

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In 2012 Majorino also joined the cast of long-running medical drama Grey’s Anatomy for its ninth season. But her stint on the show proved to be a relatively short one. Indeed, after just 22 episodes, her character, Dr. Heather Brooks, was killed off in dramatic fashion. In the season ten opener, you see, the intern suffered a fatal brain bleed after being electrocuted and hitting her head on a generator box.

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A year later, Majorino landed the role of Maggie Harris in TNT crime drama Legends. The actor played the most inexperienced member of the FBI’s Division of Covert Operations who soon becomes renowned for her impressive data analysis skills. Sadly, though, she didn’t return for the final second season.

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In 2017 Majorino was cast as a chemist called Florence ‘Flo’ Tipton in the fourth – and final – season of action drama Scorpion and appeared in 12 episodes. And although her character was initially met with suspicion by the main gang, she eventually became accepted by the group. But just three years earlier, the star had revealed some home truths about how she felt about acting.

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In a 2014 interview with Collider, Majorino expressed how grateful she was for her career. She revealed, “Just the fact that I get to wake up every day and do what I love for a living, in and of itself, is incredible, and I never take it for granted. I always feel so lucky and so blessed that I get to do this for a living.”

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Majorino also spoke about the fandom that she’d experienced with the likes of Veronica Mars and Napoleon Dynamite. She confessed, “That’s the most special thing – ever – to me. I could cry over it. It’s such an amazing feeling. Obviously, as a creative person in any realm, nobody makes art just for their own enjoyment. You want to create with other people, and you want them to feel something. The fact that I get to experience that is just unbelievable.”

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But despite the fact that Majorino is now in her 30s, she admits that she’s still more recognized for her performance in Waterworld than any of her other roles. In a 2015 interview with Newsweek to celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary, the actor said, “It’s always funny for me now that I’m an adult. People are like, ‘You look exactly the same.’ Especially when I cut my hair short.”

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And despite the drama surrounding Waterworld, Majorino revealed that she has plenty of fond memories of working on the film. She told Newsweek that she particularly enjoyed surfing with the stuntmen, admitting, “I was terrible at it. But they got me real used to being in the ocean.”

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However, the movie’s watery setting did cause some problems. Majorino said, “I was stung seven times – to the point where Kevin Costner was calling me ‘Jellyfish.’ It seemed like anytime we were in the water for extended periods of time, I was stung… It’s scary being in the middle of the ocean as well, because it’s so unpredictable.”

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Majorino also addressed the negative reviews that were published at the time of the film’s release. “I knew about them,” she admitted. “We laughed, but I noticed it made everyone in charge nervous. For lack of a better term, people were trying to sink our movie before it even was finished.”

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And in a 2014 interview with Bello magazine, Majorino couldn’t praise her co-star Kevin Costner enough. She told the publication, “No matter how crazy everything off the set became, he showed up to work every day just wanting to do the best work possible. He loves doing this just for the sake of doing it, and every time [that I’ve collaborated with someone] who has had that mentality, it’s always been a fulfilling experience.” Clearly, then, Waterworld still has a special place in Majorino’s heart. And even if the movie that first launched the former child star to fame was disliked, her fans continue to hold her in high regard.

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