Previously Known For: As Lucy Hatcher on The Practice and as Gia Mahan on Full House
|Currently Known For: As Gia Mahan on Fuller House|
“The most frustrating thing for me as a singer is that people have pinpointed me as an actress who suddenly woke up one day and decided that I wanted to sing.” The daughter of a podiatrist and a caterer, Marla Lynne Sokoloff made her grand debut into the world on December 19, 1980 in San Francisco, California. As a youngster growing up, Sokoloff tuned in week after week to watch her favorite afternoon sitcom, Full House, and dreamed of one day seeing her own name in the credits. Fortunately, Sokoloff wouldn’t have to wait long as she learned the basics of the business in local theater and was soon approached by an agent.
With her mom arguing that she was too young to sign on with an agent, Sokoloff refused to let her dreams go and spent the next year and a half begging her mother to move to Los Angeles. “I really want to go to LA because I want to do TV and movies,” Sokoloff recalls telling her mother. Eventually, her mother agreed to move to Los Angeles for pilot season; little did she realize that Hollywood would become their new home.
Once in Los Angeles, Sokoloff enrolled at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and auditioned for every part she could find. At 12 years old, she made her television debut on an episode of Boy Meets World and, weeks later, saw her biggest dream come true when she was cast as Gia Mahan, Stephanie Tanner’s archenemy turned best friend, on Full House. “It was crazy and really exciting because this was my very first big job,” Sokoloff said. “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.”
Thrilled with her recurring role on Full House and the chance to explore her own rebellious side thanks to Gia, Sokoloff made guest appearances on popular series like Step By Step and Home Improvement. Then, after wrapping up Full House in 1995, she made her silver screen debut in The Baby-Sitters Club and snagged a recurring role as Jody Lynch in seven episodes of Party of Five. Adding in credits in 3rd Rock from the Sun and 7th Heaven, she had a regular role in Over the Top but was looking to establish herself as a more serious actor when she auditioned for an opening in the popular legal drama, The Practice, in 1998.
“The purpose of being on The Practice, this ‘adult’ show was to introduce myself to a different audience,” Sokoloff said after spending six seasons on the series and starring in Dude, Where’s My Car? “Now that I’ve established that, I feel like it’s a good idea to start branching out in movies too. But, teen movies are a huge genre and that’s all the scripts I read. That choice is hard: should I be out of a job? Or should I do another teen movie? I’m 20, but the girl who played my sister in Dude, Where’s My Car? is 28! Oh my gosh! There’s so much pressure, though, to strike it while you’re hot, and to have things lined up all the time. So, it’s good to have the TV series, to know you have a job until 2004, working with a group of people you really like, on great episodes. But, it’s also good to do movies and explore other things too.”
Determined to make the transition from teen to adult actress, Sokoloff wrapped up The Practice in 2004 and broke off her five-year relationship with James Franco after meeting on the set of Whatever It Takes in 1999. She appeared in episodes of Desperate Housewives and Modern Men while finding love a second time with Deadsy drummer Alec Puro in 2004. Amid her growing romance with Puro, she starred in the short-lived series Big Day in 2006 and briefly turned her attention to her music with the release of her debut solo album, Grateful. “I was attached to a TV show that had a music component through Maverick records, so I got a record deal,” Sokoloff said of the experience. “Then, Maverick folded so the show didn't go. I was left with all 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 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.”
Setting her music career aside, Sokoloff went on to appear in episodes of Burn Notice, Drop Dead Diva and CSI: New York while adding in credits in television films and miniseries like Meteor, Maneater, Flower Girl, Gift of the Magi and A Christmas Wedding Date. As for her career on the silver screen, she enjoyed minor roles in Sugar & Spice, Love on the Side, The Tollbooth and Play the Game, the latter of which starred Doris Roberts and Andy Griffith.
In November 2009, Sokoloff tied the knot with Puro and spent the next few years working before starting a family with the birth of their daughter, Elliotte Anne, in 2012. Three years later, they added to their family with the birth of daughter Olive Mae. “I had hoped that I’d have at least one girl,” Sokoloff said of being a girl mom. “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.”
Embracing her role as a mother and even sharing her experience as a celebrity blogger for People magazine, the 37-year-old Sokoloff still finds time to pursue her passion for acting with her most recent credits in Melissa & Joey, The Fosters, Grey’s Anatomy and Hot in Cleveland. Then, in 2017, she received the call of a lifetime when she was invited to reprise her role as Gia on Fuller House. Still in the recurring role today, Sokoloff says motherhood has certainly added to her career and her perspective. “Honestly, I used to cry for an hour or two if I didn’t get a part,” she says. “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!”