MAYA ERSKINE KILLS it in Prime Video’s latest drama series, Mr. & Mrs Smith. But, that isn’t anything new for the 14-year acting veteran, except for the accidental bombing and assassin-precise shooting she does in the show.
In the TV show based on the 2005 action rom-com of the same name, Erskine plays a mercurial CIA reject who joins a morally dubious spy organization vaguely referred to as The Company. Assuming the same Jane Smith name as Angelina Jolie in the film version and every other female spy in the organization, Erskine is a walking psych evaluation. The CIA didn’t accept her because of antisocial tendencies; her ex-partner described her as “numb and manipulative,” and she’s never said she’s loved someone, especially not her estranged father. All those character flaws make for one badass spy.
Acting opposite the unorthodox cool of Donald Glover, who plays her spy partner and prearranged husband, John Smith, Erskine adds depth to the spy archetype by connecting it with a relatable brand of neurosis. Her unspoken fear of lacking control manifests in a domineering personality that will unexpectedly kill intended targets when she feels John is taking too long and will also instruct him on how to please her orally. But that fear also makes her laser-focused on every detail, from her hostage’s emotional temperament to John lying about liking the same book as her months earlier. She’s deadpan, not because she lacks emotions, but because she cares enough to understand the volatile nature of unchecked feelings. And that’s apparent more because of Erskine’s nuanced performance and less because of the stellar writing of the series.
The body dismemberment and bloody espionage may be a steep departure from Erskine’s typical brand of awkward and crass humor. But, if you saw her before Mr. & Mrs. Smith, you’d understand she could act in anything.
Before Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Maya Erskine was a TV dual threat on shows PEN15 and Blue Eye Samurai
Erskine is the rare acting talent who drew attention to her work whether you saw her face or not. She co-created and starred in Hulu’s absurdist comedy PEN15, a cult favorite where she plays a 13-year-old nerd navigating the social landmines of middle school. She was already familiar to Prime Video subscribers for her role as profane programmer Mikki on the Silicon Valley satire Betas. She only appeared in a handful of episodes of Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, but still played a key role as Jedi smuggler Sully Stark. On the big screen, she was one of the leads (opposite Jack Quaid) in Plus One, which is one of the best romcoms to come out in the last decade; the movie is hilarious and crass, but also comes with fantastic characters and a ton of heart. Anyone who likes the genre will enjoy the movie, and see Erskine’s charm on full display.
Still, she left an indelible imprint on the memories of anyone who watched her.
Those who may have never seen Erskine on-screen remember her voice. She has a prolific career as a voice actress for numerous well-received animated TV shows, including the sensational Netflix original Blue Eye Samurai, where she voices the character of Mizu, the bloody epic’s mixed-race protagonist who has earned rave reviews. You’ve also heard her in a few episodes of Bob’s Burgers as Kaylee, Big Mouth as Misha, Bojack Horseman as Ivy Tran, and DC League of Super-Pets as Mercy Graves. She’s been more prominent in the animated field than anywhere else over the last few years, and plans to continue her mix of voice acting and on-screen roles in the future.
You’ll see her next starring alongside Michael Cera in the upcoming film Sacramento
It’s been over three years since the film was announced, but the upcoming comedy Sacramento is about two friends going on a road trip from Los Angeles to Sacramento to patch up their strained friendship. Erskine will play Tallie, the wife of one of the road-tripping friends, Rickey, who is played by her real-life husband, Michael Angarano. Little more is known about the film that wrapped up filming in 2023. Michael Cera, who audiences last saw as Allan in Barbie, will play Rickey’s friend, Glenn, with Kristen Stewart playing his wife, Rosie. Very little is known about when the film will come out, but if Erskine is in it, we’ll be ready to watch.
Keith Nelson is a writer by fate and journalist by passion, who has connected dots to form the bigger picture for Men’s Health, Vibe Magazine, LEVEL MAG, REVOLT TV, Complex, Grammys.com, Red Bull, Okayplayer, and Mic, to name a few.