Mena Suvari tells HELLO! Online why she doesn't take her career for granted

In the 16 years since Mena Suvari found fame in American Pie and Oscar-winning drama American Beauty, Hollywood has changed dramatically – and the star understands that she can never take her career for granted.

"I feel very lucky that I get to do what I do and to have the opportunity to choose the things I want to be a part of," she told HELLO! Online in an exclusive interview.

"It's really important to me to be positive about it, but it does take work and effort, it’s not like I sit back and things happen."

Mena Suvari in 2014

The world was Mena's for the taking after she starred alongside Kevin Spacey in Sam Mendes drama American Beauty. She found herself nominated for Best Actress at the BAFTA Awards in 2000, but a run of films followed which failed to perform at the box office, such as Sugar and Spice and The Musketeer.

"I try to do the best with what comes my way and this business is very unpredictable," she adds. Her latest film, Badge of Honour, features the actress as Jessica Dawson, who in Mena's own words is "a very strong independent cerebral woman, and ultimately is trying to do the right thing and to help this family".

The film follows two narcotics detectives, who find themselves investigating the death of a child following a violent drug bust. It co-stars The West Wing's Martin Sheen - "the nicest guy, he is so professional" - and Mena is proud of being part of the film.

Mena Suvari stars alongside Martin Sheen and Jesses Bradford in Badge of Honour

"Working on this crime thriller was really [about] being able to play a strong women like [Jessica Dawson], and I was very honoured that Agustin (the director) saw that in me, the ability to play her."

Also coming up for Mena is TV show South of Hell. "I had always wanted to work in the horror genre, so it was so much fun for me," Mena revealed. "It was fantastic... James Manos Jr who created Dexter, and working with Ti West, and Jen Lynch, and being with these amazing producers and directors..."

The 35-year-old has switched between the big and small screen for years, with notable appearances on Chicago Fire and Six Feet Under. She adds: "I feel lucky that I'm able to look back and say that I have worked on a variety of characters and roles but that’s something that happened over time based on my passion and my drive for what I want to do."

Mena Suvari plays a detective caught up in an investigation following the death of a child in Badge of Honour

Does Mena has a preference for one format over the other? After a long pause, she admits that, no, it's always been the character that draws her to a story. "For me it was never so black and white that one is better than the other," she says.

"I always try to follow the story and the character, and that opened me up to whatever medium it happens to fall in. I think it’s just all learning at the end of the day, and if it gives me the opportunity to, I think learn more about what I do.

"I feel like it’s made me a better actor because I’ve been put in so many different types of situations."

With Kevin Spacey in 2000's American Beauty

When quizzed about the current crop of awards nominees, Mena reflects on her experience, but is hesitant to single out any particular nominee for attention. "It is an exciting time and it’s always wonderful to be acknowledged for the work you do. But it’s hard for me because I don’t necessarily believe in choosing one (candidate) that’s better than the other.

"I feel like we all deserve something in our own right, and as far as the politics of it all, I don’t buy into it."

She makes specific mention of Reese Witherspoon though: "I really have enjoyed the films that Reese Witherspoon has been a part of, and what she’s done in this industry. I would love to work with someone like her," which leads us to asking if there is anyone else she'd love to work with.

"Working on South of Hell, I got the chance to work with Jen Lynch, David Lynch’s daughter, and she’s just a phenomenal woman and a fantastic director and I’d love to do a film with her one day. Being able to work with really fantastic and strong women, is something I’d love to do more of."

With Chris Klein in 2012's American Reunion, the fourth instalment in the American Pie series

Strong female figures have been a constant theme in Mena's life, and she also spends time working with various charities, some specifically concerned with women's issues.

"I've been really blessed with what’s been given to me and so I look at is as, whatever I can do to influence someone else’s life, and make things better, then I should do that." She adds: "I’ve been given so much so I like to give back, for whatever its worth."

Positivity appears to be Mena's mantra as she looks to the future. "Things are going in a fantastic direction. I feel really blessed," she says.

Badge of Honour is available on VOD now