Laura Harrison, a versatile actress, made a cool impression in the recent TV film “Jersey Shore Shark Attack”. When not being attacked by killer sharks, she enjoys yoga, choreographing, and making smoothies. She hails from Chicago, where she earned her degree in Theatre from Northwestern University.
Interviewed by Stephen M. Thompson, Ph.D.
Welcome to OpenBeast. Tell us about yourself.
Thank you! Well, I am originally from Chicago, where I started acting professionally when I was ten years old. I’m lucky to have two loving parents and a sister, who still live there. Chicago is still a big part of my life, though I’m excited by the adventure I’m having in California. Also, I was mostly raised vegan, and have kept with an “organic” eating-style, so to speak (aside from a rebellious period during college), and California is pretty good to health-foodies.
How and why did you enter into acting?
I spent most of my childhood either onstage or backstage of Chicago theaters, and learned a lot of what I know about acting from the talented adults I got the privilege of working alongside. My first professional show was a production of “The Secret Garden” when I was ten. It was produced by Apple Tree Theatre, a long-standing company in Highland Park (the suburb I’m from) that folded a few years ago, and was reborn into The Music Theatre Company, of which I am actually an associate artist. I worked in TV, film and professional theater for a number of years as a kid, but took a leave from the union when I turned eighteen to work in Chicago’s edgy storefront theater scene, and study at Northwestern University. I rejoined the union after college, and worked in Chicago for a few more years before moving to Los Angeles with my musician husband, Keith Harrison. I guess I feel like, while I’ve been an “actress” for most of my life, I’ve re-entered the field several times in different ways.
Talk to us about your role in “Your Friends Close”.
“Your Friends Close” is an independent science fiction feature-length drama that centers around two video game designers-slash-lovers, who have been invited to Paris to complete work on a kind of conceptual technology they’ve developed that could change the world in a profound — and perhaps frightening — way. Over the course of the night of their going-away party, this technology is released upon them and their guests. I play one of the guests: a programmer named Mel, who’s a lower level game tech with high aspirations. Personal and professional betrayal play a big part in my arc, and in the film in general. I don’t want to say too much more than that! The team is finishing post-production this month, I believe, so it should be hitting the festival circuit in the next couple months.
What has been your biggest gig thus far?
Well, as I mentioned earlier, my career has gone through different phases. On one hand, I’ve been fortunate to have been a part of many great theatrical productions that played to regional audiences. Some favorite performance experiences of mine include Ibsen’s “The Wild Duck” with Court Theatre, in which I got to play a very twisted teenager, Mary Zimmerman’s sweepingly beautiful “Pericles” at Goodman Theatre, and Frank Galati’s Chicago production of “Ragtime,” which played at the newly restored, historic Oriental Theatre. On a national scale, I was a guest star on an episode of the CBS drama series, “Early Edition”, starring Kyle Chandler, in which I spent most of the episode in tears because Luis Guzmán had taken my mother hostage in our own home. Since moving to L.A., “Jersey Shore Shark Attack” has definitely been the most visible project I’ve worked on.
Any upcoming initiatives/projects you would like to discuss?
I just finished working on a reading of a new Donald Margulies play at Geffen Playhouse, which was a lot of fun, and I am choreographing a play called “The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love-Suicide” with Coeurage Theatre Company that opens in September. The film company my husband and I started, Arborhouse Productions, which released a well-received short called “Seaglass” last year, is currently developing a TV series and a music video. And the two completed, unreleased projects I’m excited about are “Your Friends Close”, of course, and also a romantic comedy called “One Small Hitch” that was filmed in both Chicago and L.A., and stars Daniel J. Travanti, among others.
Describe your passion for acting.
I love becoming other people and telling their stories. When I was twelve, I was given Uta Hagen’s book “A Challenge For the Actor”, and it made a profound impact on the way I thought about acting. I started using “sense memory” and putting my own experiences into the character’s situation. As I got a little older, I started veering away from that and began trusting in my ability to become the character herself (or himself). Of course, I always bring myself to any character I portray, but I find it’s more about transformation now. And, as always, that childhood impulse to “play dress-up” is still a big part of it. I loved applying huge fake nails and getting all bronzed up to play D’Angela in “Jersey Shore Shark Attack”.
What are your leisure time activities?
I like making smoothies, taking yoga classes, going to the beach, and seeing movies with friends. I also love to read and am very grateful for my library card.
Dogs or cats?
I love both, but I did have a couple cats growing up, so I’m partial to the felines. I don’t have any animals right now, though. Our schedules are pretty busy, so we’re just working on keeping the house plants alive at the moment.
For more details, visit www.thisislaura.com.