Lauren Salandra started her journey to stardom in an Southwestern Pennsylvania town and has followed her dream all the way to Hollywood. She has shined in every role she has taken, and in the process has showed off a multitude of talent. Lauren has a varied resume, and has been everything from a foreboding zombie live on stage in Hollywood to a rejected Romney voter in a viral video online. She talks to OpenBeast about her path to acting and where she wants to go next.
Interviewed by Jessica Rock
Tell me a little bit about where you grew up. How did this place and time influence your acting?
I grew up just south of Pittsburgh, PA in a place called Peters Township. I had a lot of really close childhood friends that I used to play with. I remember moving into the neighborhood and almost right away got invited to perform ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in someone’s basement for the whole neighborhood. At one point, my friends, my brother, and I taped a murder mystery and invited all our friends and family to come and watch and vote who they thought the killer was. I suppose I had never thought of it before, but living in that neighborhood with those kids, it really brought forward a lot of crazy characters and imagination. We were constantly creating and shooting these funny little videos and would force our parents to watch them.
When did you know you wanted to pursue acting? Was it one moment of clarity, or did it develop slowly?
I think I always knew I wanted to be an actor. When I was really young I’d say I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I think that is something every kid says. Deep down I always knew there was really only one thing I wanted to do; it was all I had ever done as a kid. For as long as I can remember, my brother and I were making videos and putting on plays. My dad had a lot to do with that. He used to videotape my brother and I while we made up songs for him or he’d play the piano and we’d dance and act out a scene to the music. I never played sports in school, and I would drop anything and everything to do school plays.
Tell me a little about your acting experience before you came to LA.
I acted in everything I could get my hands on as a kid. I started in elementary school with tiny choir plays, then went straight on through college in much more R rated productions. I was such a ham. There is a video of me as a kid knocking down a microphone in the middle of a show, and while everyone scrambled to fix things, I kept marching on, doing my part. My family still quotes me as Suzy Snowflake – my solo during my 4th grade choir concert. In middle school, I used my first accent and never looked back. I discovered what it was to be a character and used accents in at least 12 shows in a row after that.
High School was when I discovered my love of singing and musicals. I used to laugh along with everyone else about how long the song ‘Bali Hai’ was from the musical ‘South Pacific’, but truth be told, I soaked in all 6 minutes every time I sang it. College opened a whole new world of people and theater to me and I knew I couldn’t pretend there was anything else out there for me. I majored in Video Production, but was in more films than I actually produced.
What made you want to move to LA?
My dad insisted I move to NYC, but I went to LA instead. I think a huge part of that was because it was where my brother lived. Another part was how terrified I was at the thought of living in New York. I guess I just figured I had a better shot at ‘making it’ in LA than I did in New York. It felt like somehow I’d get more opportunities. I’ve learned that is true in some ways, but not all. I’m certainly glad I came here… I can safely say that now. I love it here for reasons unbeknownst to me. It’s a pretty crazy city, but then again I’m a pretty crazy girl, so it fits.
What do you love most about your adopted hometown of Los Angeles?
I think my favorite thing about LA is that I’m so close to everything. I can go to Griffith Observatory and see the city, the ocean, and snow capped mountains, all at the same time. There just seems to be opportunities for everyone to be whatever they want and do whatever they love no matter who they are or who they were back home.
Tell me about your acting experience in LA. What are you currently working on?
Acting in LA has become more of a business than anything else. It is kind of sad, actually… you come out here with all this passion and creativity inside you and you learn very quickly that there is so much more involved than simply being able to act. You need to present yourself in a specific way at all times and you need to quickly discover what that specific type is that you need to sell yourself as. I have naturally dark brown, curly hair and now my hair is red and straight. It is such a huge change, but is working well for me.
Most of this year I spent working on a musical parody of Romeo and Juliet called ‘The People v. Friar Laurence.’ I was thrilled to be in a musical again, as it had been 3 years since I was in a musical. I worked with such an incredible group of people and it showed me good theater can be found in LA.
Right now, I am focusing on getting more commercial work and getting back into the comedy scene. I studied at Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) for awhile and am looking into switching over to the Groundlings. I am also spending a lot of time with my sketch comedy group, Olde School Peep Show. We are in the process of creating an internet presence through YouTube and other social networking sites. Right now, we release at least one video every Wednesday, with a current focus on the political debates. We also do stage shows every few weeks, our next being a holiday themed show coming up in December. Please see the website for more information.
What is your proudest acting achievement so far?
That is a toss up and I guess all depends on which way you’re looking at things. One proud moment would be performing in the musical. I rediscovered my love of character work and singing and got more positive feedback than on any other project I had done since moving to LA. It also helped remind me to find joy in my work. So often actors in LA get caught up in the business of everything, that acting becomes about the money and not about the love of the job. I didn’t get paid anything for the musical, in fact, you could say I lost money doing it, but it made me so ridiculously happy.
The second would be my booking on Jay Leno. I t wasn’t that the part was challenging in anyway, but it was my first time having exposure on national television. It was something I could share with my family and friends back East as well; it was something we could all be proud of together. It was also live television which I have a lot of experience with and it felt great to be back there. My biggest dream has always been to be on a sitcom with a live studio audience. No feeling can ever compare to performing in front of an audience.
How was it having your own dressing room at Leno? Were you nervous?
Having my own dressing room on Leno was so completely unexpected and really just the icing on the cake. I expected to sit in a big green room with a bunch of other actors, just waiting to be called to set. And my NAME was on the door. It just made me feel like I was important to these people and not just another actor coming through and getting in their way.
I was extremely nervous at first. I just wanted to do a good job, make a good impression. I relaxed almost right away because everyone was so ridiculously nice to me. I made friends with some of the writers and Jay came right up and introduced himself to me. After the rehearsal I saw him in the hallway and he smiled at me and said, “Hey, there she is.” I guess it’s always the little things for me. Overall, it was one of my happiest moments in my career. Just to have those 15 minutes, not even of fame, as no one watching even knew I was an actor, but just to say, hey, I did the work that needed to be done to get here and I deserve to soak this in and enjoy it.
Tell me about your goals for the next 5 years.
There are so many things I would like to accomplish in the next 5 years. First and foremost would be leaving my serving jobs behind. I didn’t move to LA to become famous, that has never been a goal of mine, but rather just to support myself and live a comfortable life doing what I love. If I can continue to get steady work, even just in commercials, and then do theater for free on the side, I think I’d be pretty content. The beauty of this job is that you never know who you are going to meet and where that will take you. There are plenty of things I’d like to accomplish in the next 5 years, but keeping my sanity and my happiness is probably the most important.
In the next 5 years I would like to have more work to show my family. Perhaps have done a few commercials and maybe get into guest starring on some TV shows. The possibilities are endless, which is equally comforting as it is daunting.
Lauren Salandra is available for booking and can’t wait to hear from you! Visit her website at LaurenSalandra.com. You can also visit her sketch group’s website, OldeSchoolPeepShow.com (she’s in the Hollywood Vlogs videos). She is represented commercially by Avalon Artists Group, and their contact information can be found listed on the “i” in the upper left hand corner of her resume on her website.
If you want to contact her directly, her email is lsalandra AT gmail DOT com