A 2005 interview with New York actress Lauren Pellegrino by Leanna Chamish
Leanna: So Lauren, how long have you been performing as an actress?
Lauren: 22 years, since I was 5 years old.
Leanna: What got you involved with it?
Lauren: I was fascinated with actors in movies and always memorizing lines to stories and acting them out as a kid.
Leanna: What was your first project?
Lauren: I had a role in a Sunday School production at age 5, and I was the youngest in the show.
Leanna: As an actress, how do you go about preparing for a role?
Lauren: The first thing I do is read the script in full just to get into it and get a feel for the storyline. Then I go back and read my lines and reactions and any description of my character. I always highlight my lines when I’m reading through, because I have a bit of a photographic memory, so this helps in the long run with memorizing. Then I just try to understand where my character is coming from while I’m learning my lines and practice saying them differently until I feel that it’s on the right track.
Leanna: Does the director or screenwriter supply you with a back story for your characters?
Lauren: Sometimes they do and other times it’s almost as if they’re relying on you to do that on your own, because they have so many other things to deal with on an Indie Film.
Leanna: Have you ever gone into a role feeling unprepared?
Lauren: Yes, but I don’t let it scare me, because sometimes that’s when things come together the best, while you’re going along. I’ve also done a short Indie Film before when the director didn’t even give us the full script until we got there, to make it as impulsive as possible, and it worked out great, because it was an emotional scene.
Leanna: You have gone to auditions for various different acting gigs. How do you prepare for it?
Lauren: I just read all the info they give me on the project, and stay loose and confident. I also always have my monologue ready in case they ask for that instead of just cold-reading.
Leanna: What do you bring with you?
Lauren: I bring a pencil, in case I need to mark anything down on the lines they give us (if we can keep them), my headshot and resume.
Leanna: How do you dress for it?
Lauren: I dress in something classy yet sexy. Something that shows off my figure without looking trashy and still keeping that All-American look.
Leanna: Are most auditions standard, or are they unique in their own way?
Lauren: I feel like every one is different, but after auditioning for awhile, you get used to the whole process a lot more. There’s a lot of cold-reading from the scene, monologues, sometimes impulsive physical movement, if the character calls for it, and sometimes just an interview on camera. There can be one person you’re auditioning for or a whole table of judges.
Leanna: How is costuming handled on a project? Is it “everybody wear what you want to wear” or are the costumes actually cleaned and put back on the rack at the end of the day? Does the cast supply their own costuming, is it supplied to them, or do you have a wardrobe allowance for them?
Lauren: I’ve had both; the project I’m in right now, we had a costume designer who created them for us based on the book our show depicts – however we were responsible for cleaning them ourselves and hanging onto them. I’ve also been on sets where you were given a description about what the director wants you to where and you have to get it out of your own wardrobe or a cheap store, but they’d reimburse you for that.
Leanna: If you have worked both within sets and locations, what are the pros and cons of both?
Lauren: I’ve never done a film on a set yet, it’s always been on location in rooms, buildings or outdoors, which I like a lot. It makes the whole scene feel more realistic.
Leanna: You’re on the set, miles from civilization, and “nature calls.” In your experience, has your production team taken necessary measures to have proper facilities available, or do you have production horror stories of poor planning?
Lauren: That’s never been a problem for me, I never have to go (I’m lucky) and also there always has been facilities around.
Leanna: What kind of food prep or catering is usually available to you on an independent production? Does it vary greatly from company to company? Sometimes they only have drinks and snacks available for you to have on break. Other times, if the crew becomes more a of a team and you’re working together for awhile, the director may take you out to dinner a few times. I always eat before, so I’m prepared for the worst, but when I’m working, I never want to eat much anyway and feel uncomfortable afterward.
Leanna: While they may have employed special effects artists and make-up artists in productions you have worked on, has the various production companies ever used a make-up artist for the glamour of the actors and actresses, or is that up to the individual performer to do?
Lauren: I’ve only had people do my make-up for National TV Commercials, but never Indie films. It’s been supplied to me before, but I always have to put it on, it seems.
Leanna: Have you ever had to do stage fighting or stunts in any of your features?
Lauren: One of the Indie Films I’m about to start now, I got the role because I had experience in Karate and had to show moves at the audition. I got cast as a Warrior in the film, and we will be doing our own stunts, including learning how to ride a horse!
Leanna: How do you prepare for that?
Lauren: I’m an athlete already, so I’m always in good physical condition, but I’ll practice whatever skill I’m using in the film, weeks beforehand, to brush up on it.
Leanna: Have you ever been hurt?
Lauren: I’ve never been hurt, even in a violent murder scene where I was thrown to the ground from high up repeatedly, I learned how to fall correctly playing sports, so I’ve been lucky so far.
Leanna: Have you had any formal training in acting or improvisation?
Lauren: I started organized acting training when I was in 7th grade, for musical theater for two years, and then in high school I took Acting & Directing and Advanced Drama all 4 years I was there, we had an extensive department. Then I majored in Voice in College and took Film Acting Courses for 6 months and now take workshops at Actors connection in New York City with casting Directors.
Leanna: What do you suggest a person does to prepare as an actor for independent genre films, or just acting in general?
Lauren: I like doing acting exercises, either in small classes or if you can‚t afford it, then even doing expressions in the mirror helps. You can also buy books that have monologues or scenes in them and do scenes with friends or by yourself in the mirror.
Leanna: Do you have an agent?
Lauren: I’m freelancing with three agents right now.
Leanna: How would you go about getting one?
Lauren: Show Business Newspaper here puts out a listing of all agents in the city every so often, and the ones that seem to fit me well, I’ll send in a headshot and resume to. Sometimes it happens by one referring you to the other or by word of mouth too.
Leanna: Was are the advantages and disadvantages of being a union or non-union actor?
Lauren: Right now I’m non-SAG, but I don‚t know if it’s going to stay that way for long, because this next film I’m working on could make me SAG. The good things about being Non-Union is that there are a lot of great Non-Union projects out there. But, I would love to have the health insurance from SAG and also there are some major auditions and roles only available to SAG.
Leanna: Lauren, do you feel you are a leading role person or more of a character actor?
Lauren: I’m a leading role actress.
Leanna: What age range do you state you can perform within?
Lauren: My age range is 18-25 right now, but I’m 27. I can’t seem to audition much for roles my own age, they don’t fit.
Leanna: What kind of roles, on average, have you been getting?
Lauren: The roles I tend to get are described a lot as “The Girl Next Door with an Edge.” Sometimes I also get the funky athletic one or the comic sarcastic supporting role.
Leanna: Are there any kind of roles you wish you were getting?
Lauren: Leanna, I can’t wait until I start to look a bit older, so I can go for those roles of cops or special agents in action/drama pictures or TV shows, such as Gillian Anderson in “X-Files.” I also want to do more villain roles, because they interest me more.
Leanna: Are there any type of roles you will refuse to do?
Lauren: Those kind of TV shows looking for “Girls Gone Wild” kind of attitude really bother me. Anything reality, I used to, but now I’m not into it and don’t respect it at all.
Leanna: How much importance do you put on proper diet, physical fitness, stimulating mental activity, and getting enough sleep?
Lauren: I have a pretty strict diet to stay a size 6, because I’m not naturally skinny, I’m more athletic. I do a version of the Atkins, but I do eat carbs in vegetables that burn off easier. I east a lot of Sushi and small snacks during the day. I’ve played sports my whole life, all through college and still in leagues now, so besides just doing that, I also go running, weightlifting, push-ups, sit-ups. Basketball is once a week and softball once a week right now.
Leanna: Do you find this a necessity for staying primed as a performer?
Lauren: I do feel like it is partly a career move when I’m working out, however, I would exercise this much even if I did something different. I would probably eat more foods that I like though, if I did a normal job! In this society, to be a young leading lady, I do feel it is important. If you have a nice figure, then you won’t be limited to roles available to women.
Leanna: What other skills do you have that you feel is important as a performer?
Lauren: I work well with people, not afraid to take chances when acting, I’m confident and make others feel the same, good memorizing skills, strong work ethic, always on time, I think I naturally can feel what the scene needs from my character pretty well, and I love letting that emotion go.
Leanna: Do you think a person should have many different skills, experiences and such to draw from? I think that always helps, life experience.
Lauren: If you can understand where others are coming from then you can understand your character even better. Also, if you’re familiar with certain emotions, going through them and showing them, then it comes even easier during the scene.
Leanna: To remain competitive, do you keep your head shot updated?
Lauren: Fortunately, I don’t change that much, so I don’t need to do it too often, but anytime I cut my hair drastically, I get new ones right away, because casting directors seem to hate when you don’t look the same. I’m actually getting new ones done Sept. 20th, cuz my hair is real short now.
Leanna: Do you have business cards and promo slicks of yourself as your various characters?
Lauren: I have business cards for my music career with an album room shot I did, but not different characters.
Leanna:Do you have a website?
Lauren: Only for my music!
Leanna: While perhaps most of your acting gigs might be from your local area, have you ever had to do films out of the area or state?
Lauren: Yes, I’ve gone to other states for filming, I love to travel. New York City has most everything right here though.
Leanna: Does the production company put you up in a hotel?
Lauren: Yeah, I’ll only go if they put me up somewhere, I feel that’s only fair. Plus, I don’t have tons of money right now!
Leanna: What genres do you enjoy working the most in?
Lauren: I really love Action and Comedy, either separate or mixed in.
Leanna: Have you done nudity or had to deal with nudity on the set?
Leanna: What is the proper conduct and the way to deal with this matter so everyone involved is comfortable, and the company get the shots it needs?
Lauren: Just be professional and comfortable, because they tend to be more nervous than you are. It’s a job and if they see you’re cool with it, then they are. You do have to watch out for people hanging around who really don’t have to be there just to get a peek, but I’m fine with it, if it fits into the movies.
Leanna: What are your views on nudity in independent genre films?
Lauren: If it’s tasteful, then I don’t have a problem with it, but you have to trust your instincts on that one.
Leanna: Have you ever faced a “casting couch” situation – improper sexual advances, etc?
Lauren: Once I had an audition scheduled for an Indie Film, and he wanted me to meet him at this Hotel, which I thought he had equipment rigged up in a conference room maybe. But, when I got there, he said the other two girls he had scheduled with me didn’t show up, so it was only me and he wanted the audition done in a room. I laughed in his face and walked out. Whether he had intentions or not, he’s got to be out of his mind and unprofessional if he thinks I’m going up there with him.
Leanna: Do you shoot just weekends for a feature, or have you had a scenario where everyone takes a week off to shoot the full week or two non-stop?
Lauren: I shot during the week and weekend, but if it‚s during the week, it’s usually after 5PM, in case other people are working day jobs.
Leanna: Have you had to deal with unprofessional people (by that I mean people not taking the job at hand seriously) or prima donnas on the set?
Lauren: I’ve been really lucky, so far every project I’ve worked on, I’ve enjoyed the cast and everyone’s a good worker, but I’m waiting for the day when it’s not like that!
Leanna: What is has been your best experience on a film?
Lauren: I’ve had two favorite moments in “Fear of Clowns,” I liked one of the scenes with me and the leading actress talking and joking, because by that point, we had gotten to know each other very well off-set, and we had a great bond, so the acting was even more natural between the two of us and felt real. The other one, was a scene for a short film in NYC where I was very angry and trying to stop someone from barging into my house, protecting my roommate, and I channeled this anger, and could do it over and over and the scene was so good, that the director and cast couldn’t stop commenting on it, and I was just wide open.
Leanna: What has been your worst?
Lauren: Once in a great while, you can’t get one line right, well, the way the director wants it, so in this one short film, it was just very annoying, because we weren’t seeing eye to eye on the scene, and finally I understood and he explained himself better. It happens though, kind of hurts your confidence a bit, but you have to put it behind you.
Leanna: Lauren, is there anything else you would like to add to those who are trying to get into the independent film industry?
Lauren: Stay open-minded, and pick projects that you feel are important to you and have a good message. Indie Films are cool in the way that you’ll learn a lot about the way things are done, and for women Indie Films have some of the best roles for women, because they’re not always mainstream. I think it’s a great avenue for women to delve into their acting. That’s why so many famous actresses do mostly Indie Films and only do Blockbusters when they need money.
Lauren Pellegrino comes from the Berkshires in Massachusetts and currently lives in Manhattan. She started doing theater when she was 5 years old, including Summer Stock and Shakespeare in Co. throughout the years. By her junior year of high school she was a reporter for health and environmental issues on a local TV station airing to all of Western and central Massachusetts. Moving to New York at 18 and majoring in music at Adelphi University, she got roles in national commercials, theatre productions at the TSI Theatre Group in NYC and in Indie films such as “Fear of Clowns,” with Kangas Kahn Films, LLC and “Instant Messenger” with Sylver Studios. She has been cast in a touring children’s musical called The Wudds as a Folk Singer/Guitarist. Aside from acting, she also is the lead Singer/Songwriter of her own Pop/Rock band for the past 11 years that has played at Clubs, Theaters, Festivals and Colleges throughout the country. They are registered with BMI and have shared the stage with Melissa Etheridge and Arlo Guthrie and bills with Cyndi Lauper, Ricky Martin, Berlin, Joey McIntyre and Hansen.
Want to contact her for an acting or music gig? E-mail: PellegrinoL13@aol.com
Want to check out her credits on the IMDb? click here.