Baltimore native Lauren Lakis traveled from Prague to Tokyo, and has just recently made her way to Los Angeles where she’s finding work as an actress. My first experience with Lauren’s acting was at The Strand Theater on Charles Street where she starred as Lacy in Alena Smith’s ‘The Lacy Project.’ In the play Lacy, the privileged daughter of a famous photographer, waits for her yearly birthday portrait, one that may not come due to the passing of her 21st birthday and the end of “The Project.” Lakis’s assured and overly-entitled grip on her place in her mothers life, and her denial of the obvious, was chilling like identifying with a sociopath. I was scared of Lacy, but she made me a fan of Lakis.
It’s fitting that I first saw her in a play that involved photography, Lakis studied photography before she found acting. Lauren remarked: “I was a photography student in High School and college, I was really pushed and praised by my teachers because I liked to shoot things that weren’t obvious.”
So where did the acting come from? Sometimes life changes quickly, one door suddenly closes and another opens. Lauren said, “I moved to a new place in Baltimore City. It was my last week of classes and I was finished with the photography portion of my degree. When I moved into the new place my car was broken into. They took a bag that had my portfolio, and a binder of every single negative I had ever made! Just sheets and sheets of negatives and also my Nikon film camera. That was 2006, and any evidence that I was ever a photographer was gone. I said ‘ok universe, I guess i’ll focus on theater in my senior year.’ My senior year was all acting all the time. As an actor, no one can take it from me, no one can take my camera, no one can take my film; it’s all in here (points at her head).”
When I approached her about doing an artist portrait I knew that she had billed herself as an “alternative” actress. That coupled with my experience of her in ‘The Lacy Project’ made me mistakenly think horror, she corrected me.
“Whenever I describe what I’m trying to do, I say dark or alternative. But, thinking about it, the more accurate way of describing what i’m doing is soulful. I’m interested in getting to the core of what drives people, what twists people make and how that leads them on the path. You can make a lot of money doing commercial work but to keep going you to have some soul.” The idea of soul and L.A.? Maybe i’m just snarky and cyclical but they don’t seems to run in the same crowd.
“When you’re in L.A. it’s very business oriented, business focused, grinding all the time. You don’t always get the opportunity to sit, let things breath and let things come and go and then really get to the meat of it. You start to forget the reason you’re there in the first place.”
Maybe as an anecdote for the pace of LA, or In keeping with her wander-lust, Lakis recently returned to Maryland to work on filmmaker David Warfield’s new feature film ‘Rows.’ I asked her about the experience of working on the film and being back in her home state.
“According to people in L.A. what i’m doing out here is awesome, i’m doing a feature, i’m getting paid. But it’s more than that, I get to reconnect a bit with what it means to be a truthful human and live. Out there, of course you’re living, but so much of life is focused on the goal, the work, the work, the work. There’s other life happening, and sometimes you forget that. The stories that were trying to tell, are so different from the day-to-day lives that we’re living.”
Lauren recently finished filming ‘Rows’ and is now back in L.A. She hopes to take what she reconnected with in Maryland and use it in her day-to-day life. She’d like to continue traveling as much as she can as her art is informed by it.
“I’m constantly meeting people that I can draw from and learn from. Once you get your taste for that, there’s no leaving. In films, especially with ‘Rows,’ it was like a family. We all came from different states, from L.A. New York, Montana, Baltimore. We all came together for this truly passionate thing. The art. We sacrificed, left our homes and our families to explore and experience something together. I can take that experience to the next one and it just keeps going. It’s hard to walk away from that, It’s constant stimulation and new stories.”