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Dialogue with Actress Lara Grice
Her performances in dozens of productions have made actress Lara Grice widely recognized on local stages and landed her spots in many films. She appears in six movies released or slated for release this year, including “Final Destination: Death Trip 3,” “My Own Love Song,” “Welcome to the Rileys” and “12 Rounds.” Recently, in a surprise casting twist she played a male role — the character Jaques — in Shakespeare Festival at Tulane’s production of “As You Like It.”
Q. How has the acting business changed for you in recent years?
A. Fortunately, Louisiana’s doing really well in terms of bringing films in, because of the tax incentives. I have friends in Los Angeles who are asking me if they can get into the film business down here. Think how ironic that is. But I’ve graduated into a different age range, so I’m sort of a young mother type now versus an ingénue, and that makes it harder. There are four films happening here now, and they’re very male-heavy. A film will have maybe three roles for women, and one will be the young ingénue. But I’ve got this sort of young-to-middle-aged Caucasian thing going on, and there’s a million of us, so it’s not easy.
Also, more movie stars are playing on television and taking those roles. So other actors are having a real tough time of it. It’s a struggle. But it’s a way of life. I don’t think you choose it, it chooses you, sort of like the priesthood. I don’t know how to do anything else, is the problem.
Q. Can you point to a particular role you played that changed you significantly?
A. Lady Macbeth in “Macbeth at the Gates” (2007 at Southern Rep Theatre; written by Michael Lovett, directed by Roy Marsden, produced by DEM Boys LLC; starring David Lumsden, Grice and Dane Rhodes). Working with (British director and actor) Roy Marsden and David Lumsden was great. The director didn’t really know me, he just assumed I could do it and pushed me there. I was sort of a blank slate, and he expected top-notch and I was there to deliver. It allowed me to kind of go to that dark and dirty place – literally, we were in mud. But we were in rehearsal from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It’s so rare that we get an opportunity like that. And it was nice to know that I can match it with the heavyweights. I think sometimes our expectations of performers are kind of lax because we’re not able to pay them adequately for their time, but that was my job and that’s what I was compensated for, and it was a special experience. In between those opportunities is when you really have to maintain some sort of positive energy to get you through. But now, above anything else, I know that I am an artist.
Q. Have events since Katrina had a big effect on you or your career?
A. Yes. I was just thinking that this is the three-year anniversary of (acclaimed and beloved local actor) Gavin Mahlie’s death. He was a best friend and a colleague. Any production that he was in, he just made better. He was just an amazing human being and performer. Katrina was really difficult on him. He had mild heart attack, but he came back from it … and he was readjusting. Then, on April 4th — it was a Tuesday, I’ll never forget — I got the word. It was just horrible. I never really fully recovered from that, truthfully.
“Macbeth at the Gates” and Gavin and Katrina all kind of pushed me to the limit. I discovered things about myself, and later I didn’t have to do any kind of method to get to a place in acting. It was all right there. Susan Sarandon had a great line, something like, “I earned the lines on my face.” That’s kind of what I think.
Q. How did you land in the role of Jaques in “As You Like It”?
A. I never in a million years thought I’d want to play that role. I went to auditions and did a Rosalind monologue. But (director) Sean Patterson — we’ve known each other for a long time — called and asked what I’d think about playing Jaques. And after I thought about it, it made sense. For someone to see something in you that you didn’t know you were capable of is such a compliment because it means they’re paying attention to you.
Q. What’s your latest gig?
A. Shooting is just beginning on a wrestling film that’s being produced by the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.). I play the wife of the star. The production got postponed a few months ago because he broke his ankle in a wrestling match.
Q. What do you think the local acting scene will look like in a few years?
A. In the next five years it’s going to be a different landscape. I’m excited about the direction it’s going and the commitment that people are showing. I like this young crop (of theater professionals) that we’ve got coming up. I think we’re in a transition period, and because of the film opportunities a lot of actors have migrated toward the city. It’s exciting because they keep us on our toes.