ML - Michigan Avenue

2013 - Issue 8 - December

Michigan Avenue - Niche Media - Michigan Avenue magazine is a luxury lifestyle magazine centered around Chicago’s finest people, events, fashion, health & beauty, fine dining & more!

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 111 of 147

"I remember seeing my first play.... I really bought into it, and I wanted to be part of that world of make-believe." JL: There's a guy whose name I forget who's a contralto. [Laughs] It's some German name, like Stein Guggenhiemer or something like that. And then the man who directed Casablanca is on the other side of me. Right behind him is Gene Autry and then John Cusack, so I have a nice little Chicago connection with John. All this for a girl from Dolton, Illinois. JL: Yeah, who'da thunk it? I certainly didn't. It wasn't on any of my lists, you know, I always just wanted to work and act—it was a part of me, especially when I was younger, that wanted to do these things. I never even went this far in fantasy. What was it like growing up in Dolton? JL: Well, Dolton is a suburb, and for us everything centered around the church because we were Catholic—so St. Jude's and Thornridge High School. We all knew each other and hung out at the strip mall there, Almar Plaza. In high school we'd just drive around for fun; we'd pile into one car and pass all the places where other kids were hanging out under the streetlights. When I told my mother I wanted to be an actress, she told me, "Not everybody's dreams come true," and I started crying. She said, "I just want to protect you from the disappointment," but it didn't protect me from anything. It probably put more spunk in my desire to do what I wanted to do. But it's funny, years later my mom said, "I can just hit myself for what I said to you. It was just so wrong, but I really thought I was protecting you." What made me think that I could do this, not only make a living at it but, like, do it in big time? You mention telling your mother you wanted to be an actress. When did the idea of performing come into your mind? JL: I don't remember; I just don't remember it not being there. Watching television, I knew I wanted to do that. I remember seeing my first play: I was very young, it's a very foggy memory, but I remember going to the high school, and I was a little kid and watching one of the neighborhood kids in a play. When the lights came up, I was just absolutely transfixed. I remember there was a bird in a cage—a kid was playing the bird—and I was, like, "Let him out! Let him out!" I was so afraid for that bird. I wanted it to be free. I really bought into it, and I wanted to be a part of that world of make-believe. Were there any actors or performers growing up that you wanted to be like or whose career you wanted? JL: Carol Burnett. I never looked at it as, "Oh, I want her career," so much as I wanted to do what she's doing—she looks like she's having a blast, and it looks like she's doing it with all her friends. I now know Carol Burnett, and I asked her, "Was it a blast?" And she indeed said it was a blast; they were all her friends, and they all hung out, and it was really a beautiful thing where even though her name was in the title, it was an ensemble show. She allowed everybody to shine, and I want to do that, too—I'd love to create opportunities for my friends to perform. I never really wanted to be the star and I never really have been, but I like being part of an ensemble. As an actress you paid your dues on stages around Chicago, from Second City to Steppenwolf and all these other theaters. How do you think the Chicago scene prepared you for the life that you've gone on to lead as an actress? JL: When I was doing all that stuff in Chicago, I didn't look at it as paying my dues—I was doing exactly what I wanted to do and was thrilled every time I got a job, or every time someone asked me to be in a play, and I did it for free a lot. How it prepared me, well, I'll tell you what the wardrobe person on Glee said: "I always know an actor is from Chicago if they hang up their clothes." After I meet somebody and we'll speak for a while, they'll say, "Where are you from?" I'll say Chicago, and they'll say, "I knew it." There's kind of an openness and willingness to experiment—a team player kind of vibe—that would describe the Chicago theater scene, both Equity and Non-Equity. It's really an actor's town and a creative town, and we do it for the love of doing it; we don't just open theaters—we create ensembles like Steppenwolf, which is of course the one that's most famous, but there are ensembles all over Chicago. I was a member of a couple of them, and that's the way to go. It's like a creative family. We have each other's backs, which is why I love Glee, because that's exactly the way Glee is, too. One Chicago role that gave you a taste of fame was playing Carol Brady in The Real Live Brady Bunch, which became a huge cult hit in 1991–1992 and toured to other cities. What was that time of your life like? JL: It was so heady; it was a blast. I don't think I've ever laughed harder and more often than when we did that show. I was part of an ensemble the way I love to roll, and we were getting this attention that we never really thought we'd get, but were absolutely flattered and tickled by. We were on the Geraldo Rivera Show, we were on Entertainment Tonight, and the real Bradys came to see our show—Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz came to see the show in Chicago. The first day when we opened at the Annoyance Theatre in Chicago, we all were on the roof eating pizza and drinking beer and we're thinking, You know, our friends will come [and that's it]. But there was a line up and down Broadway and around Belmont. It was insane. People came and smoked and drank, because it was a Mick Napier theater, so you were free to do both of those things. The fire marshals didn't shut us down, and we just had this crazy night, and I remember I felt like I was out of my body. I was shaking; I was supposed to be flipping hamburgers in the first scene—we had no set and we barely had props, I think I just had a spatula, but I can remember the spatula just shaking in my hand. What were some of your favorite hangouts and places in Chicago at that time? JL: The Closet, which was a gay bar; the Melrose Restaurant was a good one, and I loved the surf and turf place on Diversey, Half Shell. Is that still around? 110 108-113_MA_FEAT_CS_Winter2014.indd 110 11/20/13 10:18 AM

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of ML - Michigan Avenue - 2013 - Issue 8 - December