Lauren BeattyJAMES STRECKER: If you were asked for 50 words for an encyclopedia to summarize what you do, or have done, in the arts, what would you say?

LAUREN BEATTY: Lauren Beatty is an actor, writer and musician, I believe my job is to educate and elevate humanity by telling stories that excite, entice, intrigue and open people’s minds to a different perspective. My main focus is on the female outlook, and LGBTQ love & life.

JS: What important beliefs do you express in or through your work?

LB: The most important overall belief that I want to express is that we are all equals. That being said, we clearly don’t all have the same experiences in life. I believe every individual’s experience is just as valid and worthy of exploring as the next, and that hearing a variety of stories from different perspectives throughout our life helps us to better navigate our own lives, by elevating our awareness/humanity and therefore our very existence.

JS: Name two people, living or dead, whom you admire a great deal and tell us why for each one.

LB: Leisha Hailey, Actress & Musician: She most notably played – my favourite character ever written – “Alice” on “The L Word” and is an openly queer/feminine actress and musician like myself. I’d like to commiserate with her about that, hear her stories from her time working on the show, play some music with her, let her know that ‘Alice’ helped me realize I was Queer, and also become her best friend.

Kristen Wiig, Actress, who needs no introduction: Kristen is my actual, literal idol. Words cannot express the amount of adoration and pure love I have for this woman. She is so unapologetically awkward and funny, and this is truly the way I want to live my life. To me, she’s just the pure form of joy and playfulness and light in a human being. Would love to do some improv with her and also become her best friend…

JS: How have you changed since you began to do creative work?

LB: I’ve been doing creative work since I was just a wee little thing, before I even knew that’s what I was doing. (i.e. performing my own made up monologues while gazing out the window because I knew my mother was listening, putting on a news broadcast in my front yard for my brother and the neighbouring children, “reading” books to my family before I could read, and stealing the family camcorder to film plays featuring my barbies as well as hosting my own ‘Antiques Roadshow’…) However, since I started doing it professionally, I do think I have changed quite a bit.

Being creative grounds me in who I am. I have never felt more like myself than when I am creating and playing. It brings me the utmost calm and exhilaration simultaneously. It allows me to feel so deeply, and to navigate my way through my life more freely. I’d say the most major change is that when I was young, I saw being creative as something fun to do – but now, I see how utterly vital it is to my existence.

JS: What are your biggest challenges as a creative person?

LB: I think the biggest challenge for me as a creative person, is being dubbed a “creative person”. It makes me feel like I have to constantly fit some sort of mould or standard. I don’t believe there is a standard for creativity. You might feel at a creative peak one day, and completely blocked off the next – or for days at a time. But this doesn’t make you any less creative. I think my biggest challenge has been accepting that. Giving my creativity room to breathe and expand in its own time – trying not to force/push it. I think of creativity like a rope, you don’t push a rope but instead you the pull it in the direction you want it to go. Forced creativity feels different and it doesn’t fill that void. When the organic, unbridled creativity decides to rear its head though- that’s when I’m reminded that the challenges of being an artist are worth it. I live for those moments.

JS: Please describe at least one major turning point in your life.

LB: One of the biggest turning points for me was when I decided to drop out of university and move to Toronto to audition for acting programs here. I was halfway through my first year at Ottawa University studying theatre at the time. I woke up one morning and had this overwhelming feeling of, “Well shit. This isn’t where I’m supposed to be…” I wasn’t happy, something felt off/wrong. I was just reading plays and writing essays. I wanted to be acting, performing – living and breathing the craft every day. The next day I went to the admin office and dropped out. That was a fun phone call home! Still, it was the best decision I’ve ever made, and my mother has since welcomed me back to the family.

JS: What are the hardest things for an outsider to understand about what you do?

LB: Whenever I talk to a ‘non-actor’ about what I do, they usually have two initial questions they want answered. The first one is usually, “So, how much do you get paid?” To which I reply, “Oh, I won’t accept less than $500,000 per job.” as I adjust my Dior sunglasses and sip my latte…

The second is, “Isn’t it competitive? How do you deal with that much rejection?” People can’t seem to understand why someone would voluntarily choose a career in which they’re subjected to so much dismissal and unpredictability.

What I usually say in response, is that you eventually learn the tricks of the trade so as not to let rejection affect you too deeply. You prepare, you go in and do the audition, you leave the room, and you leave it all behind you. As actors we also learn to not take any rejection too personally. It could be that the director thinks you look too much like her dentist (who gave her a bad root canal in ’09) and has nothing to do with your performance or personality whatsoever. Not to mention that the decision has to be OK’d by numerous people before anyone is hired. The director could want you, but the producer wants to hire his/her friend, the writer could think you’re perfect, but the director decides to cut the part completely… with all this in mind, you have to just go in and do your best – and then put it out of mind.

A good example of this is the day I booked my first principal role in a feature film (“Pay the Ghost”) with Nicolas Cage… I had done the audition at 9am that morning, left, and forgot about it. I started work at 4pm that evening, and around 6pm I got a call from my agent. I snuck into the washroom to take it, thinking that maybe I had an audition for the next day. When I answered she said, “Where are you right now?” I told her I was at work, and she said, “Well you might want to ask your boss if you can step outside and call your mom ‘cause you booked the movie.” I remember thinking ‘What movie?’ and being so confused and stunned for a second until I realized what she was talking about, “FROM THIS MORNING!?” I think is what I said/yelled. I had done such a good job of burying it to the back of my mind that I had completely forgotten about it. It was definitely a nice realization though!

The other factor worthy of mentioning is that, when you’re deeply consumed and passionate about something, it doesn’t matter how competitive or unreliable of a career it may be – you must do it!

JS: How and why did you begin to do creative work in the first place?

LB: I’ve been doing ‘creative work’ since I can remember, but I think this is mainly due to my upbringing. My father (aka Fahj Mahal, aka Mark Beatty) is a skilled musician and a talented writer/artist. Growing up, he was in a band that was always playing shows in and out of town, touring around… I remember thinking he was a rockstar, or maybe more like a superhero. By day he was ‘Dad’ and wore ‘Dad clothes’, but by night he wore leather vests and had a bolo tie of a horseshoe encrusted with purple diamonds (I thought to be valued at roughly $100,000…) I hardly ever got to see him like this as I’d usually be in bed by the time he left – but I’d find evidence of his superhero rockstar life in the form of his leather vest/jacket hanging up in the garage the following day (to air out the cigarette smoke, he later told me.)

He had his music room in our basement and at any time of day you could find him down there writing or recording. He had several guitars, a keyboard (that I became obsessed with) and at one point we had a drum kit down there for a bit. That room was magical to me. I would see him constantly creating and I wanted to create too. I would sneak into the basement when he was at work and play with his keyboard, making up my own songs. Hitting keys until something sounded right.

On top of that my parents were almost always recording us in the early days. From the mundane to the bigger family occasions/gatherings. I was immediately fascinated with the idea that you could capture or “trap” moments from your life and look at them again. I knew where my parents kept the camcorder, so I would get it out and ask/force my (poor) brother to help me record some short videos. We made countless infomercial parodies, as well as some little skits in which we’d play different characters (I think my very first role was an elderly woman who collected ant farms… We were WAY ahead of our time.)

All this said, I think I started creating because I was surrounded by it – immersed in it whether I wanted to be or not. I don’t think I even understood what ‘creativity’ was at the time, but I knew that whatever this ‘thing’ was, it was exciting and magical – and I knew I had to be a part of it. It was in my blood, and my inner voice was yelling “Go towards the magic!”

JS: What haven’t you attempted as yet that you would like to do and please tell us why?

LB: It’s not that I haven’t “attempted” this, but it’s one of my major life goals that hasn’t happened yet, and that I’m slowly working towards…

I want to be a show runner. By this I mean I want to have a part in the whole kit and caboodle. From writing, to producing, to acting, to directing… having my hands in everything. Acting and writing may be my main focus, but the entire collaborative process with all its moving parts – that truly fascinates me. (Has nothing to do with the fact that I’m OCD, and a perfectionist, and want the final say in everything, Pfft – No way!)

Joking aside, this is something I have always dreamed of. I’ve always pictured myself in front of, as well as behind the camera. I guess what has been holding me back a bit is that I feel extremely under qualified because I haven’t gone to school for anything other than acting. That thought held me back for years. But it’s only recently that I’m realizing film school is just one of the avenues you can take. There are benefits, there are downsides. I want to just go out there and learn by doing! So, I’ve been planting some seeds, making moves, and getting involved with as many projects as I can. I co-wrote/acted in a short comedy 2 years ago entitled “Are You Gonna Eat That?”, I did wardrobe and continuity on a friend’s short in Montreal last year, last month I co-wrote, acted in and directed a short (“Boiling Point”) with some fellow actors, and just a few weeks ago I was script-supervisor for another friends short (“Closed Caption”), premiering in the “Feminist Fuck It Fest” at Storefront on April 20th. On top of this I’ve been co-writing/creating a comedic television series for the past 2 years that we recently pitched to CBC and Bell Media. The gears are in motion, and I can’t wait to see what happens down the line.

JS: What are your most meaningful achievements?

LB: The things that mean the most to me are those which I have my hands in the most and have a part in bringing to life. That being said, my most meaningful achievements thus far would be the aforementioned short film I co-wrote “Are You Gonna Eat That?”, as well as the television series I’ve been co-writing – “Strong & Wrong”. Both centre around women who are trying to figure it out, and both came from a very real, very sincere place.

On the music side of things, I released a song last year called “Gaslight” which means a great deal to me. It took almost a year to write and came from a really raw place. It reminds me how strong I am – not only that, but I genuinely love the song and am very proud of it.

JS: What advice would you give a young person who would like to do what you do?

LB: I’d say start taking classes NOW. Start getting involved in the community, meeting like-minded friends, and find your ‘people’ NOW! Start writing/creating content and getting it out there NOW – and never stop!

On the topic of ‘classes’ though, I have to say that college was definitely useful in the way of meeting people who have the same passions/enthusiasm as me and want to collaborate – but overall I’d say use your discretion when it comes to full-time schooling. Sometimes being so heavily immersed in a craft like that can feel like cutting open a bird’s neck to see how it sings. Maybe getting an agent and taking classes on the side while you start to audition is the better route for you. You’ll know what feels right and what makes the most sense for your life/situation!

JS: Of what value are critics?

LB: Critics are insanely valuable to me. I’ve been learning recently to view criticism as something immeasurably useful and positive (when it comes from a place of caring.) If no one ever criticized me, I’d never grow – and I want to always, ALWAYS be growing. Criticism has such a negative connotation to it and I think it’s time we changed that. Other’s views, thoughts and feelings are valid and deserve to be heard. Also, if I’m over here trying to preach equality, and the importance/validity of different perspectives, I sure as hell can’t be against criticism. So, bring on the critique!

JS: What do you ask of your audience?

LB: I ask of my audience the same that I ask of myself as an audience member. To be open, willing to listen, respectful, open-minded, and please – tell me what you think! Have a question? I love questions. Have comments? I love comments. Also, if you like what you see/hear – please for the love of all things holy, SHARE!

JS: What specifically would you change about what goes on in the world and the arts?

LB: I want to break up the “Boys Club”, on every level. On a political and social level, but also on a creative level. The world needs to see more women in roles of power and decision-making. Whether that be presidents and world leaders, or filmmakers, writers, producers and directors (and equally paid while we’re at it). We are natural born lovers and leaders, and the world needs us.

JS: If you could relive one experience from your creative life, what would it be and why would you do so?

LB: It would have to be the day we shot “Are You Gonna Eat That?”. It was such a dream seeing our story come to life, and to have the joy of working alongside my co-writers and insanely talented friends who all came together to help us. I’m pretty sure we spent a full 12hrs just laughing and at the same time creating something special. I’d like to relive that day over and over please!

JS: Tell us what it feels like to be a figure who is presented somehow in the media. What effect does this presence have on you?

LB: It’s definitely an interesting feeling – especially when a stranger comes into the cafe you work at and says they loved your Justin Bieber parody from 4 years ago on YouTube (true story), and you want to crawl into a corner and die of embarrassment. But it’s a GREAT feeling when someone recognizes you for something you’re truly proud of.

When it comes to the media, what I think about most is the permanence of the internet. Anything I put out there is potentially out there for good. So as someone who has an agent and a certain professional image to uphold, I’ve become quite conscious about what I’m putting out there. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even a song I’m releasing publicly. I like to make sure I can stand behind anything and everything I say or do. A lot of thought goes into things when you’re reminded that literally anyone could stumble across it – maybe even someone who has the power to make or break your career.

That being said, I never want to shy away from being myself – and that is a weird, goofy, passionate, loving, creative, queer woman. That will never change.

JS: Name two places you would like to visit, one you haven’t been to and one to experience again and briefly tell us why

LB: Ireland: I have a lot of family roots/history in Ireland but I’ve never been! I know I’d instantly feel at home, and the history there is so fascinating to me. Would love to go one day soon!

France: I did an exchange to Rouen, Normandy in Grade 11. It was my first time travelling on my own, and my first time being that far away from my family. I was there for 3 months (which felt like an eternity then), but I had the absolute time of my life. I would LOVE to go back and experience it as an adult. Walk the cobblestone streets of Rue De La Gros Horloge (while smoking Camel cigarettes), and eat Pain Au Chocolat on the steps of the Cathedral Notre-Dame.

JS: Please tell us about one or more projects that you have been working on, are preparing, or have recently completed. Why do they matter to you and why should they matter to us?

LB: I touched on these above, but the project I’m currently dedicating most of my time to is the comedic series I’ve been co-writing for the past 2 years entitled “Strong & Wrong”. We are currently in the pitching phase and preparing to shoot the ‘Pitch Pilot’ which is a 10-minute teaser/compilation of some of the best moments from the show.

The project I most recently completed is, “Are You Gonna Eat That?”. A comedic short about four women who ruin their dining experience with their insane dietary restrictions. It was co-written by myself and two of the same writers from ‘Strong & Wrong’.

These projects matter to me because they both come from a very real place – my own life. ‘AYGET’ came from a compilation of our experiences as actors who take waitressing jobs and deal with insane customers while trying to make ends meet. ’S&W’ is also very close to my heart because it’s a commentary on the lives of the approaching-30-woman trying to make it in Toronto. We all play heightened versions of ourselves, while trying to balance love, careers, and social lives.

I think they should matter to you because they are relevant and written from a perspective that you can probably relate to (or at least appreciate). They’re both entertaining, funny, and told from the female lens – which we all know needs more exposure! Even so, we believe that anyone, any gender, with any background can relate to our work and see themselves in it.

JS: Let’s talk about the state of the arts in today’s society, including the forms in which you work. What specifically gives you hope and what specifically do you find depressing?

LB: What I find depressing is the attitude towards the Film & TV industry in Canada in general. I notice that a lot of Canadian talents (whether that’s actors/writers/filmmakers etc.) – including myself – feel you can only go so far here before you hit a wall. That’s why we see so many industry folks leaving for LA or NYC, which is totally understandable given the situation, but just further perpetuates the issue in the first place. I think it’s a stigma that we have about ourselves that we’re not good enough, and I wish we didn’t have it! We have so much talent here. I can’t wait for the day when Toronto is seen and recognized around the world as a powerhouse and hub of Film & TV – that I know it has the potential to be – and that people don’t feel the need to leave here to be successful.

What gives me hope, is the recent uprising of women fighting for equality, to be heard, and to be taken seriously. It’s been amazing to see what’s come out of the #MeToo movement, and how it’s brought us together. It makes me feel stronger than ever before, like I have an army of support behind me cheering me on.

JS: Finally, what do you yourself find to be the most intriguing and/or surprising thing about you?

LB: I think that would have to be my ‘spirituality’. I’m constantly surprising myself with just how much I am actually infatuated with the paranormal and spiritual side of life. I’m obsessed with mediums (and any/all shows about mediums), the paranormal (and any/all shows about the paranormal), and the idea of energy, reincarnation, different dimensions/realms and past-lives. I fully believe in it all, I’ve seen ghosts/spirits, I’ve had visitations from the dead, and I feel like in another life I would be a medium or paranormal investigator!

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