[IMG:L]An Up-and-Coming ‘It Girl’ Talks About Playing a Corpse and Other Hollywood Adventures
What does it take to show Hollywood that you have real star potential? Sometimes you’ve just got to play dead.
Since arriving in Los Angeles from her native Chicago a couple of years ago, up-and-coming actress Laura Orrico has been beating down doors, paying her dues and working up the ranks with small roles in such films as Wedding Crashers and Chasing Papi and TV shows like Just Shoot Me while wowing L.A. audiences with her wild improv skills on stage.
Now she’s earned a chance to shine in the spotlight with a co-starring role on the hit CBS crime drama CSI: Miami, where she plays a woman targeted for murder and, ultimately, one of those telltale clue-containing corpses. Orrico tells Hollywood.com about how even a dead girl can get the giggles (and gross herself out), just one of her amusing adventures as she paves the way for her Big Break.
Hollywood.com: Tell us about the part you’ll be playing the Mar. 19 episode of CSI: Miami.
Laura Orrico: I’m playing the role of Mia Graham—she’s an assistant to a Donald Trump-type guy and she gets murdered for her job because she makes like $200,000 a year. The guy that’s going to be working under her wants her job and she’s kind of showing him around the construction site and she says a few things to him that kind of piss him off, so he hits her over the head with a wrench [Laughs]. I got to do my own stunts, too! They had me fall – It was so funny, but basically it’s a smaller part, a short scene.
HW: But then you get to come back on the morgue slab in scenes with some of the series regulars as they try to solve your murder?
LO: I got to be dead with Jonathan Togo and Khandi Alexander [Laughs]. It was fun. It took about four to five makeup artists to do my makeup. Head to head toe, layers of glue and Kleenex and silicone and plastics and spray and makeup—Anything that you can think of was on me. I looked like a sea monster, but they would literally put the silicone on my face. They would glue it and then hold it and then let it go and it would be stuck like that. So it was really going to look nothing like me. After five hours of makeup when we did the scene, I looked so disgusting scene that when they went to watch the dailies the producers thought that it too gross, and now I’m digitally covered with a sheet when I’m dead. I don’t know how they’re going to do that. So basically I’m dead and covered now after all of that.
HW: So your death is pretty gruesome?
LO: Yeah, it was pretty gross. I had been rotting. After he kills me with the wrench he chops me up. They were going to digitally remove my limbs and it was going to be really cool, but I guess that it was probably just too gross for the viewers.
[IMG:R]HW: When you’re laid out on the slab like that, while everyone’s doing their thing all around you, how do you deal with playing dead?
LO: Well, it was hard – I don’t know if they could tell from the expression on my face, it was so frozen. they were funny. Jonathan Togo and Khandi Alexander were saying the funniest things and making me laugh, and so right before we would shoot I’d be trying not to laugh. They would say, “Okay, Laura, hold your breath!”’ And then they call out that we were rolling and I’d have to be really still. But trying not to breathe or blink or move your eyeballs when they’re closed is really tough. They were just so funny on set, and they were saying the most hilarious things, and then they would immediately go to this serious scene.
HW: When you weren’t playing dead, did you get hang out and goof around with the cast?
LO: You know, what I did? I was practically wearing nothing. I literally had on a tiny bikini and I was so layered in the makeup that during that day I would just go to my trailer and sit, even at lunch. I didn’t want to gross anyone out. They were like, “Come and eat with us.” I said, “No, I can’t.‘ It was really disgusting. I just went and sat by myself and ate lunch [laughs]. I kind of grossed myself out, too. I didn’t want to look in the mirror.
HW: Can you talk about how you ended up getting this particular part?
LO: I had audition for Nan Dutton, the casting director, in the last two years like five or six times, I would say, and she really liked me and would try to keep bringing me in to try and find me a specific role. She’s super, super nice, and it just seemed that either I wasn’t ethnic enough for a certain part or just something always happened. Once I looked too much like the guest star that they already had. And this time I had auditioned for a role in the previous episode on tape and I got a call a week later saying that I didn’t get that part, but they wanted me for another part. They gave me this little thing that I’m doing on the episode.
HW: I think that’s kind of interesting for people to learn: how often an actress like yourself makes the rounds and sees these casting people over and over and over again before you actually get work.
LO: Exactly, and I realize that that’s normal. That’s happened to me before where you go in maybe up to ten times for the same casting director, and when I didn’t get the job it’s like, “Oh, God, they hate me. They keep bringing me in because they feel sorry for me.” But then you realize that that’s just part of the routine. If they like you they keep bringing you back because they like you. So I started to realize that and then I felt better about it. Then it came true and I actually got the part. So it was worth all the work, but it does take going in a lot sometimes to get a role.
HW: Didn’t you have a little part in a big movie called Wedding Crashers?
LO: I did, yeah. I’m a bridesmaid at the end of the movie, in Vince Vaughn and Isla Fisher‘s wedding. I’m supposedly like a cousin or something. I kind of look like Rachel McAdams and so I guess I looked like a cousin or a relative of theirs. You see me just standing there. That was a blast to work on. That was three days and everyone was really cool. I ran into you there, didn’t I?
HW: I was visiting the set that week, but I missed you, and then I ran into you a couple nights later with Vince Vaughn and some of the cast and crew.
LO: That was so fun. They had invited us to go out after the last night, and a whole bunch of us ended up being just like five of us which was really strange, but it was fun and interesting. We went to the Formosa Cafe. They were a fun group to work with. Fun and nice people. My little Wedding Crashers part.
HW: What are some of the other fun jobs that you’ve had?
LO: I did a voice over for King of Queens which was a lot of fun. They just pulled me into a little booth on the set and I did a little voice over thing as a fast food worker. That I got because the cast and crew saw my homemade character comedy reel that I made. He showed it to everyone and they loved it and they said, ‘Well, we’re going to do our best to get you on the show in whatever we can.’ They did. They got me a little voice part on it. So I did that, and then I went on to do a film connected to a CD by Sean Lennon. It’s a little vignette of short films called Friendly Fire, and that, too, involved a lot of makeup and spray and stuff. They made me into a mermaid-type woman: half-fish, half-woman.
HW: Isn’t that funny? Obviously you’re a beautiful woman but for a lot of the parts that you play they put you in weird makeup. Have you figured out why that is?
LO: [Laughs] No. Maybe they think I’m weird looking. I have no idea. I actually do it myself, too. When I play my comedy characters I play the ugliest thing I can to show range and to show that I really don’t care what I look like.
HW: Then there are those jobs that are a little strange but pay the rent, right?
LO: Yeah, one of the first things that I did when I first moved out here was a billboard for Gilmore Girls, and it was my body with Alexis Bledel’s head on. Then my friend was the mother, her body and Lauren Graham’s head. They even used my sweater – it was my outfit. They were like, “Wear whatever,” and then all of a sudden there was my torso going by on a bus. Another one of my first things when I first moved out here was for Amanda Peet. I stood in for her on Something’s Gotta Give with Nancy Meyers.
[IMG:L]HW: Did you get to work with Jack Nicholson at all?
LO: Yeah. He’s cool. I’d like to work with him again! I did get to read a scene with him and I didn’t know it actually. Nancy, when you stand in, actually has you read the lines. Well, usually Jack’s stand-in would read the lines during the camera rehearsal. Well, this time I walked into the dining room and I say my line and then all of a sudden I hear this voice and it was Jack Nicholson. I got to read that scene with him, and so that was fun. It was really exciting.
HW: So what are you looking forward to doing next?
LO: I just auditioned recently, about two weeks ago or maybe a little longer than that, for a daytime soap opera – that would be for a new character. A lot of auditioning and callbacks. The main thing that I’m doing now is writing a film for myself and another friend. I’m trying to get that produced and make that happen on our own. It’s a thriller kind of horror movie and we’re looking to put ourselves in it, but also to make the leads “names,” if that’s possible. I’m also thinking about putting on a one-woman show when it dies down here [after television pilot season]. It’s been kind of busy, but when it slows down I would like to do that and bring all of my characters and stuff. I have over a hundred original comedic characters.
HW: You’ve done several short films and improv shows in L.A. with some of those comedy creations – what’s going on with them now?
LO: One of my biggest characters, I think the most favorite out of all the shows that I’ve done—the one people like the best—is Marilyn. Basically what it is, is this loud Italian woman from Chicago and she’s been dating for the last 25 years this Cuban guy who swam over from Cuba and she literally met him on the beach in Florida. Marilyn is based on someone I’ve known since I was ten – if she finds out she’ll kill me! I was always impersonating her and I just got really good at it. I tapped it one day when I was doing just a whole bunch of improv footage. We have like two hours of footage of it and we condensed it and edited it down and showed it around town and people just loved it. People thought that it was really, really funny. It’s just the perfect character. I think that she’d be perfect for a sitcom.
HW: And people can watch some videos of you as Marilyn online?
LO: Yeah, it’s on my MySpace, my Web site lauraorrico.com and YouTube.
HW: As an actress on the brink of big things whose taken a lot of diverse gigs to break through, what would be your advice to someone who is just stepping off the bus in Hollywood? What would you tell them, given all the experiences that you’ve had?
LO: Oh, boy. Well, the one mistake that I see when people first move out here is that they give themselves a time limit. If it’s truly your dream I wouldn’t recommend giving yourself a time limit. Just work really hard and don’t give up, and every day you should be doing something – every day. Whether it’s mailings or getting out there and networking and taking classes, meeting people, emailing and making contacts, knowing the industry. I mean, I look things up on IMDB all the time, knowing who is directing what, what’s coming out, what’s in preproduction. And know the casting directors, research all of the casting directors. You have to promote yourself because no one is going to do it as good as you can.