Graphic by: RPP / Photo by: Lesley Bryce
It seems like Monica Lacy's career was mapped out in the stars. In high school, she was scouted (and then plucked up) by Disney to star in The Parent Trap III with her sisters. Since then the actress has nabbed recognizable stints in various television shows and movies, most notably being one of Kramer's girlfriends on Seinfeld (she appears in the classic “yadda yadda” episode).
Currently, Monica stars on Amazon's new family series, The Kicks (the first episode is here for your viewing pleasure). We were lucky to catch up with Monica to discuss her role, her incredible career and what's next!
RP: I remember seeing you in The Parent Trap III when I was younger. I know that was your first "big" film. Can you talk about what that experience taught you?
ML: Wow, I learned SO much from that film. My sisters and I had just gotten into acting, so when Disney met us they decided to write it for us. We were incredibly lucky, of course.
Disney also paid for all of our acting, singing and dance classes while we were under contract, which now I realize was a huge gift. We were able to really study and learn the craft of acting, and then immediately put it to use on the film. Plus, it was just cool to work with my two sisters and share in that very exciting time in our lives together. Great memories!
RP: I know you're the only one of your sisters who is still pursuing acting. Was it that you “couldn't not" do it?
ML: Sort of, yes. I hadn’t planned on acting - it kind of found me. After I had thrown myself into learning about acting, and having the chance to act on TV and in films,
I really fell in love with it. I found that I couldn't walk away from it. When I took a break when I had my kids, I found that I couldn’t stay away and just recently have jumped in again.
"I hadn’t planned on acting - it kind of found me."
I think some part of me is drawn to sharing myself with the world, and I love creating a character and studying the human behavior of it all. People are endlessly fascinating - that’s what keeps me in this career. Plus all actors are a bit masochistic, to stay in a business that tells us “no” and “you’re not good enough” nearly every day. I love the challenge of auditioning and booking, and I also like that the odds are so stacked against me. I’m a competitor, a gambler and an artist. And that mix has kept me going.
RP: You've studied at acclaimed places like The Groundlings and UCLA. What have you taken away from your time there?
ML: I’ve had some amazing teachers along the way. At UCLA I decided to major in English Literature and not theater because I was already studying with the great teachers in the city at the time. How fortunate I am that I had a chance to read so many classics in literature, from Baudelaire to Delillo to Shakespeare and Chaucer. I apply the same lessons about character, drama and how to explicate a text every single time I pick up a script. It’s great prep for an actor - to be well read and learn how to critically think about great works of literature.
The Groundlings was very inspiring and scared me at the same time. I learned timing and how to take risks during my time there. I also learned about my strengths and weaknesses, as well as to say “yes, and…” with my acting partner, and how it’s a dance of give and take. I rely on those basic lessons when I prepare for an audition today. I’ve gleaned invaluable lessons from everywhere I’ve studied.
"I thought, 'This is the coolest thing I've ever seen.'"
I learned how to be present when I’m acting when I studied the Meisner Technique with Janet Alhanti and Iris Klein. I learned how to develop the physicality of a character and how to dive deep into creating a character from Larry Moss. My very fist class was an improv class at The Young Actors Space with Diane Hill Hardin. I honestly remember watching some boy stand on stage with nothing in his hands, and proclaim he was holding cantaloupes. I thought, “This is the coolest thing I have ever seen.” Then I jumped on stage and volunteered to go next.
RP: Congratulations on The Kicks! I caught the pilot and really enjoyed your performance. You carry a ton of "light" with you on screen. How did you get involved with the show?
ML: I was lucky enough to be asked to put my self on tape for the audition. It was an easy part to “drop into” as I have kids the exact ages as my two TV kids. I also got lucky with my choices. I decided to ignore the character description, which said that Sharon Burke was into yoga and seemed to suggest a free-spirited vibe. I saw another side to Sharon - one that was more idealistic, ever-hopeful, and uber-positive.
For some reason, taking her in this direction inspired me. I guess it was a good fit. Also, both Gabe Eggerling and Sixx Orange, my onscreen kids, look like they could really be my natural kids, which always helps in the casting process. I could tell after the chemistry read, when we all read together as the Burke family that we worked well together and we were all a good fit.
RP: The show isn't totally a mockumentary, but it definitely has that feel. Sort of like Modern Family. Do you like working in that format?
ML: I enjoyed the confessional parts a lot. They offer a “behind the scenes” glimpse into the character, which is fun to play. You can “show another side” to what you’re feeling, so to speak.
Some folks really liked this aspect and others didn’t, so the confessional parts weren’t included in the whole series, only the pilot episode.
RP: Interesting. Were you able to draw from your own experiences to play a mother who has to support her insanely talented child? It must have been difficult not to fall into the “soccer mom" cliché.
ML: Playing the TV mom of a super talented kid was natural for me - what mom doesn’t think their kid is special or uniquely talented? It’s almost like their dream must become your dream, and it takes a commitment from every member of the family to support that dream. That was what became clear to me shooting this show; it takes a village.
I didn’t want to be the cliché of a soccer mom, who ignores everything that isn’t soccer or is obsessed with success at any cost. I wanted her to be more balanced, more real…she’s a working mom who has to toggle back and forth from work mode to mom mode. That’s something I relate with, and I bet a lot of other moms do too.
RP: I really love the scene in the pilot where you guys are sitting around eating dinner on that big moving box. It's very sweet. It made me wonder how you guys worked on forming your family bond - was there time on set to become more comfortable with each other?
ML: We luckily had great chemistry when we met, but we jumped into shooting the pilot with only a day of rehearsal together. Between the pilot shoot and when we started the series, we had lots of chances to hang out together, which we took. And we hang out together just for fun now! I really think that relationship is important to have so it can be natural onscreen. I hope the fondness and playfulness we actually have for each other is apparent onscreen.
RP: David Babcock is an incredible talent, having produced family shows like Gilmore Girls. Did you get to work with him directly at all?
ML: Yes, David Babcock was very involved with the pilot episode, honing and changing the script every step of the way. What you see is very close to his vision for the show. You can tell he has a wide breadth of experience, as he knows exactly how to make a scene be heartfelt but also humorous, while avoiding being schmaltzy. He’s so very kind and sweet, and
he drew on his own experiences of when his own daughter played soccer when he was writing the show.
RP: On the more technical end of things, what is it like working on an Amazon show? Is there more freedom compared to other studios?
ML: Working on an Amazon show, so far, feels very much like a network show to me. The biggest difference is that after we shot the pilot, it was online for the whole world to see
and to comment on. Normally no one gets to see and comment on a show before it’s picked up to series. This process felt very democratic to me, and I was amazed how so many people felt the exact same way about the show. Most people said the same thing; they were happy to have a show to watch with the whole family, and that they were glad to see a show centered around a strong female lead who is admirable in her quest to be great at a sport. Clearly, it hit a nerve. As a real mom, I’m glad to see a teen girl who's not solely obsessed with make up and clothes, but rather engaged with becoming proficient at something. She's a good role model.
RP: I wanted to quickly ask you about your large TV career. What has been your favorite show to guest star on and why?
ML: It has to be Seinfeld. I was so excited to get a part on the show, and it was amazing to work with Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Richards and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I remember being amazed at how the cast kept up a steady, witty banter at all times, even in between scenes. They seemed to really enjoy the moment, the lines, and had an improvisational culture on set that facilitated making great comedy. I was all eyes and ears.
RP: I'm really glad you brought up Seinfeld. How does it feel to have appeared on such a legendary show?
ML: I was thrilled to be on such a legendary show and see how it operated. I recall that mid-way through the shoot week someone said that this episode, the Yada Yada episode, was going to be a special one. I asked how they knew that. The answer was, “Jerry. Jerry can tell. He just knows.” And guess what? He was right! I also got to watch the other guest stars work, including Bryan Cranston and Debra Messing, two of my favorite TV actors!
RP: Any other upcoming projects you’d like to share?
ML: I am proud to be the face and spokesperson for AutoNation, the largest auto retailer in America. We have some more fun TV shoots coming up, as well as radio and print campaigns. But perhaps the best part is their commitment to finding a cure for breast cancer - 100% of their corporate giving goes to finding a cure, and they created the AutoNation CureBowl to raise money, and even changed their company color to pink. Last year they gave over a million dollars to the cause, and I get to star in all these ads asking for help. My mother is living with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, so this is a cause I care deeply about, and it gives me a chance to have a big impact.
RP: That sounds like an amazing opportunity for change. To end on an inspiring note for our readers, what is the best piece of advice you have for aspiring actors?
ML: There is room for everyone in this career, so take every opportunity you can to act: in local theater, in commercials, in your friends’ productions, film a webisode on your iPhone, etc. Use the many ways out there to showcase your talent. Fortune favors the dedicated person who just won’t quit. Good luck!
RP: Thank you again for your time!
ML: Thanks for the chance to do this interview!
Be sure to check out The Kicks on Amazon follow Monica on twitter @MonLacy!