Theater News

Lauren Lane Has Found God

The popular actress discusses starring in ZACH Theatre’s God of Carnage and her work on The Nanny.

Lauren Lane has had a long, distinguished career on stage and television, although she will forever be known to millions of TV fans as the acerbic C.C. Babcock on The Nanny. These days, Lane lives far from Hollywood — in Austin, Texas, where she teaches full-time at Texas State University and works frequently at ZACH Theatre, where she’s currently starring as Veronica Novak in Yasmina Reza’s award-winning comedy God of Carnage. TheaterMania recently spoke to Lane about the role and her work on The Nanny.

THEATERMANIA: Tell me about your history with ZACH?
LAUREN LANE: I moved to Austin in 2002 and I did my first show at ZACH in 2004, which was The Vagina Monologues. I was concerned about being able to balance single motherhood, full-time teaching, and doing shows at night, and Dave Steakley, the artistic director, was so great about trying to find things I could do in the summer, when I’m not teaching. So I did The Clean House and Becky’s New Car. But now that my daughter is a bit older — she’s 13 — I began to feel less guilty about working at night. So last year, I played Barbara Fordham in August: Osage County. And the thing is, as I tell my students, if I were living in Los Angeles or New York, only big A-list stars would get to do these sort of parts, and doing these roles are how an actor gets better.

TM: Did you have the chance to see God of Carnage in New York?
LL: No, I never have seen it. I know some actors are touchy about seeing other people play their part, but I would have loved to have seen Marcia Gay Harden do it. Why would I pass up the chance to see such an amazing actress?

TM: So, what was your reaction when you were approached to do the role of Veronica?
LL: After Dave offered it to me, I read the script, and at first, it feels a little stilted. But as we’ve worked on it, I feel it gets deeper and funnier. Veronica reads very stridently, and at first, during rehearsals, I felt she was very shrill all the time. So I went through the text, and there’s a lot of exclamation points, which obviously meant those speeches are meant to be heightened. But I did a different highlight of color on each speech, so I could be more specific about how they’re delivered.

TM: What’s your take on Veronica now?
LL: Like Alan says in the play, she has great integrity. I think she really believes it is crucial to stop violence wherever it happens. But her sense of perspective is skewed. I think she is funny in her vulnerability; she is confused why everyone doesn’t see good intentions. In the end, I don’t care if the audience doesn’t like her — it’s like C.C. in a way. Maybe not liking her is the goal.

TM: Do you think she and her husband, Michael, actually have a good marriage?
LL: My co-star, Thomas Ward, and I talked a lot about their marriage, because they seem so ill-matched intellectually. So we’ve spent a lot of time trying to find their connections, so we can tell their story in a fuller way. I think Veronica is attracted to his sense of humor — she clearly doesn’t have one — and his sensitive masculinity. I think the conversations that he has with his mother are key; it feels like his mother is close to us, and Veronica appreciates that he’s sweet to his mother.

TM: Do you think you would understand Veronica as well if you weren’t a mother yourself?
LL: The only thing I might not understand is that violent, physical response you have when your child is hurt. I feel pain when my daughter is in pain, whether it is emotional or physical, I feel it internally. So, I see why her son’s missing teeth is such a big deal to her.

TM: So, do people still talk to you about The Nanny?
LL: All the time. My students are all of the age that they grew up with The Nanny or they watch it now in reruns. Sometimes, they come to class and say, “I went to bed with you last night.”

TM: Do you keep up with your Nanny castmates?
Daniel Davis, who played Niles, and I are very close; we’ve been talking a lot lately, since he’s doing The Cherry Orchard in New York, and I did it recently. I really hope I can find the time to come and see it. Charlie Shaughnessy and I talk by email. And Peter Jacobson and Fran Drescher want to get Danny and I on their new show, Happily Divorced, although it’s been hard to schedule it.

TM: You had so many amazing guest stars on The Nanny. Who made the strongest impression on you?
LL: Elizabeth Taylor, because I had never been around that level of fame or seen that kind of entourage; I think that day there were 2000 people on set, because everyone just had to meet her. And she was incredibly gracious and professional. There was no diva action going on. And yet, I felt what it must be like to have everyone want a piece of you, and I realized it must be depleting to be that famous.

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God of Carnage

Closed: January 8, 2012