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Meet Laura Lane

by Erika Thuesen

Ex Los Angelino and newly resettled Texan Laura Lane chats comfortably with a waitress at Kerbey Lane Café on S. Lamar. It’s a setting, job and schedule that Lane once kept, those long-ago waitress days, and one she still feels a familiarity with, and respect for, as part of her own personal fabric. This day, though, finds Lane the epitome of Austin slack and ease -- her loose blond hair and offbeat outfit belying the not-so-long-ago glam life of an LA actress on a hit comedy series. Lane spent seven years playing the rigid, conservative yet loveably-comical character CC Babcock on CBS's The Nanny, and although the gig was, admittedly, a good one, it represents just a sliver of what this classically trained actress can do with a character, and even less of who the real woman is and how she is blossoming and evolving since landing in Austin three years ago.

Soon after The Nanny ended, Laura found herself 41, living in Post-911 LA, fresh from a difficult divorce and mother to a beautiful one-year-old daughter.  “All I really wanted to do was to be with Kate,” Laura recalls.  But being in the business means keeping your name and face out there if you want to work again.  The process proved to be grueling and depressing, with Lane facing a whole different set of standards and expectations than before.  The final straw came when she auditioned for the role of someone’s mother on Melrose Place. The character was described as “incredibly fit and beautiful despite being 40’,” Laura describes, rolling her eyes.  “I was not incredibly fit, having retained some pregnancy weight.  The twenty-something show creators appraised me coolly, heard me read and gave me the curt ‘thanks’ that amounts to rejection.  I left in tears, knowing I was done there.  I thought about the inevitabilities of my profession, how staying in LA at the age when actresses get fewer parts would mean downsizing, would mean growing away from friends whose focus was still on career,” Laura explains.  “That’s when I called my sister, and two months later we were gone.”

Laura and wee Kate moved in with the family of her sister, Kim Lane (AustinMama.com’s founder), and scouted out Austin as a place to put down roots.  Laura soon settled into a comfy South Austin bungalow and into the luxury of days spent discovering Austin with her daughter. The availability of close family ties is an endless blessing to Lane, especially with Kate’s cousins who are close enough to feel like siblings.

In an expanded career move, Lane recently accepted a position lecturing at Texas State University in San Marcos. “I’m so lucky that this job allows me to take my daughter to school each day, and pick her up each afternoon,” Laura smiles, adding, “and I learn so much from my students. I think teaching has made me a better actress.”

Working classroom hours also allows Lane to continue acting professionally.  Recently she appeared in the Zach Scott production of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, a play that boldly explores our cultural interpretations and expectations of what it is to be female, one that celebrates the deep passions, heartbreak, wonder and everyday minutia of real women.  Lane relishes this type of role, especially for its distance from Hollywood’s conception that the post-ingénue actress is no longer lusciously attractive, sexy, sexual or vital.  In one segment, Lane performed a moan montage so universally recognizable that the audience erupted with voyeuristic giggles, not knowing for sure if she’d revealed her own passion moans.  “I’ll never tell,” Laura smiles wryly.  

Mysterious, clever, sexy, engaging and productive DESPITE being 40+... can that be possible?

Hell yeah, baby.

Laura recently talked with AustinMama.com about her childhood dreams of stardom, her Oklahoma roots, and finding the creative muse in motherhood.  Here's what she had to say:

How come we also know you as Lauren Lane?

I’m known professionally as Lauren Lane because there was already a Laura Lane in the Screen Actors Guild. We had a contest at Grad school to see who could come up with the best new name for me, "Pepper Lane" was one of the more conservative offerings. My friends ended up calling me Gypsy, though, because as a little girl I wanted to change my name to something highly exotic like Nancy, Candy or Gypsy.

Who inspired you when you were growing up, and why? 

I have come to realize that my family gave me everything. I was the little girl who dreamed of making an Oscar acceptance speech and thanking all of the imaginary people that had inspired me. I was the little girl, tap dancing alone in my room on an actual detour sign, imagining my exciting life in NY or LA. While imagining all of this future excitement I was surrounded by eccentric southern men and women who taught me about humor and suffering and love. Skinny, smoking men who swaggered and told stories about having the ability to rip out a Doberman's throat with a fist! Men who would embarrass and thrill me in restaurants by grabbing a Hoover vacuum and doing a stand up routine, complete with song and dance, FOR THE WHOLE RESTAURANT! Beautiful southern women who sat at kitchen tables and laughed over stories of falling out of moving pick up trucks and accidental (and non-lethal) hangings of siblings. I grew up with farm folks and city folks, I have hid in root cellars from tornados and been tied to a pecan tree for the wolves to come and get by my great grandfather in an attempt to try and get me to stop pretending I was a dog. I come from champion bowlers, champion smokers, champion drunks, champion domino players. I come from women who sing GORGEOUS hymns in harmony and follow those up with sappy songs about dogs being run over by trains. I come from men who died too young and women who survived and started over. Flo, Clo, Lila, Theda, Jewel, Virgi, Dan, Tim, Dan Jr., and Kirk to name a few. I am so grateful to have sprung from this Oklahoma tribe.

You are face to face with your ten-year-old self. You have one thing to say to her about her future, what do you say?

All of the power you feel in your deepest self is real. Believe in it instead of the opinions of the popular girls.

If your daughter shows a desire to go into acting, will you encourage her?

I try to expose her to many kinds of work in ways that cast them in just as exciting a light as acting.

What is the biggest challenge you see mothers faced with today?

The pressure to take care of her children, her partner, her money, job, her retirement, her looks, her social standing, her health WHILE being a size six, smiling with bleached white teeth and staying on a budget. Geeeeeeez.

What do you see as your biggest challenge in being the kind of person you want to be?

My own inner critic letting me know there is always something more I could be doing; something better I could have done. (I sense my 70-year-old self whispering the same advice I claim I would have given my ten-year-old self!)

What makes you most happy about what you give back to the world?

When I sense that the more "evolved" part of myself is truly present. When I can sense, for example, my ultra-patient self calming my daughter's frustration or when I feel deeply good about mowing my lawn and I take a second to compare that delight to the things that were my priorities when I was living in Los Angeles.

What makes you most happy about the way you parent?

I am an "older" Mom, I had my daughter when I was 38. I am so happy to be her Mom, to hear the word "Mommy." I have no desire to be doing anything more ego gratifying. Which may have been the case had I had her at 28. I am pretty good at being very present except when I'm not.

How do you balance motherhood and art?

Like the clown Bill Irwin, trying to make her laugh, me laugh and pretty much anyone in the vicinity. I am lucky that my job allows me to drop her off at school in the morning and be done in time to pick her up when school is over. I try and make the afternoon our time but of course there is ALWAYS house work. I was a waitress for many, many years while I was going to college and grad school. I am pretty good at thinking in five places at once AND getting my side work done.

Which two notable people would you like to see handcuffed to each other for a day?

Bush and Christ. Maybe the former would then be more reticent to act on behalf of the latter.

What do you wish you could automatically grant, like a fairy godmother, to mothers during trying times?

Four hours where everyone who usually needs something from her mysteriously falls asleep like Dorothy did in the field of poppies, a dvd of her favorite comic film, an entire chocolate cake, the beverage of her choice, a vibrator with fresh batteries and clean sheets.

Thanks, Laura!

The Countess Galleria / Sarah Higdon






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