A force in the Chicago improv community, Lauren Lapkus moved to Los Angeles a little over five years ago to make a name for herself. And boy has she. From sitcoms, to guest appearances on some of the funniest comedy shows, to her own popular podcast and role in the upcoming Jurassic World, this woman knows how to work it. A fantastic improviser, her characters and dedication to the craft have proven to be the right recipe to make it in this town. I talked to Lapkus about her upcoming projects, what she’s learned along the way, and how she’s juggling it all.
Your podcast With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus is so funny. Tell me about it. How did it come about?
Well, I’d been doing guest spots on a bunch of different podcasts on Earwolf for a while. Mostly Comedy Bang Bang which is how I first got started over there, improv4humans, and pretty much most of the other shows over there I feel like I’ve been on at one point or another. Eventually they came to me and said, “Do you want to do a podcast and what would you do?” I think it was just part of becoming a part of the family slowly over time.
Was the concept an idea you already had?
I didn’t know what I wanted to do and my husband and I were talking and basically I was like, “Well, I don’t really like hosting stuff” and he was the one that helped me come up with the concept of me always being the guest and never having to host. (laughing) So it worked out perfectly.
That’s a smart way to do it.
Yeah, it’s really fun getting to do that and be in control and also be out of control at the same time. Because my host is the one who gets to decide what’s going to happen or what the show is. They decide my character as well. I really don’t know anything going in, but that’s how I like it.
You don’t even know the character ahead of time?
No. I had started out initially where I would plan my character and not know what they were going to do. I’d just tell them my character’s name and a brief description and then they would start their show and I would be surprised by what they brought. After a few episodes I realized it was probably more fun and possibly more cohesive if they came up with my character, because it would go with whatever character they wanted to do or whatever they had in mind. So, a few episodes in I had them decide it. That made it more exciting for me, because I knew that it’d be fully improvised, which is fun.
Do you have a favorite character that you’ve done so far?
One of my favorites so far, I mean I don’t know if this is necessarily a character I would revisit at least without Joe Wengert, but his episode was so much fun. We played brothers, so I just mimicked his actions. That was one of my favorites so far, especially because it was something I would never really come up with on my own.
Then you’ve got Jurassic World coming out this summer. First of all, what’s the role that you play?
Well, I don’t know how much I’m even allowed to say, because for the longest time we weren’t allowed to talk about it. Now you can see me in a couple of trailers and clips that have been released, but I’m still not exactly sure how much I’m supposed to reveal.
Can you talk at all about what was the best part about shooting it?
Yeah, it was so exciting to be a part of it. Just getting that role was so thrilling. We got to shoot in Hawaii and New Orleans. Going to Hawaii was great. It was a beautiful location that we were in, so that was really exciting to be a part of such an epic movie in such an amazing location. My first day of shooting I saw a rainbow over the ocean, so it doesn’t get much better than that.
Can you say if you worked with Chris Pratt and is he as awesome as he seems?
Yes, I did get to work with him and he was so funny and charming and awesome, so I really get why everyone’s all excited about him for sure. Just a few short hours I was with him he was all of those things.
The other show you’re a part of that’s premiering soon is Clipped.
This is a show for TBS. It’s a sitcom. Basically it takes place in a barbershop in Boston and other casts members are Ashley Tisdale and George Wendt and a few other really great improviser types who are so much fun. We all work at a barbershop. We went to the same high school in Boston, but hung out with different crowds. We’re all very different types of people. We all ended up staying in town working at this barbershop together. It’s all the hijinx that ensues within that world. It’s really fun.
And you play the receptionist.
Yeah, my character’s name if Joy. She’s the receptionist and is very wholesome and religious and naïve. She’s married and doesn’t seem to get any sexual innuendo or anything like that. Very wholesome girl.
Your Orange is The New Black character Susan is more on the wholesome side too. Do you think that’s based on characters you’ve developed or how much of you is in them?
It’s interesting, because I don’t really see myself that way and don’t really play that way when it comes to improv or the characters I do on my podcast, so it’s pretty fun to get out of my natural comedic zone. I never really go there in improv, but I tend to get cast that way. I think I maybe just have a sweet look like that, but it’s always so interesting to get those roles.
And you’re an awful person on the side in real life!
Yeah, I’m horrible. (Laughing)
It’s great too watching how quickly things seemed to move for you. Do you ever look out side of your body and think, “What the hell?!” What’s that been like for you?
Yeah, it’s definitely been exciting and there are those moments where I’m really surprised. I mean, I think being a part of Jurassic World was a big one for me, because it’s a franchise that I grew up watching and to be a part of that is kind of mind boggling. But yeah, I think there are definitely times I step back and am surprised by everything, but at the same time I feel like I’m working so hard and I’m busier than I’ve ever been that it’s hard to step back and do that. I really am so focused on what I currently am working on and what comes next. My mind kind of works that way, so it’s hard to totally get out of the situation and the moment and go, “Oh wow. It’s pretty amazing that I did this.”
I’m sure everyone is encouraging, but are there misconceptions that your friends and family must think your life is like now?
I don’t know. I think my family jokes around about stuff like that, but they know the truth of the matter. My life is not any crazy Hollywood lifestyle. I mean, I have a pretty simple life in general, but I think it’s easy to imagine things that way. I never knew anyone who was doing this when I was growing up. No one in my family is an actor or anything, so it’s a lifestyle that no one knows anything about, but of course from talking to me they learn how everything works and how TV shows are made and cast and all that stuff. So it’s cool to be able to share that with them.
Do you remember the first time you were like, “Oh, that’s how this works? I didn’t know that.”?
Yeah, I think I have that all the time.
What’s an example?
Well, I learned that I sweat a lot, especially when I first started. I think it’s slowed down a little bit. When I first was on Are You There, Chelsea? a multi-cam show that I did on NBC, that was really exciting, because I grew up watching multi-cam shows and that was amazing to see how many people are involved in the production and how it works with the live audience and everyone coming in. I mean that was something that was really mind blowing to me. I had never been to a show like that before I was in one.
And I mean, things like with stunts. That always blows my mind how stunts are done. On Orange is the New Black I got to do a couple cool moments with stunt people. For instance, when Susan Fisher gets choked by one of the inmates, we used a stunt person with some of that. That was really cool to practice how you make choking look real without actually hurting yourself. All that stuff was really fun to learn. And even a friend of mine was telling me the other day how she was working on a movie that involved an animatronics animal and she explained that they would use a, what do they call it, a witches ball or one of those lawn ornaments, those globes that you see in people’s lawns. They would use that and move it around the space to get what the character would be seeing in their eyes, the reflection of things that would be in their eyes. So, I didn’t know how that worked which is so cool. I’m constantly blown away with how everything is made.
Is there anything that maybe you don’t enjoy about this crazy life or don’t love as much about the business?
I think the biggest struggle or that I’m learning to live with all the time is that you can’t predict what your schedule is going to be. I think that’s difficult for me in terms of trying to keep all my friendships going or traveling for weddings or important events with family. It’s always hard to know if you’re going to be available or what’s going to happen. Because, really I’m still at that point where I really have to take jobs. I mean, I’m excited about all these jobs, but I also have to be there, because I need to keep it going, so it’s hard to say, “Oh I’ll be at that thing in five months.”
I remember reading an interview with Jenna Fischer or maybe it was a blog post she wrote where she talked about acting and you really have to take those trips and really let yourself do it and don’t worry about what you’re missing out on. I think that was really helpful advice for me, especially when I was first starting. You know, you’re really just waiting to get any job at all and you’re afraid to leave town or miss out. It’s good to just go home and see your family or whatever the thing is that you’re worried about doing. It’s almost more difficult as it goes along, because now I actually have work opportunities, so it’s more likely that I’ll have to cancel my trip or reschedule. Whereas when I was first starting, the odds were that I wouldn’t have anything to do that weekend. I would just be freaking out over nothing.
How hard was it to plan your wedding? You recently got married back in Chicago.
Yeah, that was really crazy. It was the kind of thing where I just had to be like, “This just has to be what it is. This is the date and whatever happens, it doesn’t matter.” But, of course when I booked Jurassic World I ended up being in Hawaii shooting that movie a few days leading up to my wedding, so that was definitely kind of stressful, but also awesome, because it was like a free honeymoon. I brought my husband with me. We kind of had a pre-honeymoon before our honeymoon by just getting to go to Hawaii, but yeah it was definitely stressful. Of course that’s bound to happen. The second you plan something everything has to go the opposite direction.
Yeah, sometimes I plan stuff on purpose like, “I’m going to say yes to this, because then I know I’ll book… whatever.”
Oh yeah, totally. It always goes that way. So, I wasn’t too surprised.
So you’ve got all these things that are coming out this summer. Is there anything new or projects you’re working on?
I have a few things in the pipeline that are going to be coming out. There’s nothing that I can really announce just yet, but I’m definitely running myself ragged trying to do a bunch of different things. I’ll be on Comedy Bang! Bang! the TV show on May 22nd. Other than that it’s just a bunch of stuff I’ve got under wraps a little bit, but hoping to get out to the people soon enough.