One of the most energetic people you will ever meet, Renee Lawless has an infectious personality and a bright outlook. A trained theater actor, she revels in the nightly shows that would scare most actors to death. We had a great time learning about what makes this lovely lady tick.
ISM: At what age did you realize you wanted to be an actor?
RL: I’m going answer that in two ways. When I was a young girl, like kindergarten age, I was always doing little plays at home or involved in skits at school. Back in my day we didn’t have cable, only like three stations on TV, so Saturdays were filled with imagination. I always liked acting, but in my day I thought it was special people that went to Hollywood and made movies. I didn’t think they were real; people grew up somewhere and wanted to be an actor. It wasn’t until I got older, around thirteen, I thought I was going to be a singer, but I was still active in plays all the way through college. So, I would say at thirteen I got the bug, but I think I knew for sure as a career when I went to college.
ISM: You are a seasoned theater actor, what do you love about performing live?
RL: Immediate gratification, PERIOD! [Laughs] If it’s a comedy you get a real laugh, not a track. You can feel the energy from the audience. At the end you get an applause and there is nothing, movie or television, that equals that feeling. Even when you don’t feel right one night, you get to do it over the next night. You almost have to be more on your feet because the lines are the same, but each night there are many variables with live performing.
ISM: When did you first hear about the “The Haves and the Have Nots” project?
RL: In my field there are various websites where you get information about projects. I was touring with the Broadway national tour of “Wicked” and I was ready to give my notice after five years. I was just ready to go back to New York and start all over again. I knew I needed to find other work before I gave the notice. One day, about one in the morning, I clicked on one of the email alerts about a character “Katheryn Cryer”. I sat straight up in bed and said, “That’s me! I can be her. I know this one, and I can do this project.” I clicked to see the rest of the email and it was Tyler Perry. I was like “O’ Hell No, I’m never going to get this part. They’re not even going to call me for an audition”, but I was like what the heck, didn’t even tell my manager, I just sent them my reel. Found out later Mr. Perry really-really respects theater actors. I forgot about it as two weeks passed then I got a notice to send in an audition tape. Two months goes by and they called me to fly me to L.A. for a callback and I realized by the end of the call I pretty much had the part.
ISM: Did you audition directly for Mr. Perry?
RL: Yes, I did during the callback. It was a panel of all the producers and Mr. Perry. No introductions, you just walk in and it’s like go. To walk in a room with someone you have a great deal of admiration for, it kind of throws you off and I had to get over that and focus. (Tell yourself a little story in your head and focus on doing a good job.) He was great, very much directorial with me.
ISM: How do you personally relate to your character Katheryn Cryer?
RL: Katheryn and I are about the same age, which is rare. I usually play characters older or younger, not my real age. Women of a certain age, regardless of how much money you have, we all have the same hang ups of growing older. We all have the same problems with body image, family, etc. I relate to the emotional scenes with her and even the loneliness that the character experiences, as I do when traveling so much. A part of me enjoys playing the power woman part of Katheryn and I think that is the business woman in me. On the opposite side, I am a Christian and believe in God, where Katheryn really isn’t.
ISM: How would you like to see the character grow in the coming season(s)?
RL: Katheryn isn’t used to turning over control to anyone, especially her husband. So, I look forward to when she can do that. There is a sense of being off kilter which is very out of character for her. So, A, I look forward to her being more on track, and B, to her growing in her humanity, becoming more of a mother than she has ever been.
ISM: Can you tell us about “Renee’s Way or the Highway”?
RL: That has been put on hold briefly. Basically, it’s a video blog about smart things involving traveling and what to do while on the road. It’s also turning into a way of venting about certain things dealing with society. So we put it on hold to rework it a bit and we’re broadening it more.
ISM: What advice would you give aspiring female actors?
RL: Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s a man’s world, even if it seems that way. Just because a man is making the decision doesn’t mean it diminishes your credibility or gifts or talents. If you can’t take rejection then you are in the wrong field. You will hear “No” more than you will hear “Yes”. No means not today; it does not mean never. There is going to be that one day when you hear the yes after days of no’s.
ISM: Do you have any aspirations of writing and/or directing?
RL: Writing? No, because I’m not a good writer, but I think I have brilliant ideas. I can come up with great concepts then turn them over to the writer. I do hope to produce one day, and I’m not opposed to directing one day.