Chat with a Pro: Actress Laurie Burke

Laurie and I got started in acting at about the same time in San Francisco. Often when you go to castings, you’ll end up in a room with sixty other girls who look just like you. But seeing each other time and again isn’t why we became friends- she’s a girl’s girl, the  kind of actress who sees you as a partner, not competition. She’s a triple threat: theatre, commercial, and voiceover- she’s been the voice of Google and in countless big brand commercials. One of the sweetest and most talented women I know, Laurie has taught me a lot about what it means to work hard on your craft, but I’d never asked her about her start. Here’s what she had to say.

CP: Acting is a tough profession. What made you decide to go for it full-time?

LB: I was working full-time as a Sales Representative for Nutraceuticals (vitamin ingredients). I realized I wasn’t happy. I had this gnawing feeling that I just wasn’t fulfilling my potential. I was stressed out and my body was doing some funky things in response. My doctor said to me, “I don’t know what you do for a living but it’s not worth it”. I wasn’t rich but I was single with a pretty good disposable income. I looked at the clothes in my closets, my lifestyle of going out to dinners & spending what I wanted, and I thought, “What am I doing this for? I don’t need all this stuff, I just want to do something I love every day”. That’s when I realized time is far more a commodity than money…how you spend each and every moment is the most important thing in life.

CP: That’s a serious lifestyle commitment. Tell us about your first professional job. Laurie

LB:  I was on “Medium” (NBC). It was really fun because I got to spend 2+ hours being made up like I burned half of my body and was lying in a hospital. I was super nervous and freezing! Patricia Arquette was holding my hand in the scene and I apologized for being so cold. She said, “Well, you’re a good actress”. She was REALLY cool.

CP: What an AMAZING first gig! How did you get it?

LB: I was living in L.A. and signed up with a casting agent through a friend. I played a woman who burned down the house and killed her daughter…I still joke that a casting director took one look at my picture and thought, “Yep, that’s what the woman would look like.”

CP: HA! You’re silly. So, what was the process of getting an agent like for you?

LB: I was working without an agent for quite some time. I went to a casting notice which turned out to be an Agent. She asked if I was represented and I said I wasn’t. Then I auditioned on the spot. Then she said, “Well, you must be shopping around for one so let us know if you’re interested in signing with us”. It hadn’t occurred to me to “shop around”. I did, and ended up auditioning for, and signing with, a friend’s agent-he recommended me. I’ve been with them now for about four years and I’m really grateful that they represent me.

CP: Wow that’s good to know. I went out almost straight away with an agent so it’s nice to hear about experiences with and without agents. You have a ton of formal acting training. Talk about that. Company - Not Getting Married Today Scene

LB: I took courses in college, some in L.A. and at the American Conservatory Theater (SF) and THEN I went away to Europe for two months and studied at European Act at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, London-Paris-Berlin-all through the London Actor’s Center. I was the only American out of about forty-five actors. I LOVED IT and I will always continue to study!

CP:  I need more classes! So what about auditions? How do you prepare?

LB: I look over the sides and try to memorize as much as I can. I decide what to wear (what is the look of the part), how I’m going to wear my make-up and hair, etc., and I make sure I have my head shot and resume and arrive early (especially when you don’t have the sides ahead of time-I use the extra time to prepare!).

CP: What advice do you have for people who want to get into the business?

LB: First – STUDY! If you really love to do this, then you will really enjoy studying too AND you will want to be the best you can be. Remember, it’s how you spend each and every moment of your life-so if you love to act…ACT! ANYWHERE – you don’t have to be in L.A. or N.Y. just do it as much as you can!!I also believe in continuing to study all things creative-always!!I learned that from my Dad (an amazing Actor who is 83 years young, retired, and still learns something new every day…right now, it’s more piano, last year it was painting).  You have to really want to do this. Look at it as YOUR TIME and YOUR LIFE. Treat the art, business and colleagues with respect and appreciate and enjoy your time doing it…remember-you GET to do this!

Thanks for chatting with me- I know how busy you are. Break a leg sister.

See Laurie’s magic here.




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