Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
for Radio Free Entertainment
May 3, 2007
Originally from British Columbia, actress Laura Harris made the move to Los Angeles as a teenager, where she quickly found work in a variety of projects. While her first "big break" was arguably Robert Rodriguez's high school horror flick The Faculty, she is probably best known to audiences for her role as a terrorist on the second season of TV's 24, as well as her key part on Showtime's quirky comedy/drama series Dead Like Me, in which she played Daisy Adair, a blonde and beautiful grim reaper who aspired to Hollywood stardom before her untimely demise led to an occupation in the afterlife.
In this exclusive interview, Laura talks about her early start in show business, working in her high school drama program alongside an actress close to our hearts, Emily Perkins, and the prospect of Dead Like Me getting reincarnated as a feature film.
Laura's latest movie, Severance, is now playing in theaters.
RadioFree.com: How did you get into acting, and how old were you when you started?
LAURA: My parents were school teachers. Early childhood education was a big deal. I did speech arts training from like the age of 3. And at the age of 5, CBC needed...They used to do radio dramas. They don't have the funding for it, I don't think, anymore. But they used to do a lot of it, and like BBC radio dramas, it was really big. And they needed a 5-year-old who could read, and so I just started doing that, and did like a bunch of voicework--countless Japanimation [shows], making them English. Like the really, really cheap Japanimation where it's just like the round mouths that open and close, and you fill in a story really quickly. And I grew up doing that...I mean, it just kind of happened. It was like an extracurricular activity. I loved it. And at the age of 13, I guess, I did my first series. And then 16, I left home. And 19, I moved to LA.
You haven't done a lot of voiceover since then, but is it something you'd like to get back into?
Absolutely. It is like the best part of everything...Especially the radio dramas, because you're doing a play around a mic, and aesthetics don't matter, but the environment is still created because you have all the relationships. The dynamics are interesting. All the vitality is there, but without the concern of what you look like or what you're wearing, which is not my favorite part of it. [laughs]
So when you're doing that kind of work, are you physically in the same studio with the other actors? Do you perform together?
Radio dramas, you always do. Yeah. And actually same with the series, like My Little Pony, you were always all in there together.
Since you started performing at such a young age, surely you must have the requisite embarrassing clip...
Yeah, I've got so many. Countless. You know, I think I played Queen of the Underworld in a Canadian show called The Odyssey. I can imagine it would be hard to find. I'm like 15 and wearing chainmail and a platinum wig. It's hardcore embarrassing. [laughs]
I understand we have a mutual acquaintance...
Your high school classmate, and one of our favorite actresses, Emily Perkins?
Oh, yeah! I mean, I haven't seen in her years, but she's an amazing human being, and I have like an extraordinary fondness for her. My memory of her is like love, but I wouldn't be able to claim "love," because I haven't seen her in so long. [laughs]
Prior to high school, you were both in Stephen King's It. Jump start my memory: did you have any scenes together?
I think we did. I think I played like a cruel witchy kind of character making fun of her character. I think I just had a couple lines, if even a couple.
Your filmography includes a producer credit, and I understand you did some directing in your high school drama program. Are you very interested in all aspects of filmmaking?
Not at all. No. [laughs] I'm only interesting in acting. Producing just happened because I meet a lot of people who want to make their first films, and I happened to be dating somebody at the time who was like, "We can make a movie for $15,000!" And I was like, "I don't have $15,000!" And [we did] a movie...that did not cost $15,000, by the way! [laughs] I wish it did. And the directing...I have stage fright. I didn't like getting on stage...I mean, in stage, I would prefer to do anything I can to stay off the stage because I'm so scared of it, and that was what sort of came up as an option.
What kind of shows did you put on with you as the director and Emily as a performer?
It's vague in my head, but we had these Friday morning student assemblies, and we did a soap opera that was improvised, and Emily would play this incredible...She was so unbelievably excellent, profoundly exquisite as an actress. I remember her, to this day, sitting on the stage with these Barbie dolls with a helmet on, because she was the insane kid that was like locked in the attic playing out with the Barbie dolls what her parents were doing in the floors beneath. And it was profound. I mean, she was exceptional. [laughs]
[reviews notes] Was that soap opera called "As Reality Slips Away"?
[remembers] Oh my God! Yes, it was. [laughs]
I'm told you won some sort of competition. Do you remember being the acclaimed director on campus?
I don't really. Now that you say it, I think we had like a house competition or something like that. [laughs]
Dead Like Me was prematurely canceled after two seasons. Before it was axed, did you have the impression that you might have been with it for a few more years?
No. For a lot of people, it was over. And for other people, I'm not sure they were clued in to what was going on. It was plagued with troubles. And those troubles really matter when it comes to a show with so many people involved. You know, I'm so grateful to have done the show, but I'm very grateful to move on as well.
Did the production problems make it harder for you to become attached to your character Daisy? Because fans of the show love her...
Oh, that's so sweet. [laughs] No, I was definitely attached to that character. I had never done anything like that before. It was a real huge stretch for me. Which is great, because I love that challenge.
What was the inspiration for Daisy's accent?
I didn't have an accent. It's so funny...I had like an air. An affectation. But no actual accent. Maybe like the lilting of the speech...But I did not consciously have any accent. And I'm not conscious of having an accent. Like I use some of the scenes for my reel...
Interesting...I always counted that as an accent...
Yeah, it is interesting. But her speech is definitely like 1930s dialogue...It's a "way" of speaking, as opposed to an actual dialect.
So did you base Daisy's way of speaking on anything in particular?
I consistently watched as many old movies as I possibly could. I mean, just to sort of get that affectation down.
Daisy was always telling stories about her promiscuity and sexual escapades in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Had Dead Like Me continued for a few more seasons, do you think we would have learned that she was making a lot of it up? That maybe she was more innocent than she let on?
[laughs] Ummm...I don't know where they would have gone with her. I was always surprised. I would say that more than anything else, she's just tragic. Like that deep need to be a movie star, and to barely be an extra. That kind of deeply tragic disconnect, like for value, like self-worth, and like wanting to feel that admiration. To me, that's a beautiful, deeply tragic story. So maybe that would have made her proceedingly more sympathetic as you heard her stories. Like being unloved and wanting admiration from all, you know?
Are there plans to make a Dead Like Me movie?
I've heard this. Apparently they are, but I don't think they've contacted my people about it. Or maybe they have. I don't know. Like there's rumors, and I think they may be seeing if people would be into it.
You would think reuniting the core cast would be the first order of business...
You're originally from Vancouver, and you moved to Los Angeles to work. So how did you get involved in a UK production with the horror/comedy movie Severance?
Well, mostly from 24. I mean, because 24's huge in the UK. In England, people just love it. It really was a success there. And so it was just timely. 24 had been playing, and then Dead Like Me, I think, had just begun. So you're just kind of in the consciousness a little bit, and you get on lists that you wouldn't necessarily be on normally.
How did you like the opportunity to play a villain on 24?
It was one of the most thrilling, awesome things I've ever done. Truly, it was awesome.
And now, our completely irrelevant question...What is your favorite black and white animal: panda, cow, penguin, or something else?
Panda, penguin, cow...or something else. I would say of those, definitely panda...I respect that pandas have been able to keep it going. Because they've got some troubles. So I'm rooting for them. [laughs]
Continue to our second interview with Laura...
In this second segment, we are joined by director Christopher Smith and other members of the media to discuss her movie Severance.