CSI: Crime Scene Investigation‘s new addition, Lauren Lee Smith is no one-trick-pony. Rather, the statuesque talent has built a steady career out of versatility. Flavorwire’s Bess Devenow caught up with her in Park City, where she was promoting her latest turn as a woman grappling with psychological demons in Helen (opposite Ashley Judd, pictured in the still above). Ironically, shortly after the interview, Devenow shared a taxi with the film’s writer and director, Sandra Nettelbeck, who spoke very highly of Smith and her ability to go out of her comfort zone and tackle a meaty role.
After the jump, read on to find out whether blondes or redheads have more fun and what performance piqued her interest in acting at the age of eight (and we aren’t talking a role in a John Hughes movie).
Flavorwire: You have had the luck of playing characters with really interesting jobs. As a child what was your dream job?
Lauren Lee Smith: Exactly what I’m doing. I have a tendency to get bored quickly so it’s nice that I’ve been able to make a career out of getting to play all these crazy different characters outside of myself. I feel pretty lucky to get to explore and sort of let out all sorts of stuff that in normal day to day life I wouldn’t necessarily get to do.
FW: Helen deals with complex emotional issues. Did you find it hard to delve into a character like that?
LLS: I didn’t. I was really looking forward to the opportunity. With this film, I think what’s so important about it that it is so relatable but people just don’t talk about it. I think almost everyone whether they are dealing with personal issues or whether it’s a loved one or family member or friend, I think everyone to some degree can relate to this film and mental illness. I sort of jumped at the chance to let out all of this craziness and delve into the mind and part of Mathilda, for a short period of time at least.
FW: It must feel good to know you are bringing awareness to these issues.
LLS: It is. I have had some personal experiences just through loved ones and friends, and I can relate to a certain degree. And for me this was sort of my opportunity to bring awareness on their behalf.
FW: Describe your perfect day.
LLS: All day? Okay, I would wake up whenever I wanted — probably around noon because I really like to sleep; I’m a good sleeper. I would have a giant breakfast then go for a hike with my dogs and then maybe see a movie and go to a record store. And then have a really nice bottle of red wine and a steak. Done. Throw some chocolate in there and that’s perfect.
FW: Speaking of adult drinks this year’s Sundance spirits sponsor is Le Tourment Vert absinthe, which is fitting as this spirit fueled the original creative class. Who is the actor who you draw the most creative inspiration from?
LLS: Isabelle Huppert has always been my idol. She’s the reason why I wanted to become an actress. Jennifer Connelly. I saw her in Labyrinth when I was I don’t know eight or something and I was like “Oh my g-d. You can do this?” Cate Blanchett, Juliette Lewis, anyone who steps outside the box I think I admire. I tend to really appreciate performers where they sort of disguise themselves in everything they do. As opposed to sticking with one genre and doing that really well, I prefer the more sort of “take the chances” route. I think it’s important to have those safe actresses of the world. But we also need the people who sort of go in there and take chances and disguise themselves.
FW: Three books you could read over and over again are…
LLS: Oh that’s a good one. Ken Follett’s The Pillars Of The Earth. I’ve read it eleven times. Perfume and then Tin Drum.
FW: Who has more fun: blondes or redheads?
LLS: Redheads. They get a bad rap but I always go back to red. For job purposes, they always want me blonde but if I had my way, I’d always be red.
* Images courtesy of Nate “Igor” Smith, drivenbyboredom.com