There is almost nothing that makes my job easier as an interviewer than asking questions of an actor who is confident in his/her abilities and is able to present himself/herself as a well-rounded, talented, fascinating human being. In Lisa Temple’s case, that is exactly what she did with the questions she recently agreed to answer. She offered fresh insight into her early passions, her notable works, and her upbeat outlook on the industry as a whole.
What inspired you to become an actress?
When I was young, I stayed up late with my dad and watched The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Johnny would interview all these famous actors, and I was always fascinated with who they were as people: what kind of clothes did they wear, what were their personalities like…and they would tell the most amazing stories about life on the set of a film or how they broke into the business.
What kind of training have you received?
In college, I was a music education major, and then went on to get a master’s in vocal performance. (That’s where I met my husband!) I took some dance and acting classes, which opened up a whole new world for me. One of my acting teachers told me that when it came to acting, they saw infinite possibilities for me. That comment has stuck with me and kept me going.
Then we moved to Chicago, and I really fell in love with acting when I studied Meisner Technique at Center Theater for four years, and took a year-long acting intensive with Steven Ivcich. I got my SAG card doing commercials in Chicago, and did a number of indie films. Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve studied at Bang Improv Studio, Theatricum Botanicum, Sam Christensen Studios, Margie Haber Studios, and BGB Studio. I’ve also taken some wonderful online courses from Bob Fraser, Dallas Travers and Amy Jo Berman.
You’ve guest-starred on some well-known TV shows. What has your experience been like on those more traditional TV shows as opposed to your indie films?
As you know, TV shows are fast-paced with quick (often weekly) deadlines per episode. That makes for really intense work – there isn’t a lot of time to fix things or do take after take like a film set allows. Actors have to be able to nail their characters immediately so the crew can move on to the next setup. There’s very little tolerance for actors who can’t bring it right away.
On Masters Of Sex, they were ready to shoot my scene, and I was waiting for “Action,” but I never heard it. The director suddenly shouts, “Okay let’s move on.” (because he thought I had messed up.) I gasped and sat up to explain, but Lizzy Caplan had been watching. She saw my reaction and said loudly, “She was waiting for ‘Action.’” Next thing I knew the director appeared in the doorway, profusely apologizing to me and saying, “Let’s try that again.” I was so grateful that Lizzy had spoken up for me!
Indie films are a different animal, though they can also be under a time crunch, especially if they’re low-budget. They’re often more relaxed than a TV show. But on one film I did, a scene of mine was delayed till the end of the day because the director spent way too much time on a crowd scene. So there I was in makeup and costume, going over my lines, trying to keep it fresh, hoping that the crowd scene (which isn’t going well, it turns out) wraps fairly soon. Then I was finally called to set where the AD made an announcement that dinner wouldn’t be served till after my scene was complete. And just to complicate things, my scene was in a small upstairs bedroom, so small they had to shoot from outside through the window. Suddenly, the weather turned very windy and the crew was struggling to keep the equipment stable. Not to mention the window was open, and the blowing wind was driving the sound guy nuts. I wanted to throw my hands up in the air, but instead I decided to stay super-focused so I could perform well under those conditions…and get people to dinner before they passed out! I was proud of myself for those strong choices!
What do you see as the challenges and benefits of indie films?
Indie films are a fantastic learning experience for any actor, but especially for actors trying to get established. It’s a great way to meet people who are also on their way up, and then you become part of an artistic family who want to work on the same kinds of projects you do. Also, in this day and age, it’s crucial for an actor to have an impressive demo reel, and working in low-budget indies can really help with that.
Of course, it can be a big challenge to actually get the footage from one of these indie films. Completing the editing of a low-budget film can often take months (or even a few years). But stay patient, and every month send the director a cheery message asking if they’ve had a chance to pull your scenes from the film. It can really help them out, too, if you are willing to get a copy of the entire film then take it to an editing house to pull your scenes. I personally have been blessed with super-smart and supportive directors who have provided me with footage quickly. I’m truly grateful for that.
Since you are in both films/TV, what do you enjoy about both mediums?
Booking a TV show is very exciting, especially if it’s a hit show. Then you get to tell everyone you know(!) when the episode airs, and you get to see yourself on TV. Some actors don’t like watching themselves, but it always thrills me. Feels like such an accomplishment. And lastly, booking a TV show creates wonderful buzz for your career and helps improve your credits listed on IMDb.com.
On a film set, there’s a great opportunity to enjoy a sense of family and community, since there are usually a lot more days on set to get to know people. Films also offer fun travel to different locations. It’s a great way to see the country and hopefully, the world. That’s one of my dreams–to travel around the world shooting films!
I understand that you’re an animal lover. Please tell us a little bit about that.
I grew up showing and riding my horses in 4-H. I even got to raise my very own horse from birth, and rode her all through my early school days, eventually competing in rodeos in high school doing barrel races. Those were exciting days! We also had lots of cats and dogs around our house when I was young.
My husband and I rescued cats in Chicago (one of them traveled from Cape Cod to Chicago riding on the dashboard of the car most of the way). When we moved to Los Angeles, we flew them out with us. They were a great comfort as we adjusted to our big move to the West Coast. After the cat chapter was over, we started our amazing dog chapter, which was so much fun. We especially loved walking Runyon Canyon on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. Sadly, after fifteen years, we lost our dogs this year. They were the loves of our lives, and we have so many fond memories. Maybe one day we’ll start a new pet chapter!
Do you have plans to write and/or direct eventually?
My husband and I have written a book together! It’s an upbeat memoir about my childhood growing up in a small Mid-western town. It’s called Caution Light On Hwy 37 and is available on Amazon. Writing that book was a great experience, and now we’re working on two different film projects. Both stories revolve around a character I’m writing for myself, as we would love to produce our films as well.
Of your many roles, what one do you most identify with? Which one is least like you?
The role I most identify with is Penny Ingram, the boss in The Fortune Theory by Aldo Filiberto. The film stars Evan Williams and John Terry, and I had a wonderful time working with Evan.
We were both deeply connected to our characters, and I absolutely loved being the compassionate and savvy boss who was dedicated to her employees. Learn more about the film at www.thefortunetheory.com
The role least like myself is Beth Jarrett, from the play Ordinary People by Nancy Pahl Gilsenan. In her grief, Beth is cold and distant toward her remaining son Conrad as she tries to maintain her perfectionist control over the family. I had to find the humanity and likability in her, while still bringing my own sensibility to the role.
If you could work with anyone in the entertainment business, whom would you choose and why?
I’ve long admired the work of JJ Abrams. My favorite project of his is Alias, with Jennifer Garner and the wonderful supporting cast. Of course, I also love Fringe (a close second) and Person Of Interest. The first Star Trek movie is also a favorite!
JJ’s stories often revolve around a close family unit who love each other deeply and would do anything for each other, no matter how dire the situation may be. I’m always attracted to family dramas, since mother roles are in my wheelhouse. I always jump at the chance to play a mom!
As a woman in the industry, have you experienced gender bias? Please elaborate.
The way gender bias shows up for me is in the number of male roles vs. female roles being cast. A general statistic is that the average project has eighty percent male roles and only twenty percent female roles. And, of course, of those female roles, most will be young women. That leaves us middle-aged ladies operating with a bit of a handicap.
But I don’t focus on that because ultimately, I believe that there are enough roles out there for any actor who’s willing to do the work required to succeed: be patient, be persistent, be prepared even at a moment’s notice, and most importantly, be grateful for every audition, callback and booking you get.
Now how could you NOT like a woman who is uniquely gifted and positioned to portray the “mother” roles in film? Having watched Lisa characterize a few of those roles on screen, I quite concur with her evaluation of her remarkably manifest strengths and fortitude in these roles. However, Lisa is so much more than any role in the business can ever demonstrate. I instantly fell in love with her story the moment she mentioned vocal music, as that was my field of study in college as well. Furthermore, the stories she recounted both in and out of the confines of the entertainment business I found riveting and illuminating. Lisa is genuine, pragmatic, but above all, unmistakably buoyant. Those traits alone are enough to ensure that her enthusiasm for film and TV will never be utterly quenched, for she consistently searches for the good as opposed to the bad. Although the arts are an essential part of who she is, she is aware of the fact that she defines herself by living every day of her life with a smile and an open heart. I would invite you to check out Lisa at the various links below and consider following her, so that you will be aware of every significant step along this path of turbulent excitement that we call life.