“I Shape-Shift for a Living”, and Other Tales of Being an Actress
It’s hard to define “real” when you live in a world of dual realities. Each day I go to work and walk into a different circumstance, as a different person, with a completely different history than my own. Sometimes I’m a sweet daughter, other times I'm a snide tomboy, and sometimes, I’m a Power Ranger (okay that was only twice, and I didn’t get the part). As an actress, it’s my job to walk into a room, embody someone else, and essentially “shape-shift” to become a living, breathing version of what a carefully selected team of writers, directors, and producers has cultivated in their heads. It’s a strange, sometimes-wonderful-other-times-demeaning, job. And when you’re constantly stepping in and out of this world of make-believe, it’s hard to define what is reality and what isn’t.
Bona fide. Now that’s a term the world could stand to learn. If you look closely at the credits of your favorite reality shows, there are writer credits. It’s scripted. Even “reality” isn’t real.
How do you be bona fide in a business where the real is an act of creation? How do you get to be authentic when it’s your job to be a shape-shifter?
I came into this business at a young age. Acting was an outlet, a way to make sense of the heightened emotion and empathy I possessed as a child. I didn’t understand how people could hear or read of watch something and not be emotionally affected by it. But when I read a script, not only was I allowed to feel those things, it was my job to do so. All that plus a fascination with people, is what draws me back to the craft time and time again.
But Hollywood is a dangerous place when you’re a curly-haired little girl with stars in her eyes. And when acting as other people is such an integral part of your adolescence, it gets weaved into the adult you become.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
I know that Lauren loves school, she enjoys cultivating laughter, she craves peanut butter far too often than what is normal. She loves Jesus and the people around her to a clinical degree. She is altogether strong and emotional and faulted and clumsy and graceful and loving and determined. So, I’ve learned that I don’t need to “become “ someone else, whether in life or for a role just because others are watching. When I act, I simply get to play on and exaggerate the parts of myself that already exist.
When I play a total badass, that’s still Lauren, it’s just the side of me that stands fearlessly, and takes life head-on. When I’m a scared, young girl, it’s the Lauren who fears the future and wants the answers and feels small. And when I’m a preppy high school teenager it’s just Lauren who owns far too many dresses and heels, and wears her confidence right along with them. The best characters are the ones we see ourselves in anyway. The ones who are messy, raw, and vulnerable in a way we get to watch and relate to.
I strive for authenticity, even amidst the fake. When I act, I simply embark on the adventure of exploring different facets of myself. I am skipping and stumbling through this colorful, laughter-infused, chocolate-covered, coffee-stained thing I get to call life and the characters I play are doing the same, just in their own way.
The key to shape-shifting, is that the shape may be different, but the material stays the same.
- Lauren Franco
>>>My mind is racing- Lauren, you are an amazing person and writer. You just took Be Bona Fide to the next level with this insight. These words and your story are so powerful thank you, thank you for taking the time to share this with us. Your #bebonafide story truly has touched me and I know will touch anyone who reads it. Love, Nikki