CLOSE-UP Culture welcomes actor and singer Lanie McAuley onto the site to talk about How It Ends, working with Forest Whitaker, music and much more.
Q: The trailer for Netflix’s How It Ends – out 13 July – looks very exciting. Can you tell us your reaction when you first read the script and can you reveal anything about the role you play in the film?
A: WHEN I first read the script I blasted through it because the whole thing is so intense. I love a good apocalypse movie and knew I wanted to be a part of it.
Not sure how much I can say about my role but I will say Liza was a fun departure from my usual typecast.
Q: What was the opportunity like to work with a director of David Rosenthal’s calibre? What can you tell us about how he operates?
A: DAVID is incredibly accomplished and has a very artistic eye, so I was pumped to work with him. We met over Skype for my second call-back a day after I had moved to Nashville. He wanted to work the scene a few different ways and it is always refreshing in an audition setting when you get the opportunity to do that.
We spent the other half of that Skype call chatting about music and the city I had just moved to. My immediate impression of David was that he seemed laid-back – and that translated into his directing style.
Q: Likewise, I imagine it is the dream of many actors to work with Forest Whitaker. Can you share any interactions you had with him?
A: WORKING with Forest was definitely a highlight. He was surprisingly shy and soft spoken. When I met him he was concerned with making sure we had all been briefed regarding the prop firearm being used in the scene. He was just professional and respectful to everyone on set. It is always a bit surreal when you get the chance to work with one of your heroes, so I tried to watch his process and absorb as much as I could.
Q: How It Ends is an apocalypse film. What three items would you grab if we were confronted with a situation similar to the film?
A: ONE. My dog Teddy. Two, a bike, because mobility is key but cars are dependent on the scarce resource of gasoline. Three, a backpack full of Swedish fish.
Q: You started in the entertainment industry at a young age doing commercials. How do you reflect on those early years and the grounding they gave you as a performer?
A: I AM really grateful for the time I spent on set growing up. I had a lot of discipline as a kid and understood that I was working in an adult world and it all felt like a privilege. I was taught to respect every person on set and their different roles. I would go through phases when I did and did not want to act and my parents would just go with the flow.
When I was taking a break, it would usually end when a director for Barbie would call my agent and request me, and I would be like: ‘Yeah, I want to do it.’ Then they would give me a prototype of the doll we were advertising and that was the best thing ever as a little girl.
I think seeing behind the curtain at a young age and understanding that what you see on TV is not what it looks like, was pretty valuable.
Q: Looking at your credits I was pleasantly surprised to see you voice acted in an episode of animation Hamtaro. Do you have any memories of this? And do you have a favourite acting project you have worked on?
A: I DO. I actually did multiple episodes of Hamtaro but the record on IMDb can be incomplete when you go that far back. I was a tween when I worked on this show and I loved it. Voice acting was my first foray into working in a vocal booth, so I learned a lot about my voice and the recording process.
It is hard to pick my favourite project. Right now Aeris is coming to mind. I loved being part of a story that centred on badass female athletes. We filmed at one of the most beautiful ski resorts in the world – Whistler, British Columbia – and I got to work with my best friend Elise Gatien. Everyone including the steadycam operator was on skis or a snowboard at all times.
Writer and director Lukas Huffman wanted a natural feel so a lot of the dialogue was improvised. He trusted us to steer the project collectively. The indie filmmaking experience was hands-on. When you are pulling 12-hour days on a mountain in sub-zero temperatures with a crew of less than ten people, everyone is doing multiple jobs. There is an extreme sense of accomplishment and pride when you put that much into a film.
Q: As well as acting, you have a tremendous talent for singing and song writing. How does your passion for singing interact, overlap or differ from your passion for acting?
A: I LOVE this question. At the core, singing, song writing and acting are variations of storytelling. I think when you are artistically inclined one way, that often bleeds into other artistic ventures.
So my passions for singing, song writing and acting are all married to a love of storytelling and I guess expressing my humanity. Where they differ is how I approach them. I generally feel in control of music that I am writing. I know what I want to say and it is then finding the best way to say it.
With acting, I am not a screenwriter so I receive a script and my job is to interpret and portray my best version of a character. I am not in control of the final project, only my work within the project, and it is nice to be one cog in a bigger machine. But in the end, both music and acting feed the same part of my soul.
Q: Can we expect any new music from you soon?
A: YES. After moving to Nashville I did some soul searching and exploring what I wanted to express through my music. Through that process I found I was identifying more with pop sounds and themes. I still write country sometimes, but at the moment I am developing a new project. I will have something out this year – the new sound is pretty different.
Q: I was watching the short film you referred to earlier (Aeris) and I heard a track from the band Bully – a favourite of mine. Do you have any artist recommendations you can give us?
A: ABSOLUTELY I listen to everything from pop to country to rap – my Spotify recommendations are all over the place. I am into Lizzo right now for feel-good tunes. And Leon Bridges. I am still loving everything Julia Michaels is on – I really respect her as a writer and artist.
Some friends of mine have a project called Sheffield that has a cool Lumineers-y vibe. I saw HAIM live a few weeks ago and became a fan. I have their whole catalogue on repeat in my house. And on the country end, I think Cam is super underrated. Her song “Diane” is brilliant and her voice is killer.
Q: What is next for you?
A: THIS year I am focusing on song writing and putting out new music. Living in Nashville is a blessing and I have been so fortunate for the doors it has opened for me musically. I went through a roller coaster couple of years, so I am enjoying drawing from that and working on my EP. On the acting side, new projects are always coming up – so stay tuned.
Title Photo credit: Jackie O Photography