LFC: Introduce yourself to the LFCommunity by telling us your top 3 favorite movies.
Miriam Laurence: That’s a hard one, as I’ve been watching films for decades! I guess I’d have to choose at least five and say Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck; The Miracle Worker with Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft; Run Lola Run with Franka Potente and Moritz Bleibtreu; E.T.; Pulp Fiction; The Big Lebowski. Oops. That’s six…But I could go on and on. And then there’s the stellar television series on now – I just watched American Crime Story – wonderful acting, directing and cinematography.
LFC: Tell us about how you got your start as an acting coach.
ML: I was already teaching actors of all ages at various schools in Toronto. My lovely teacher, Samantha Langevin, was leaving and suggested I take over her classes. I don’t know if I was really ready, but I jumped right in. Then a few years later, David Smukler, my amazing voice teacher, suggested I take over a dialect reduction gig on a television movie – and then I got my first coaching job on a series – CBC’s Street Legal.
LFC: You’ve worked with a lot of really amazing actors – was there a moment in which you knew you had helped to create something substantial?
ML: Not really… I always strive to create something substantial with each actor. But in my classes I have a sense about which actors will actually ‘get somewhere’ in the business; Tatiana Maslany comes to mind as someone whom everyone would know.
LFC: What’s one misconception you would want to clear up about what it’s like to be an acting or dialect coach for those who may not know?
ML: It’s a hard on-set gig. You arrive and no one really knows who you are – no one wears name tags on set. It’s sort of like a feudal Japan system – everyone discerns who has power. It’s a very delicate position to be in – knowing when to go in to give a note, when to hold back, etc.
LFC: Who have been your most influential teachers?
ML: I already mentioned David Smukler and Samantha Langvin, but before them definitely Madeleine Sherwood, who, despite our age difference became my life-long friend – and, of course, Lee Strasberg.
LFC: We’ve seen (and are big fans of) a lot of the projects you’ve worked on! What has been one of your favorites so far?
ML: 11/22/63 was definitely the best experience overall! It’s a mini-series based on Stephen King’s novel about the Kennedy assassination. It was produced by J.J. Abrams and James Franco who also starred in it. The actors I was coaching were wonderful and I was really made to feel like part of the team.
LFC: How (whether it be throughout one of your projects/pieces of work, through your character, or anything else) would you like to be remembered?
ML: As a first-class teacher, coach and director!
LFC: The entertainment industry has been under scrutiny for their treatment of women (amongst other things). Do you feel that you’ve had to overcome obstacles that men in the same/similar industries/job roles have not faced?
ML: Definitely. It’s been extremely difficult for me to gain a foothold as a director.
LFC: What skills have been the most beneficial for being successful?
ML: Being present. Breathing and listening.
LFC: What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself throughout your career journey?
ML: I’ve learned to keep a positive attitude and how not to pick up – or to ward off – any negative energy.
LFC: What does being an #entrefemmeur mean to you?
ML: I love the way the La Femme Collective is striving to empower women to go for their careers. I would hope to inspire younger women to go for their dreams in the entertainment ‘industry’ – tell their stories and aim for the top positions!