Appreciative of the where her career is going and the roles she has been offered, Lauren Sweetser is an actor on the rise. Lauren knows her strengths and her skill set, and has the confidence to pursue a career that fulfills her. That determination and diligence has paid off as Lauren brings her latest role to life in HBO’s TRUE DETECTIVE. In an exclusive interview, Lauren reflects on working on TRUE DETECTIVE and the surprising path of her career so far.
What was the initial appeal for you about working on HBO’s TRUE DETECTIVE?
LAUREN: The initial appeal was that it is just such a great show. I loved Season 1 when it began because of the world Nic Pizollato created. They have an incredible team of artists across the board who are all at the top of their game. Another appeal was that the entirety of Season 3 was shot in my hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas, so that was a really interesting element to know about from the beginning. Then getting cast in the show and being able to go back home and be with my family but also be there and do what I love which is creating and collaborating with other artists.
How would you describe who your character Isabele is in the series?
LAUREN: Isabele is all together quite complicated yet also very relatable. It was such an amazing experience to bring her to life off the page. Working with both directors Jeremy Saulnier and Daniel Sackheim was really incredible because we were able to come together and collaborate on all of our ideas of who this character was and then bring her to life on screen.
What do you most admire about her?
LAUREN: I admire that she is who she is no matter if people like that or not. She taught me to love yourself for who you are and that if other people aren’t into it, then that’s fine. You’re not going to be for everyone, and that’s okay.
What is it like working alongside such a talented ensemble on TRUE DETECTIVE?
LAUREN: So amazing. All of these artists are so talented and the projects they’ve worked on are so incredible. It was a joy to work with the different departments who are all at the top of their game, but it was also great to feel comfortable and prepared to work at this level.
How would you describe the dynamic between your character and Detective Wayne Hays?
LAUREN: Complicated! It will definitely be interesting to see how their stories come together and how it affects the season as a whole.
What do you think you have learned from working on the show?
LAUREN: Always be prepared for your specific job, but also be open to collaboration. It is great to have your own choices and set of ideas but you also need to be open to collaborating with others in order to really tell the story in the best way possible. At the root of who I am as an artist is the desire to collaborate with other artists. I don’t want to be so set in any specific choice or idea that it leads me in the wrong direction for telling the best story possible.
The TRUE DETECTIVE series undertakes really intense and sometimes scary interactions. What has really blown your mind about the show?
LAUREN: I think having seen a few episodes already it is really interesting to watch it all come together. Theres so much secrecy and mystery involved in a show at this level, that you don’t really know too many details regarding the scripts or the storyline. You hear bits and pieces of the season, so seeing it all come together and especially watching it be in my hometown is pretty cool.
What challenges have you had to work with on the show, such as extreme weather, big stunts, or something that seemed impossible, yet the show pulled it off?
LAUREN: There was one day where we were shooting out in the middle of nowhere and communication was tough because all phones and walkie talkies had little or no reception. It was a challenge to get in touch with base camp, or hair and makeup departments to get something they needed so we just had to make it work. It was also a torrential downpour of rain that day so at one point all of the actors had to huddle in a van until the weather let up a little. One of the PA’s on set had to climb to the highest hill around us in order to get in contact with anyone!
What are the challenges of portraying a character who is new to the TRUE DETECTIVE story?
LAUREN: I kept my focus on the fact that I was hired for this job and that I had to trust that what I did in the audition was what they needed for this character. You’re likely never going to book a job that you aren’t right for, so when I got cast, I just focused on doing the best job possible. It’s a huge show with a big fan following, but I couldn’t let that cloud my focus on what I was there do to.
What has surprised you about working on the show so far?
LAUREN: Probably the fact that I know so many different people that are involved with the production. From locally hired actors that I’ve worked with in the past, to PA’s that I knew, I was surprised that there were so many people I was connected to. I thought at first, with it being HBO, that they would bring in the majority of artists from out of state but I was excited to see that they hired so many local people for different departments.
What has been the best part about the experience of working on TRUE DETECTIVE?
LAUREN: Getting to do what I love and in my hometown no less. Also being able to learn from people who have much more experience than I do. If you want to be better, you have to learn from people who are more advanced and experienced than you are. When I’m on a set I always want to be learning, I want to be a sponge that soaks up all the knowledge I can, so being able to do that at this level was a true honor.
What do you think viewers will appreciate about the new season of TRUE DETECTIVE?
LAUREN: I think they will really love all of the performances. They will enjoy seeing how the actors were able to live and adjust within the three different time periods that the show takes place.
At this stage of your career, what do you think you have learned from the roles and projects you have worked on?
LAUREN: It depends on each project and character because every single one is different. I play a lot of dramatic, darker roles but I try not to ever judge a character even if it seems similar to another one I’ve played in the past. Each one is different and there is always something new to learn and discover about each one. And again, you always have to stay open to collaborating with other artists on set to tell the story in the best way possible.
What has surprised you most about your career so far?
LAUREN: Probably the opportunities I’ve been given through friendships or previous working relationships. I haven’t had the most traditional career as far as auditioning then booking a job. A lot of my jobs have been because I either sought out the opportunity myself or someone thought of me when they read the character. You just never know who could be working on what so for me its important to always make a good impression and do the best job you can, that way everyone involved remembers that about you.
Then what are the perks of where you are in your career right now?
LAUREN: I’m at the point now where I can be a little more selective in the projects i choose to do versus when I was just starting out. When I first began acting I wanted to take every opportunity I could to get on a set and learn as much as possible. I think that is important to do at the beginning unless its something that compromises your morals or beliefs. At this point I’ve built a resume that I’m proud of and I want to be protective of myself as an artist in the stories that I choose to tell.
What has been your proudest achievement as a working actor at this point in your career?
LAUREN: I produced my first feature film last year called “The Riot Act” that I also starred in. It was my first time producing and it was definitely the biggest challenge of my career but also the biggest learning experience. It was my producing partner, Devon Parks, and I doing every single thing until two weeks before production. We learned that we wore way too many hats and that we should’ve delegated more tasks but that is just how it had to be for us based on our budget. We had to use every free or dirt cheap resource we could in order to stretch our budget for the things that really mattered.
Has there been any great advice you have gotten about working as an actor?
LAUREN: Stay the course and don’t stop. If there’s something you want or a goal you’re trying to reach and you’re doing everything you can to obtain that then it just comes down to timing for when you will eventually get there. I think its also very important to remember as an artists that you must also have a business mindset. It is show “business” at the end of the day. Remembering that also makes it much less personal when you don’t book a job or an opportunity doesn’t pan out.
What advice would you offer to other upcoming and aspiring actors?
LAUREN: Perfect your craft as much as you can and always be learning. Often times it’s who you know to get you in the door, but its what you know to keep you there. Also don’t put the pressure of a timeline on yourself. In my experience there is nothing linear to this business so setting a timeline is just unrealistic and ends up taking all the joy away from the process of growing and creating.
At a time when women’s voices are rising to be heard and respected around the country and world, what do you recommend your fans do to lend support in that endeavor?
LAUREN: I think a great way to support any cause is by giving your time. If there is a group you feel is doing particularly exceptional work then reach out to them and inquire as to how you can best support their cause. When it comes to feminism I feel theres a common misconception that women are wanting to overpower the male voice. Feminism is about equality, and that is where the focus should be. Equal pay, equal rights, equal respect.
Do you have any other upcoming projects that you can share that fans should keep an eye out for?
LAUREN: I have a film called “Sweet Inspirations” coming out on pureflix.com on February 1st that I am really excited to share. I played a survivor of domestic violence which is a subject that is close to my heart. In college I worked with Women and Children of Domestic Violence thru my sorority Alpha Chi Omega, so the role really resonated with me when I read it. I am also really excited for a film I did called “Nemesis,” directed by Leah Robson, where I play a paraplegic former ballerina. It was one of my most challenging roles to date and I cant wait to see what we created.
All new episodes of TRUE DETECTIVE currently air Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m. on HBO. To keep up with the show on Twitter, follow @TrueDetective and to keep up with Lauren as her career grows, you can follow her on Instagram @howsweetseritis.
TRUE DETECTIVE Season 3 trailer:
Where to watch “Sweet Inspirations”:
“The Riot Act” at Cannes interview with Lauren Sweetser and Devon Parks: