10 THINGS – Laura Mennell
You’re originally from Canada. When did you decide that you were going to be an actress and how did you get your start?
I knew I wanted to pursue acting professionally, at a young age. I landed my first real job during high school for a Movie of the Week called I’ve Been Waiting For You. And, my high school drama teacher at the time, Gai Brown-Evans, was extremely supportive — I have such lovely memories of her. I also studied in The University of The Fraser Valley’s theatre program and snuck in auditions and film work in Vancouver on the side. I’ve been lucky to steadily work throughout the decades and owe a lot of that to training throughout the years. Shea Hampton was a huge influence in those formative years of finding my voice as an actor — she taught me how to simply be and find spontaneity in my work. And, Iris Quinn has been and still is a huge mentor for me. I honestly owe so much to her as a teacher (and friend) — she’s like family. I’ve known and trained with her since I was in my late teens. She’s always been there for me, helping me work out challenges when I’m overwhelmed. I’ve honestly learned so much from her and still do. I wouldn’t be the actor I am today without her. It’s important to find those teachers who support and challenge you.
Which actors career and body of work had a motivating influence on your career?
It’s usual iconic performances that stick with me and inspire me as an actor. Audrey Tautou in Amélie is a huge favorite. She’s impossible not to fall in love with, as Amélie. I empathize with her and am always happily drawn into her journey in the film. I laugh and cry and feel like there is so much love and magic in this movie. I’m always so invested in wanting her to succeed and leap into the joy and challenges of life… doesn’t matter how many times I watch this film, she always makes me feel so much.
And Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry was so brilliant and heartbreaking. It was such an important film that needed to be told about the life of Brandon Teena (an American Trans Man who was murdered in the 90s). It’s so raw and real, that I’ve only been able to watch it a few times. But, she breathes so much authenticity into that role, showing the world how special Brandon was and how our world needs to find more love and compassion for those different than the mainstream. And really, at the end of the day, we aren’t all that different, we’re the same, and any differences only make us more interesting. Hilary Swank is really amazing and was deserving of the Academy Award that year.
You’ve done a variety of roles. What type of characters are you drawn to?
I like playing a variety of different types of characters. That’s the fun part of my job. More recently, I’ve been playing the girl-next-door in Loudermilk; a lesbian journalist working under the Nazi Reich in Man In The High Castle; a vampire in Van Helsing; and a 1950s housewife with a yearning for something more in Project Blue Book. It’s always changing! I love my job.
Let’s talk about your latest project, Project Blue Book on the History channel. How were you first introduced to the series and what made you want to be a part of it?
I loved the show from the moment I read the first script, written by David O’Leary (our show’s creator). It’s fun, entertaining and has this noir-esque feel that’s set in the 50s. I was especially interested in Allen Hynek as a character. He’s a very educated man, a well-respected astrophysicist and professor hired by the Air Force to debunk UFO sighting in the 1950s and 60s. He’s not the stereotypical “hick” normally depicted as flying saucer enthusiasts of the time. He’s credible and approaches each case with a scientific angle. And, I love how he starts off as a skeptic and then, begins to realize there’s more to the mystery of what’s out there. He becomes a believer in the UFO phenomena. And, so does Captain Quinn in many ways! Our show explores one of the greatest mysteries of all time and that’s really exciting.
On the show, you play the role of Mimi Hynek. What can you tell us about her personality and what makes her tick?
Mimi loves her family and would do absolutely anything for them. But this season, she’s feeling like something’s missing in her life, but she doesn’t quite know what. And, though she cares a lot about her family, she’s feeling unfulfilled with her role as a housewife — as many women in the 50s might have. And because of this void and loneliness, Mimi’s easily lured into a new friendship with a woman called Susie (Ksenia Solo), who might have ulterior motives than simply making a new friend. So, their relationship is a little complicated.
What do you enjoy most about bringing Mimi’s character to life?
For me, I love the journey Mimi goes through this season and how she changes. There are many challenges she faces as Allen’s new job starts affecting their home life. His work is secret from the public (even from her! ) and creates a lot of strain on their marriage. And Blue Book starts to become a threat to the Hynek family’s safety. It’s not an easy time for Mimi, but Susie’s really there for her and as a result, they develop a strong bond. And yes, Susie’s motives are definitely questionable, but Mimi has no clue — which only makes their new friendship more interesting. And they go on fun adventures, easing Mimi out of her comfort zone and bringing about a lot of changes in Mimi’s life. Ultimately, this complicated friendship helps Mimi find her inner strength to confront the chaos she finds herself in.
For those who haven’t seen the show, what are they in for this season?
Well first of all, Allen Hynek (Aidan Gillen) and Captain Quinn (Michael Malarkey) go on quite the journey of their own! In Project Blue Book, the two investigate real cases that were once classified from the public. There were over 12,000 cases and about 700 of them were never solved. And supposedly, a lot of the solved cases are still a bit of a mystery, since the Air Force pushed their investigators to simply close cases regardless of any questions that may have remained. It’s a really interesting time in American history to explore. And, David O’Leary and Sean Jablonski (our show runner) found a great balance between exploring historical events and mixing them with a lot of fun and entertainment! I love the noir-esque feel mixed with the golden age of the 1950s.
And, we have so many fantastic actors in our show like Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones), Micheal Malarkey (The Vampire Diaries), Ksenia Solo (Lost Girl), Neal McDonough (Minority Report) and Michael Harney (Orange Is The New Black)! They are all really amazing actors and I’m thankful to be working with such talented and lovely people.
If you weren’t working on your career as an actress, what type of career would you have instead?
I’d probably be working with animals in some way. Maybe I’d have an animal sanctuary where I could take care of goats or homeless cats — I don’t know — something like that. I’ve loved visiting places like Farm Sanctuary in Acton, California. And I want to check out Gentle Barn next time I’m in LA. These organizations make a huge difference in the welfare of animals. Who knows?! Maybe when I’m in my 60s I’ll explore something like this on a smaller scale.
When it comes to fashion, what designers and styles appeal to your personality?
I used to work for my sister’s clothing store in Vancouver, called Liquid Clothing. At the time, I fell in love with fashion, especially local designers. They were pretty inspiring. One of my favorites that I still love is Allison Wonderland — her line’s been around for decades — it’s feminine but fun and functional and I love seeing her work grow and change throughout the years. And recently, I’ve fallen for the environmentally friendly Bellantoni Designs, a new up and coming designer who mixes sustainable fashion with unique designs. I’m a big fan of supporting local talent.
I’m also experimenting with high end, couture fashion for red carpet events. My favorites, so far, have been dresses I’ve worn by Bibhu Mohapatra, Michael Costello and Theia Couture — wearing these designers make me feel so polished and elegant. And that’s how fashion should make you feel. It’s an exciting way to creatively express yourself. I have so much respect for fashion designers, it’s a real art.
Besides Project Blue Book, what else can you be seen in?
Project Blue Book’s really been my main focus right now and I’ve been doing a lot of fun press for its release. But, I’ve also been lucky enough to reoccur as Thelma Harris, in the hauntingly beautiful Man In the High Castle for Amazon’s third season. And I play Allison Montgomery in the first season of Audience Network’s Loudermilk and pop up in a few episodes of the second as well. I’ve been really thankful to be part of some wonderful shows recently.
Facebook: Laura Mennell
Photos: Rowan Daly
Hair: Michael Duenas
Makeup: Desirae Cherman
Stylist: Gabriel Langenbrunner