Entertainment » Television

Laurel Holloman on Art, Motherhood and the Balancing Act That Makes for a Truly Great Life

by Sarah Toce
Saturday Mar 5, 2011

She embraced our hearts opposite Jennifer Beals in the hit lesbian Showtime series The L Word before taking a little time off to dive into motherhood full-time (she has two daughters - Lola and Nala - with ex-husband architect Paul Macherey) and re-discover her artistic gift as a painter. Laurel Holloman is at once a beautiful actress, exquisite painter and devoted mother. This winter, The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love star will be visiting The Dinah in Palm Springs. She gave me a call last Saturday to discuss her passions, artistic wanderings and future plans.

Thank you for calling me on a Saturday. What is new in your world since the end of The L Word?

No problem! Wow, I guess it's almost been two years since we wrapped shooting, hasn't it? Basically, I took some time off to be with my youngest daughter. When I went into the sixth season, my daughter was newly-adopted and she was only four months old when we started. Then I worked five or six months and basically worked 15 hour days every week so I felt like I wanted to take some time off for maternity leave. So, I kind of spent the next six or eight months being pretty selective about the projects I chose. I went back to work with both kids when they were really young. I never really felt like I had enough time with my children. So, when I was done with the show, I really wanted to take some time to be a full-time mother. That was really important to me.

When you did go back to work, you did quite a bit!

Yeah, the end of that year [when The L Word wrapped], I did Castle and then went on to shoot Gigantic. That show was a lot of fun because the cast and writers were really great. They were just people you'd want to be around and work with on a show. It was a light schedule so I could still be with my children and paint a lot. It was a great balance. I turned down a lead in a movie because I had adopted and wanted to slow the pace down, I guess you could say. I wanted to make sure I had balance in everything in my life.

How has the balancing act been going in your life lately?

I think after six years of a series, I slowed the pace down and was able to maintain the balance. My youngest is two-and-a-half and in pre-school now. My art has taken off in more ways than I could've ever expected!

Speaking of your art, you are going to be in Palm Springs at The Dinah in 2011 signing art posters and chatting with fans. Tell us a little bit more about that.

Yeah, I want to be clear that I won't be painting anything specifically for The Dinah, but I will be there signing posters and interacting with the fans and everything. If I paint something between now and then, I will definitely bring it. It's going to be pilot season for me and, you know, usually when I am in some happy auditioning mode, I have to put the paintbrush down because it takes me a long time to learn the lines for auditions and get the scene down and all of that. I feel like it's duplicitous for me because I'm trying to juggle the dual nature of the two art forms, but I think they fit together really nicely.

A lot of people may think that acting is just reading lines off a page and that there's not much work involved, but they would definitely be mistaken. Do you agree?

I just had about a month where I was reading for some films and pilots and I want to really get it all done so that I can do the projects justice. Even when actors are not working, they are still working. If you're not learning lines, then you're on the computer researching cop jargon because you have to audition for a role you don't really know completely, there's 20-pages to memorize and all of that. Auditioning is a full-time job as well. It's harder and a little more competitive now than it has been. It's intense with the addition of reality programming. Things have shifted a lot in regards to what's out there to choose from. I'm just really, really lucky that I still have some great people around me that want me to read for different things and want to work with me. I read for a film with George Clooney recently and some other stuff last year. As long as I keep reading for really wonderful films, I'll keep going. It's always nice to walk in and someone there recognizes you and says, "Hey, I really loved sixth season!" In addition to that, now I have some other casting people who are seeing my art and ask me to paint them something to hang on their wall! It's great! It's really great.

Do you feel more fulfilled as an artist because you are doing more than just acting for a living? Does your art help with sustaining you creatively?

Yeah, I mean, I think that for me, the art really calms me. I find it really meditative whereas auditioning really amps me up a little bit. I don't have a really huge celebrity name so I am in the mix of people that are really famous and that can be tricky as you get older in this business. I never feel like, "Oh, I wish I had gotten that!" Instead, I feel like, "Oh, I want to watch her in that!" I tend to feel like there's always enough room for every rose in the garden. We're all here to work and be supportive. I think that maybe I have that attitude because I feel balanced and that when it lines up, it'll line up. I don't want to be a person who takes just anything because it's offered. I want to make sure that whatever I take is something that is really great.

Your body of work in entertainment definitely shows that you choose roles based on subject matter and content.

Yeah, I think that when you get older in this industry, too, like - you can get really panicked and the voice in the back of your head can say, "Oh, you better do this or you'll never work again." I'd rather work less and work better than work more to fill in the void. I think that it works because I balance my work with painting and then balance both careers with motherhood. The decisions matter more than ever now because I have a family.

You're going to be busy over the holidays, I hear.

I'll start painting a lot over the holidays and then I have pilot season so I will probably have to pull back a little bit and then I have a big commission coming up for a corporate bank in Italy. It's turning into something where I might have to take a little break from acting. I can't do it all.

At least you know that. A lot of artists in various fields don't always know their limits and that is where issues arise.

A lot of women as they get older in this business want to add something else. Something different and new. That happened to me towards the end of The L Word. I knew that I wanted to paint more. I remember sitting in the trailer with Rachel [Shelley] and Mia [Kirshner] and the three of us were all talking about graduate school. We weren't talking about the next pilot we were going to do. We had just done six years of a pilot! We were talking about the thirst for knowledge. Mia had been acting since she was really, really young and I had been acting since I was a teenager and had gone to Sundance and Rachel is a great writer...I think she actually did get into graduate school. Leisha was a really great painter as well. There was a real, sort of, thirst to grow. I was surrounded by really creative people wanting to do more and that type of atmosphere is really inspiring. The girls on the show that I was gravitating towards were the ones who wanted to really explore who they were growing into as woman and not just as actresses. Jennifer [Beals] has this amazing talent with photography and works really hard to balance a lot of different things. Pam [Grier] was also really inspiring and even wrote a book. It was beyond just acting. I was blown away by the creativity that I was around.

One wonders if the consistent timeframe within your jobs on the set helped with allowing your minds to wander and grow in such positive directions as people. You weren't just working and wondering when your next paycheck or meal would be! You had a semi-stable job in a fairly unstable industry.

Yeah, I think you can explore things because part of being an actor is that constant auditioning, but once you're signed on with a network, you have that luxury of sitting back and being financially stable to explore other things you may be interested in. My ex-husband was in graduate school for architecture at the time and that really opened up a lot of the way I looked at things. As an actress, you're not always in control of what you are doing creatively when you're going to an audition, callback or booking. For me, I think, after having my daughter and going through that, I became very clear about my art. The quality of the directors on the show was fantastic and we were all spoiled a little bit. There aren't a lot of strong women around. Working on Castle, I really missed The L Word and wanted to just get in and out [laughs]...They were great, but I missed the show.

You had gone to school for art. What made you go towards acting?

When I first started, yeah. I had taken art and acting at the same time. I was doing both. My junior year, I studied surrealism, painting, sculpting, short story adaptation, and all of that. I remember when I knew I was going to heads towards acting. I was going to a theatre school in London and I saw a production that just blew me away. I felt like, "Wow, I want to do that...but I will never be able to do that!" Art depressed me at the time and felt very dark. I just felt compelled to keep acting and art was pushed to the side for a little bit. I had an art teacher tell me that I should keep going at the age that I was at the time and I felt like I needed to follow what was unfolding in front of me - which at the time was acting. I was getting a lot of validation early on for that. Agents were scouting me and I was getting the lead in plays and performing a lot. I went straight from performing in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter to The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love and I felt like my role in the play was a warm-up for that part. Within that year, we were at Sundance so, it was kind of like, at that point there was no stopping and I didn't paint for four years.

It sounds like right now you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

Yeah, I mean, I didn't even realize this until recently, but the filmmakers I used to love were also painters! I love to be around people that stimulate and things that are visually stimulating.

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