Interview with Laura Mennell | Go for It
The power that our minds can have over us in terms of perception is fascinating. Even before a life event is physically manifested and experienced by us, we tend to speculate if that what we want will happen or not. By being conscious of our thought process and re-directing it towards the idea of what we want, we will start to imagine what we desire evoking those emotions that feel best to us.
Canadian actress Laura Mennell, who can be seen as Mimi Hynek in the new History series, Project Blue Book emphasizes:
“ (…) I always wanted to be an actor. I remember reading Truth and False by David Mamet and he basically says you should never have a Plan B.(…) ”
In the following interview, Laura talks about her path to acting, her personal growth and more.
- Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Laura Mennell?
“Who are you?” has always been a question I’ve reversed onto others when first meeting people — I’m usually more interested in learning about them than talking about myself. Also, I’ve never felt the need to limit myself to a definition. I don’t need all the answers to that question yet, I’m still on a journey of self-discovery. However, in many ways I love finding real and genuine connections with people—I’m never interested in pushing relationships into being—I’m more interested in allowing things to develop naturally. I live for adventurous experiences, especially through travel and love exploring new things. I’m especially fond of cooking, being in nature and being creative. And I’m a real animal lover and sometimes enjoy spending more time with animals than people.
- What was your path of consciously becoming passionate about acting?
I loved acting as a child. I feel like I always wanted to be an actor. I was an 80’s kid growing up in Vancouver, B.C. and there was a huge boom in the film industry back then. I was heavily involved in classes at The Vancouver Youth Theatre and wanted so much to jump into the industry even then. But I wasn’t allowed to get an agent until I was a teenager and finally got my first job at seventeen. I was always studying acting right through university and later on found fantastic teachers like Iris Quinn and Shea Hampton who’ve been real sources of inspiration for me in finding my voice as an actor. I think it’s important for young performers to find mentors they connect with, people that really resonate creatively with them. In my early twenties, Shea was great in helping me to let go of habits and allow energy to flow and be real in the moment. And it feels like I’ve known Iris forever, she always helps me when challenges arise, helping me work through blocks and discover new things. She’s still a good mentor and friend. It’s important for creatives to find safe spaces where they can explore and grow.
- How has being an actor, the process of becoming someone else, contributed to your personal growth?
I’ve always been more interested in exploring other people’s lives—it’s probably why I became an actor in the first place. Oddly enough, interpreting different characters can also bring up connections with my own life experiences and help deepen my portrayal of different characters. And those connections allow me to see old memories from a different lens. I learn about myself and it also deepens my interpretations of life’s experiences. Working on different projects can also draw out certain personality traits and strengths I might not have known I had. Inadvertently, it can become about self-exploration or also letting go of insecurities and inhibitions. It’s exciting because I’m always learning something new on every job through character research or developing new talents that my character might already have. I love that. I get to challenge myself a lot as an actor.
- How do you navigate within the idea that the entertainment industry is very competitive and yet building a mindset to succeed in what you want?
At the end of the day, it’s really about loving what you do and doing it for yourself. Especially when it comes to auditions. You can’t treat them like the be-all-end-all. Auditions come and go. Having expectations of getting the job, fantasizing of its outcome or, if you don’t land the job, feeling like you’re a complete failure is all extremely counterproductive. I think it should be about the little victories. Going into those audition rooms, on set, or whatever it may be and claiming that time as your own. Enjoying it, being present, getting that small window to do what you love and then simply letting it go. Work as hard as you can to prep and find inspiration and then the outcome is out of your hands. The universe has a way of guiding you, you simply have to let go and be malleable and open.
- What excites you most about being part of the entertainment industry?
I’m excited to be actually living out my dream of being an actor—a working actor on shows that inspire me. I made a conscious choice two years ago to just work on shows that I love and that are beneficial to my career. Since then I’ve been working on shows like Loudermilk, Man in The High Castle and Project Blue Book. I love what I do and I know I’m lucky to be part of this wonderful industry.
- You can be seen as Mimi Hynek in the new History series, Project Blue Book, which premiered on January 8, 2019. What’s the narrative behind the series?
The show centers around top-secret investigations of Allen Hynek (Aidan Gillen) and Captain Quinn (Michael Malarkey) who were hired by the US Air Force to investigate, and in many ways debunk, UFO cases in the 1950’s and 60’s. I love that Blue Book is a slice of real life American history and is really the beginning of the study of ufology as we know it. The acronym of UFO, ‘Unidentified Flying Object’, was even coined by Hynek, as well as the classification system of Close Encounters of the First, Second and Third kind. And since we explore real-life cases on the show, the audience can look into their favorite ones and dig a little deeper with further research of their own.
- Who is Mimi Hynek and what plans does she have for herself?
Mimi Hynek’s the supportive housewife of Allen Hynek. She loves her family and would do anything for them, but our series starts off with her feeling like she’s in a bit of a rut. Something is missing in her life of domesticity. There are many changes in the Hynek household when the Air Force hires Allen for their new top-secret investigations. It’s a difficult time for Mimi, especially as Allen becomes secretive with his new job leaving Mimi very much in the dark. Blue Book also stirs up a lot of changes in Mimi. When her husband’s new job becomes a threat to her family, she finds her inner strength and rises to challenges around her.
- How does Mimi Hynek connect with the audience?
Audiences will most likely empathize with Mimi’s challenges this season as she goes through a transformation of coming into her own. They’ll also love the journey she goes through with a new friend called Susie (played by the wonderful Ksenia Solo). They have a complex relationship and share a strong bond. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but their relationship evolves in such a way that there are high stakes involved for both women and the lives they lead. It’s an interesting adventure they go through, but it’s complicated, fun, dangerous and poignant, with its share of mystery and secrets. It really runs the gamut of exploration for an actor. Ksenia and I had a lot of fun.
- Why do you think the audience will be thrilled to watch Project Blue Book?
I was drawn to Hynek’s character and the journey he has. I loved that he was this brilliant well-educated man and wasn’t the stereotypical “hick” one might associate with flying saucer enthusiasts of the time. He was credible as a researcher and approached cases from a scientific angle, aiming to rationally explain what happened. He starts out as a skeptic delving into these cases but becomes a believer in UFO phenomena realizing not everything can be fully explained. Viewers might go on a similar journey. Either way, it’ll still be entertaining. The combination of 50’s nostalgia mixed with the noir-esque feel of our show and its exploration of classified UFO cases, makes it exciting to watch.
- You portray Thelma Harris in the third season of Amazon’s series, The Man in the High Castle. In what way does your character Thelma Harris tell a story relevant to the world of today?
Man In The High Castle holds a mirror up to society, showing us the horrible past we’ve lived through. It acts as a warning, cautioning us to not repeat mistakes from our past. It’s horrifying how much hatred is still in our present-day world. Just turn on the nightly news to see examples of this. We aren’t as tolerant as we should be when it comes to different religions, races, or sexual preference. And it’s scary how this type of mentality creates division, fear and hatred and has catastrophic effects. And it was interesting being part of the third season of High Castle, as Thelma falls in love with another woman (Bella Heathcote) under the repressive Nazi Regime. It’s a frightening thought that life, as you know it, could be threatened by simply falling for someone of the same sex.
- You have also returned for the second season on the Audience Network original comedy series, Loudermilk, personating Allison. How has Allison evolved in the show?
I loved being part of Loudermilk. I took more of a back seat for the second season, but was happy to return for a few episodes. In our first year, Sam Loudermilk and Allison have a strange chemistry that would never quite connect. Sam would always drive Allison crazy with his asshole-ish behavior that would constantly break any possible connection they might have. By the end of the season, in the last episode, they finally make out. Starting off, the second season, any other comedy with two series leads connecting in the finale would usually have them returning as a couple, but I love how our show doesn’t do that. It’s more true to life with all its imperfections. Sam screwed up completely and didn’t even call Allison after they hooked up. He disappeared, which further infuriated her, and it’s this kind of conflict that creates great comedy. And Loudermilk isn’t a warm and stereotypical cookie-cutter show. It’s got a grounded edge to it. Part of the grittiness of life is explored with a lot of humor of what it means to be human.
- What resonates most between you and Allison?
I loved that I was playing “the girl next door”, albeit the girl next door who’s constantly annoyed by her potential suitor who’s a bit of a jerk who drives her insane! Plus, on a side note, it was really great that the jerky guy was Ron Livingston. I loved working with him, he’s such a nice guy.
- Being an actor gives you the opportunity to become different personalities who represent stories the audience can identify with. What is the role or story you would love to be part of in the future?
Yes, my job is constantly changing and I get to explore a lot of different roles. I always like the mystery of what’s up next! And it’s tough to really pinpoint a specific type of character I’d like to play. But I always thought it’d be fun to be in a film that’s bilingual in both French and English. I was in French immersion throughout elementary and high school. There’ve been a few times where I’ve auditioned in French and it’s been really fun. I’d love to work on a show in France or Québec and maybe play the anglophone, perhaps the French-speaking American or Canadian who’s out of her element. I think working on a show and speaking both languages would be a huge challenge, but would be really exciting. I also really love watching shows that dance between a few languages, like Bon Cop Bad Cop.
But really, at the end of the day, I’d just like to keep working on good quality shows and scripts that resonate with me. As always, I’m open to whatever’s around the corner. Can’t wait to see what’s next.
- Are you involved in any charity organization or humanitarian cause you would like to mention?
For the past four years, I’ve happily participated in an online celebrity auction called ‘A Brush Of Hope’ for Canada’s Kidney Foundation. It’s a wonderful event where actors, singers and visual artists create paintings that are auctioned off on eBay. All the proceeds go to raise much-needed funds for the organization. I hope to participate for many years to come. I’ve loved being part of it and supporting such a worthwhile cause. www.kidney.ca/atlantic-canada/a-brush-of-hope
- An actor’s life is very dynamic. Would you describe acting as a job, a lifestyle or both?
Being an actor is a huge part of who I am. It’s not really a job for me. I’d do it for free if I didn’t need to make a living or pay my agents. I love the creative process and live for those moments when creative energy flows in a spontaneous and synchronistic way or when scenes evolve into something completely different than originally imagined and almost have a life of their own. I love those moments, in a way, they feel like magic!
- How do you embrace the intimate experience with existence which we call life?
Life should be about connecting with people in a genuine way. We’re only here for a short time, so living with a kind and open heart is something I try to live by. It’s hard with society’s present-day demands, busy work schedules and everyone communicating more on their personal devices than face to face, but taking time for friends and family and being warm to people you run into at the grocery stores or coffee shops bring about much-needed positivity. In this day and age, it’s amazing how small acts of kindness can make a difference, spreading positivity transforms the energy within yourself and everyone around you. Slowing down, being present and acknowledging others, makes a huge difference in the grand scheme of things.
- The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is “The Essence of a Joyful Living.” How does Joy during the creative process affect your own experience and in consequence the final manifestation of your actions?
As a creative person, I’m lucky to be able to follow my passion as an actor. I’m thankful to actually do what I’ve always wanted to. So there is always love behind my creative process. I love what I do and that brings me joy.
- When you hear: “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words by Abraham Hicks. What is your take on such a statement?
“You can be, do and have anything you want” … if you want it badly enough. I always wanted to be an actor and I remember reading Truth and False by David Mamet and he basically says you should never have a Plan B. “Those with something to fall back on invariably fall back on it. Those with nothing to fall back on, you will find, are home.” This may be risky behavior, but if you truly want it why not just go for it?