Exclusive Interview: Actor Larry Laverty Talks Upcoming Projects And Lots More
Actor Larry Laverty grew up in Oakland,California, one foot in the challenging streets, one foot in the nearby peaceful hills. From Little League baseball to the Skyline High School track team, he excelled in sports. He thrived on the challenges of achievement as a member of the Boy Scouts of America, earning his Eagle rank. He craved the outdoors as a skier, a backpacker, and a mountain climber trained at Yosemite’s Mountaineering School. And, he had an appetite for anything daredevil, often preferring days at the neighborhood rope swing to days at school. Following high school, he moved to the family farm in Idaho, a place he’d spent summers throughout his life. Here, he managed the farm, worked a variety of jobs for companies in the area, and earned two university degrees at highly-rated Boise State University. In his final year of college, he set the stage for the next part of his life. He began an 11-year pursuit of the U.S. Olympic Team in speedskating, and took an acting class on a whim. This eventful class was the spark from which Larry went on to perform in numerous Shakespearean plays and Broadway musicals back in Oakland at the renowned Woodminster Theater. Finally, on another whim, he landed a role in a San Francisco-based movie project and he’d found his place in the world. To date, he’s appeared in over 100 films and numerous television shows.
Check out my latest “Versus” as Larry Laverty updates us on his new projects and lots more.
Alien Bee - First off, tell me how you got into acting?
Larry Laverty – It was a hard sell, baby steps at first. The class in college was the first acting I’d ever done in my life, and my interest in the class was whimsical with no interest in pursuing acting whatsoever. The instructors, both veterans of Broadway in New York, said I was a natural. But I had my sights set on sports. When I moved back to Oakland, I gave the stage a try just for fun at the theater where I’d been exposed to acting as a kid. It’s a big operation, a place that holds 2,000 people, an Equity stage house, and I realized that I had a lot to learn. So I jumped in and went back to school, this time to study acting. I got with a couple of talent agents in San Francisco to get more acting work to pay for more classes and it all snowballed. TV commercials, corporate video, and modeling , that’s what I did. Then one day I was backstage rehearsing at the theater when I overheard two other actors talking about an audition for a movie they were going to the next day. I went to that audition, and 1989’s ‘Deadlock’ was my first movie and I was hooked.
Alien Bee - What are some of the projects you’re working on now?
Larry Laverty – Several movies I’ve worked on in the past couple of years are close to being released. Joe Hollow’s ‘Cut,’ Antony De Gennaro’s ‘Sisterhood of Death,’ and Andy Wiest’s family drama shot in Montana‘Treasure State’ are the closest. I just finished work on the outrageous debut film for Peter Hurd ‘The Control Group’ working with Brad Dourif in Minnesota. I’ve been prepping for a cop drama by Paul Gorman, ‘Wisp,’ to shoot in Pennsylvania but it’s looking like production may have to be postponed for a few months. Also in the coming months, I hope to resume work here in Californiaon the civil rights drama ‘Ivy’ as its producers hunt for completion funding.
Alien Bee - Besides the many movies you’ve appeared in, you also have done lots of TV. Do you have a preference for either one?
Larry Laverty – I lived a pauper’s life in L.A.for several years in order to get established in the acting scene there, primarily in TV. I eventually worked in soap operas, cable shows, variety shows, and a few prime time dramas and I loved every minute of every job. But unless you’re a series regular on a TV show, as an actor you’re basically a gun for hire, playing this role and that, generally with a small amount of artistic latitude. My appetite was larger than that so I jumped ship. I left L.A. and chased down roles in independent films all over the country, wherever I could find them. I like having license to build the characters I play and work with filmmakers to modify scripts if need be. I like the feeling of greater collaboration in film. The nature of TV and it’s time constraints just doesn’t afford much of this creativity. But if I could land a series regular position on a TV show, I’d be the first guy at work every morning, every day. Now that would be living!
Alien Bee - How different is it to you filming a movie compared with working on a TV show?
Larry Laverty – TV, there’s just something about being a part of a production that you know will be seen on household TV’s all across the country. TV’s such a part of Americana. Viewers follow these shows and care about the characters in them like they care about their own friends and relatives. At the same time, I grew up watching movies all the time as a kid, out at the drive-in movies with my folks, and at the neighborhood movie house with my buddies. I love movies as much as I love anything else in life. They’re a part of my fabric. As far as working on the two goes, the shoots are basically the same. The difference for me comes from my generally being one of the main characters in most of the movies I work in and in TV I’ve been more of a supporting character. My preference at this point in my career is to be as creative as possible in what I do and right now the process of movie making allows me more of this.
Alien Bee - You mentioned you were recently in a movie called ‘The Control Group’ that has a strong thread of Science Fiction running through it. What was your experience like on this film?
Larry Laverty – Awesome! An awesome experience, that’s what the month-long adventure shooting this film was. The shoot took place in the midst of a wonderful community of people in a small town in Minnesota. The location was a 120 year old abandoned insane asylum, inhabited by hundreds of bats. The director had never been on a movie set before, learned day by day, and was as sharp as a tack by shoot’s end. Working with Brad Dourif from one of my favorite movies ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest’ was a mind bender. The entire cast and the entire crew, mixtures of Minnesota and California personnel, bonded like a family. And the spirit of all the troubled souls, alive and dead, who had passed through this asylum was very much in mind for me as I walked on the same ground they did. I love this project and hated to see the shoot come to an end.
Alien Bee - You’ve done lots of horror movies, many probably in weird locations. Have you ever had any strange or unexplained experiences?
Larry Laverty – The cake, hands down, goes to the primary location for the movie ‘The Control Group,’Minnesota’s Fergus Falls State Hospital for the Insane. A special railroad car full of 80 unfortunate souls pulled into Fergus Falls in 1890 and the institution was open for business. It’s a humongous, castle-looking facility on a hill that at one point housed over 2,000 patients. Every imaginable mental illness was treated here, in every imaginable way. Death was often the only way out. In a remote corner of the sprawling grounds, in the middle of one of the institution’s fields for growing food, is the cemetery. Over 3,000 former patients are buried here, of which only about 30 have any identifying marker whatsoever. A well known photo of the asylum shows stacks of coffins in the attic, at the ready. Times changed and the facility was closed by the state in 2007. As the people moved out, bats moved in and the structure and its maze of underground tunnels are home to hundreds of the little creatures. Save for the administration building, the entire facility is slated to be demolished and some demolition has already begun. The Intensive Treatment Unit, God only knowing what took place in that building, has already been raised and with it some of the darkest of the asylum’s memories. I felt for the souls whose lives were defined by this place. And, I felt even more for the 3,000 souls whose bones rest in the unmarked graves out at the cemetery. I expect to carry these feelings for the rest of my life.
Alien Bee - What has been your favorite gig to date?
Larry Laverty – Since I’ve been at this for a while now and worked in so many movies, I’m often asked this question. My mind first goes to how grateful I am for every movie I’ve ever been a part of. A few do stand out though for various reasons: ‘The Control Group’ for it’s fantastic location and complex story, ‘Cut’ for the complexity of the character I played and how I went through almost every emotion possible, ‘ChainSmoke’ and ‘American Disciples’ for the whimsical nature of the characters I played and the freedom given me to explore them completely, and ‘Sisterhood of Death’ for a flight into the comedy of life that is the male of the species.
Alien Bee - A few parting thoughts?
Larry Laverty – I hope you love your career. I love mine. I just had no idea what a challenge an acting career would be. Emotionally, physically, and intellectually my career is a huge challenge. While I began working professionally as an actor at the same time I began my attempt to make the U.S. Olympic Team in speedskating, it wasn’t until I retired from sports and hit L.A. that my career began. I was grateful to land an agent right away but I had very little money, no car there, no home there. For years, I slept on the floor and on couches at friend’s houses. I went everywhere by city bus or walked. And I lived out of a backpack. At one point, I began living at a run-down residential motel in North Hollywood, stayed out of the hot sun by spending the day in air-conditioned movie theaters, and performed in the evenings at various showcase companies for Hollywood’s movers and shakers. The years came and went but I was on my way, and I didn’t give up. For you reading this, or for any one out there in this world who just has to pursue a dream, against all odds, my hat is off to you. My heart bleeds for you. Don’t look back and give it all you’ve got.