Louisiana native’s role in The Campaign just one of several film, TV projects
This year is a big year in the career of Katherine LaNasa. The actress, who left Baton Rouge in her teens to study ballet at the North Carolina School of the Arts, stars in multiple projects, including The Campaign. The New Orleans-shot comedy features Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as rivals in a North Carolina congressional race.
Opening Friday, The Campaign’s staff of comic actors includes Jason Sudeikis, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd. The film’s director, Jay Roach, previously helmed two Austin Powers movies, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers and HBO’s Sarah Palin-based Game Change, which received 12 Emmy nominations last month.
LaNasa also appears in two more films to be released later this year, Jayne Mansfield’s Car, directed by Billy Bob Thornton and co-starring Thornton, Kevin Bacon, Robert Duvall and John Hurt, and The Frozen Ground, featuring John Cusack, Nicholas Cage and Vanessa Hudgens.
The actress recently wrapped work on the popular A&E series, Longmire. Meanwhile, she’s preparing for her upcoming marriage to former Melrose Place actor Grant Show as well as her co-starring role in Infamous, an NBC series on track to be a mid-season replacement.
Despite acting credits that date to the early 1990s, among them TV guest appearances in Ghost Whisperer, Boston Legal, Grey’s Anatomy, CSI: Miami and Seinfeld, recurring roles in Big Love and Three Sisters and appearances in the films Alfie, Valentine’s Day and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Schizopolis, LaNasa only now feels as if she’s arrived.
“It’s just crazy,” she said from Los Angeles. “I hit 44 and everyone starts throwing jobs at me. It just took about 20 years.”
Shooting The Campaign in New Orleans gave LaNasa a chance to come home to Louisiana for a few months, visit her father and other family members in Baton Rouge and see friends in the acting profession such as Kim Dickens.
“I really loved going to Sylvain with Kim,” LaNasa said of their visits to the French Quarter restaurant. “She’s another Southern girl, down there playing a chef in Treme. A couple of my acting buddies were down there. And if I didn’t have anything to do, I could drive to Baton Rouge and spend the night with my cousin. Sometimes location can be lonely, so it was nice to be able to have family and friends around.”
The actress’ father and cousin both visited The Campaign set.
“They came and had a big time,” she said.
LaNasa had fun, too, making the movie with world-class cutups Ferrell, Galifianakis and a gang of funny men.
“Those guys are sweet and, God, they’re so funny,” she said. “Sometimes I would just be crying on the other side of the camera. The writing for The Campaign is hilarious. Shawn Harwell and Chris Henchy, they would just throw me these alternates to say. I would bust up laughing.”
Like The Campaign, Jayne Mansfield’s Car is another Southern story, a family drama set in Alabama in the 1960s. The Frozen Ground moves north to Alaska for a drama about a state trooper and a young woman who join forces to track a serial killer.
“I’m really excited about The Frozen Ground,” LaNasa said. “It’s such a different role than these other two. In Jayne Mansfield’s Car and The Campaign, I play these big Southern personalities, but the role in The Frozen Ground is a quiet, pious, good, isolated wife.
“I loved working with John Cusack. He’s transporting. I just gave myself over to him. The scene would be over and I really wouldn’t have known what happened. He would just pick us both up and take us on a little trip. He elevates everything and he’s so alive.”
Leaving Baton Rouge
After studying dance as a child and teen in Baton Rouge, LaNasa, a New Orleans native who lived in Louisiana’s capital city for about six years, enrolled in the North Carolina School of the Arts at 14.
“I went away and then I never really lived at home again,” she said.
LaNasa joined the Milwaukee Ballet at 17, moving on from there to various dance companies and performing throughout the world.
“I was able to make a living doing it, but I was never gonna be a prima ballerina,” she said.
The actress met her late first husband, actor Dennis Hopper, in Los Angeles during a dance tour stop there. The couple has a son.
Knowing nothing about the movie business until she met Hopper, LaNasa believed she wasn’t brave enough to be an actress.
“But then I saw a documentary about Sandy Meisner and thought, ‘Whatever that guy’s doing, I have to do that. I need to do that.’ ”
Hopper encouraged her to study acting with Sanford Meisner, one of America’s great acting teachers. Before she met with Meisner, Hopper gave his wife some advice.
“Dennis told me to tell Sandy, ‘You have to take me in this class! You just have to. I need to be in this class more than anything! You have to take me.’ So I met with Sandy and he asked me, ‘What have you done?’ I said, ‘Nothing. You have to take me in this class! You just have to take me!’ And he did.”
“I think about Sandy all the time,” she added. “When I’m working, I always go back to things he said. A lot of the basics, what he thought would put you in the best space to do good acting.”
Obviously, Meisner’s advice and LaNasa are working.
“I have had a good little year,” she said.