I like the commercials.
Love them, in fact. Not the screamy ones. Not those that scream a phone number 3,296 in 30 seconds. And not those that play the worst music ever imaginable to grab my attention.
I like funny, relatable commercials.
Sometimes, it’s for Jiff Peanut Butter. Sometimes, it’s a new drug with 3,296 side effects. Sometimes, it’s a hilarious commercial about appliances dying, with a grim reaper and adorable actor hitting her knees and begging for mercy.
Today’s #GirlsRock subject is Laura Baggett, an actress who starred in a commercial just like that. I laughed and got swoony and then looked her up. I sent her a shot-in-the-dark message online complimenting her work and telling her about #GirlsRock.
She answered! In a big way. I’m proud to introduce you to Laura and the beautiful work and life she (not surprisingly leads.)
Eli: When you were little, what did you think you’d grow up to be?
Laura: When I was little I always knew I would be an actress. I would dress up in my parents’ clothes and have my sister dress up with me and we would walk downstairs to the living room and put on a performance for whoever was visiting. I also loved the choreography and would make up dances and direct my neighborhood friends for shows in the front yard in summers. Laughter was always important…I loved getting laughs!
Eli: What is it like to audition for a part you really want?
Laura: In the beginning it’s terrifying and I would choke up but thanks to my acting coach Elizabeth Gamza, I learned that when I just show up like myself, I book, because I am being real, which is what they WANT, not someone freaking out or trying too hard, which is what I would (okay sometimes still) do!
Eli: When did you start to believe this could be a career for you?
Laura: I was discovered by Ford modeling when I was 14 and booked a commercial shortly after that. My uncle, who was a photographer, took photos of me and his girlfriend did my makeup and I just fell in love with being in costume and creating a character. My parents were like “no way, you need an education.” So I went to Manhattan College, but took dance classes at Broadway dance and studied film … after college I got into an off-Broadway play (a Fight-cycle of Roadhouse the movie..I played Denise and other roles).
I took the flier to Buchwald, a big agency and they came to the play and signed me. From there I booked my first National Commercials (Verizon and Arby’s)
Eli: If it wasn’t for acting, what would you be doing now?
Laura: I have always loved cooking, I grew up with my mother and grandmother cooking every meal, and we always talk about recipes. Food is fun and nurturing. I would love to open a wellness spa like Esalen where people could come and retreat and eat super clean and heal. Food is medicine.
Eli: What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?
Laura: Trusting that there is a place for me. As a young woman, I tried so hard to fit in. And yet I knew that wasn’t me, so I would leave acting for months or years and try something else. I kept having to stop and breathe, but as I get older, I see that being different is a gift and that when I share what’s different or human about me, it resonates.
Eli: Who do you consider funny?
Laura: Kristen Wiig is my idol. I miss her on Saturday Night Live. I also Love the show Schitt’s Creek. I love how pure and sweet the show is. Kate Berlant is also a comedian I love watching grow right now. She is really authentic, androgynous, and playful.
Eli: What’re the biggest misconceptions people have of actors, and how do you deal?
Laura: That it is a glitzy life. The reality is that days are LONG on set and the days of auditioning are even longer. People only see a finished product that took years, and TEAMS of people, to build.
Eli: What scares you most?
Laura: Losing perspective. My grandmother was extremely elegant and I hope that regardless of where my career takes me, that I can elegantly show up to life with my loved ones and myself, elegantly…and peacefully.
Eli: Your commercial with the Grim Reaper is my favorite. What was that like?
Laura: What an unexpected blast!!! As soon as I read the commercial I thought THIS IS FUN! So I went in and had FUN … A lot of poorly written spots come to the table so to read that and think YES, was exciting! When we shot, the director was AMAZING and the guy playing the Grim Reaper was a pro ice hockey guy who was on rollerblades. I dropped to my knees so many times my shins were black and blue by the end of the day but honestly, it was so much fun I didn’t notice until the next day!
I get fan mail from the commercial … which is bizarre, and humbling, to know that I am making people laugh … I had no idea this American Home Shield Commercial would reach so many people. What a gift!
Eli: What’s it like for you to see your work?
Laura: Terrifying. I tend to question my choice because I remember what was happening on the day. So it’s always a relief when I get good feedback, but it is hard to know when I am in the moment if I made the right choice.
Eli: What’s next for you?
Laura: I am working on a solo show that I hope gets picked up by Netflix called Single, Childless Female. It’s about being … well you know …
Eli: What is important to know about you?
Laura: That I eat at least one avocado a day, love to be in the garden or in water (sea, lake, bathtub) and that I am good at coloring and writing poems.
Eli: What advice would you give girls when they think about their careers?
Laura: That anything is possible, and to go where it feels good. Sometimes the social circle we are raised around doesn’t resonate with us, and that is okay. Follow your intuition. Who Is living your dreams, how can you feel inspired in a healthy way? We are so lucky to live in this age of unfolding. I am still releasing old ideas of who I thought I was supposed to be. I love the term DO YOU.
A to Z Challenge: