Get into an improv class at the Groundlings or UCB as soon as you get to town. It’s one of the most valuable things you can do with your time and money. It’s helpful on a resume. It helps you grow as an actor and as a person even if you’re not pursuing comedy. At least, it did for me.
Say yes to everything. Well, you know, within reason. Get out there working on student films, help out on friend’s shoots. Be part of the crew. Do some jobs as an extra. Learn as much about filmmaking as you can.
In my 20’s I remember people saying to be sure you’re living a life besides being an actor. It took me years to really understand what that meant. Live your life. Have experiences to reflect on. Be well-rounded and learn from others. Having interests and hobbies outside of acting gives you something else to talk about and make you a more interesting person.
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Lisa Cole.
Wyandotte, Michigan native Lisa Cole has been working as an actor in Los Angeles for the past twenty years. Catch her in repeats on Lifetime in The Wrong Crush, Her Boyfriend’s Secret, and Killer in Suburbia. Her latest bookings include: A print ad for Bank of America, a Cheese-Its commercial, a comedic short film, Bandwith, now in festivals, and Fox’s 9–1–1 with Angela Bassett, airing March 1, 2021. All booked and shot during this time of Covid. Lisa will also be filming a small part in the upcoming miniseries, Angelyne with Emmy Rossum.
Lisa is repped by Liz Fuller with CSP / Citizen Skull Management and Julie Gudz at DDO.
When Lisa isn’t working she spends time with her husband, cat, and rescue dogs. She is also a volunteer, helping animals and the homeless.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a suburb of Detroit; Wyandotte, Michigan. Wyandotte is a quaint little town where everyone knows each other. I lived in a small house with my mom, grandma and three other family members. I’d put on shows on the front porch and charge five cents to attend. I’d cast some neighbor kids, too. Singing, magic, we did it all. I sure wish we had a video camera back then.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I didn’t have any other family members who were actors so I don’t know why it was always my plan. I remember having other answers too, “What do you want to be when you grow up? just so I wouldn’t have to hear anything negative about my ideas. The Carol Burnett Show and The Cher Show were my inspirations. Watching them was like magic. Back then you could only have a career in LA or New York, so I started planning my move at five.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There are so many. I worked as Claire Danes stand-in on Polish Wedding, that shot in Detroit, way back when. Gabriel Byrne and Lena Olin were also starring in it and I had some great conversations with them. Mr. Byrne and I would discuss the OJ Simpson trial and The Usual Suspects. I told him, “I thought you were Keyser Söze! He said, “So did I!” It was like getting paid to go to school for 8 weeks. Learning from Byrne and Olin. Wow.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I wouldn’t say it’s a one-time mistake, but sometimes I would find myself in the audition room talking way too much. Chatting it up. It can be ok sometimes but read the room. They probably don’t want to hear it. I learned to be more economical with my communication. Do my job and get out.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There was a teacher in Detroit, Sandra Broad, that had worked on a couple of movies and commercials. Knowing absolutely nothing, her classes blew my mind each week. I felt like I was really getting some inside information. She got me my very first audition for a Dominos commercial. I got a callback but didn’t book it. I was sold. This is what I’m doing with my life.
Later, I met a big-time manager that I signed with and moved to New York. My relationship with him was tricky. There were a couple “#metoo” moments. I regret how I handled those situations but I’m still grateful to him for giving me the confidence to move to New York.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
There’s a saying I like, “Choose your hard.” Any job or career can be challenging and I feel like I’ve had plenty of those. For me, a bad day as an actor is better than the best day doing… whatever else.
What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?
Everyday is like starting new. New auditions are posted. New connections can be made. Even if the past few months have been a disaster, you have a new chance today. There’s so much happening out there. It never loses its excitement. I’ve been working professionally for a couple of decades and I’m still thrilled when I see that audition come in. Because of the internet and things like the new social media app, ClubHouse, industry insiders are more accessible now. You can listen and learn a ton on Clubhouse. I would strongly recommend it. Some other changes that I’d like to see are slowly starting to happen. I’m seeing meaty roles for older women. I’m so moved by the push and endorsement of elevating black, Asian, and other minority talents in this industry by agents and casting. I am an ally. We certainly have more work to do. But, I see a glimmer.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
I just shot a co-star role for Fox’s 9–1–1 with Angela Bassett. It was incredible to be standing opposite Ms. Bassett for even just a short scene. She is a powerhouse. Luckily, I didn’t have to be sleeveless next to her.
My next project is a role in Colin in Black and White for Netflix. I’m especially proud to be even a small part of this story being told by these people. Just pinch me.
We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?
Art imitates life. How can we tell life’s stories without the diversity that makes up our world? Growing up, I saw people on t.v. that looked like me. I didn’t know what it was like to be left out. There are plenty of stories to tell. We should tell them all, hearing all voices. That’s the industry I want to be a part of.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Get into an improv class at the Groundlings or UCB as soon as you get to town. It’s one of the most valuable things you can do with your time and money. It’s helpful on a resume. It helps you grow as an actor and as a person even if you’re not pursuing comedy. At least, it did for me.
- Say yes to everything. Well, you know, within reason. Get out there working on student films, help out on friend’s shoots. Be part of the crew. Do some jobs as an extra. Learn as much about filmmaking as you can.
- When money is low, get your group of friends together (once Covid is over) and do some mock auditions. Or, do them now with Zoom. Give and get feedback from your actor friends. Get to know your face and what it does. Always be working on it so that when the auditions come you’ll already be friends with the camera.
- Intern at a talent agency. That can’t happen at the moment but, when possible, you will learn so much. You’ll notice quickly what actors are really in the game with all the proper tools and quick communication. Perhaps even more valuable, you’ll learn what not to do. 😉
- In my 20’s I remember people saying to be sure you’re living a life besides being an actor. It took me years to really understand what that meant. Live your life. Have experiences to reflect on. Be well-rounded and learn from others. Having interests and hobbies outside of acting gives you something else to talk about and make you a more interesting person.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
We all know that we need to move our bodies. I can’t say that I’m a great example there, but it’s something I’m always striving for. I have seen plenty of burn-out in our industry and have even felt it myself at times. When that happens, I go to the beach, goof off with friends, or get a massage. It’s better to take a mental health day than to turn in a half-assed audition. It’s a tricky business because you have to care about it above all else without a hint of desperation. Balance is the key. If things are really getting me down I reconnect with a good friend, hang with my dogs, and try to laugh a lot. It does wonders to reset my attitude.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
– Calvin Coolidge
I’ve been hanging on to this quote for at least 20 years. It gives me the boost I need if I’m feeling defeated. Just keep going.
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I volunteer whenever I have the opportunity. Packing up lunches to give to the homeless or giving my time to an animal shelter is so rewarding. I would encourage people to give it a try if you’re really focused on yourself. It’s a win-win. Helping people less fortunate than yourself and spending time with some dogs at a shelter is better than any therapy I’ve ever been a part of.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Oh, my list is long! A could name quite a few but I think I’ll have to go with Lynn Manuel Miranda. He’s just magic to me. I’m a huge fan of his work and his philanthropy. He already feels like my BFF. He just doesn’t know it. ☺
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
You can find me on social media at:
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!