Laura Harring Interview: 'Mulholland Drive' Star Discovered at Miss USA Pageant
Mexican actress Laura Harring (born Laura Elena Harring Martinez on March 3, 1964) became the first Hispanic to win the Miss USA crown and continued on to make the top 10 at the 1985 Miss Universe pageant.
Harring was literally chosen on sight to play a role in an NBC miniseries (The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory) by the producers who saw her Miss USA appearance on television. After that first acting experience, she went on to appear in several television series including Baywatch Nights, Silk Stalkings, and The Shield, having recurring roles on NBC’s soap Sunset Beach and the ABC daytime drama General Hospital.
“As I turned my head, shots were heard and it felt like a rock hitting my head like from a slingshot. But then when it hit my head, immediately there was a very loud sound almost like an alarm going off in a building.”
The actress is perhaps best well known for her performance in David Lynch’s cult film Mulholland Drive (2001), opposite Naomi Watts and Justin Theroux. Harring worked twice more with Lynch in Rabbits (2002) and Island Empire (2006).
In 2009/10, Harring appeared as Evelyn Bass (using the alias Elizabeth Fisher) on the teen drama Gossip Girl, and on June 15, 2010 guest-starred on the police procedural television series Law & Order: Criminal Intent, playing the matriarch of a powerful political family who will go to great lengths to protect her own.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Laura, you were born in Mexico, but grew up in Texas?
Laura Harring: Yeah, I lived in San Antonio for many years and went to an all girls’ school. We wore the little sailor outfits and even the shoes were part of the uniform. Everybody head to wear the same kind of shoes. It was kind of nice because you didn’t have to think about what to wear (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): At age 12, something horrific happened to you.
Laura Harring: I got shot in the head. It was in a cinema parking lot in a car with my entire family. I was actually looking out the window. I was up front on the passenger side, my mom was in the middle, and I was looking at the movies.
As I turned my head, shots were heard and it felt like a rock hitting my head like from a slingshot. But then when it hit my head, immediately there was a very loud sound almost like an alarm going off in a building. It was a weird experience and everything felt like it was happening in slow motion. It was very surreal and I’ll never forget it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you suffer any phobias from the experience?
Laura Harring: For two years I was afraid of a dark room because it was night when it happened. So walking in a dark room was very scary for me. Loud sounds were scary because my nerves were on edge. It was like I was expecting the shot to come at any moment. But, I’m fully recovered now.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Thank goodness for that. Your mom’s a psychotherapist. I’ll bet you couldn’t get away with anything as a child (laughs).
Laura Harring: Right (laughs). Actually it has helped me with different characters in my work. They call it transpersonal psychology so it’s not like normal psychotherapy. It studies the spiritual aspects of the human experience.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What made you become interested in beauty pageants?
Laura Harring: When I was a social worker in India, I did manual labor and at the time it was not fashionable or trendy to do so, but I had a desire to help and I came back from that experience totally changed. I wanted to do things to make a difference. I also love to travel and when I found out that I’d be able to travel throughout Europe, that was sort of the deal breaker (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): After that experience you became interested in acting.
Laura Harring: Well, what happened was the producers of an NBC four-hour special called The Alamo saw me on stage as Miss USA (waving goodbye). That was on national television and they said, “That’s the perfect girl for the role opposite Raul Julia in The Alamo.” You know those stories you read in magazines about how people were discovered and often you think they can’t be true? Well, it kind of happened that way to me.
The producers called the Miss USA people and said they’d like to audition me. I was confused because there were so many girls there they could have chosen. But, I guess that attitude was perfect for the role, that I had a little bit of aloofness. I went to the audition with no acting experience whatsoever and was hired.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That is a story right out of a fairy tale. You have also appeared on the daytime dramas Sunset Beach and General Hospital.
Laura Harring: That was so much fun, but such hard work! If you have a storyline going on, there are a lot of pages to read! But, the thing I love about television is that you don’t know where your story is going so it’s so much fun and exhilarating. Your life on screen is full of surprises.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Speaking of surprises, I must mention Mulholland Drive.
Laura Harring: There’s a lot of mystery behind Lynch always.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Absolutely. Was the nude scene uncomfortable for you to film?
Laura Harring: Yeah, anytime that you’re … you know, acting is very vulnerable with your clothes on, then without your clothes, well … (laughs). But, with David there is always a safe feeling, there’s always a good energy.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You had a car accident on the way to that audition and also had the same thing happen to your character in the film.
Laura Harring: Yeah, they had not told me that before I got there. But, on my way to the audition I couldn’t believe how my luck had turned because I had been doing theater, but wasn’t getting paid. For three months I was having the time of my life but I wasn’t getting paid. So I couldn’t believe my luck had changed in such a way that a casting director would call me directly.
I was on my way to the audition, so excited, and thinking about celebrating that I rear-ended the car in front of me. The dad of another actor said, “You know what, we’re on our way to an audition, too. There’s no harm done here.” So we both just left. When I sat down and read the script and saw the opening of the movie and the car wreck, it was so funny! It made me relax, though, and think that maybe this was meant to be.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): There have been rumors flying about a Mulholland Drive 2.
Laura Harring: As I said before, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding David Lynch (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you audition for the role of Chuck’s mother on Gossip Girl?
Laura Harring: I did actually audition for it. I wasn’t very familiar with the show but I did know it was a very hot show. After I got the role, I saw what an intriguing, fun, amazing show it was. The cast and everyone just made everything fun.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your character was also pretty mysterious.
Laura Harring: Right, I found my niche … mystery gal! Just call me mystery gal!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Absolutely, and then there’s your appearance on Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
Laura Harring: Oh, that was a big … that was a naughty one!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s it like to work with Jeff Goldblum?
Laura Harring: He was so amazing! He’s 6’5”, you know, so the way he walks is so comedic. But when you see him on the screen it’s completely the opposite. We would joke around on the set, but Jeff is very talented, unique, and very interesting. I was very fortunate to work with him.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s next for you, Laura?
Laura Harring: I have a couple of things brewing. I’m producing and have written an abstract film. It will be made in South America. Shooting is so relaxed over there. I love it there, so much fun, like being in Europe with the feel of Latin America. I like the fact that I’m being creative in a different venue, writing, versus behind in front of the camera. It’s really exciting for me.
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