A Hollywood Moment with Laura Cayouette of Quentin Tarantino's 'Django Unchained'

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Kevin Costner has described her as "a true leading lady" while Golden Globe winner Joanna Cassidy has lauded her for having "the balls to hold on to her place in this business." She's starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and produced a film presented by the one and only Quentin Tarantino. And while she may not yet be considered a household name, actress and author Laura Cayouette has successfully done what other limelight hopefuls aspire to do: she turned a series of small roles into a career that has spanned more than 20 years. Cayouette's latest work not only includes starring as sister to DiCaprio in the award-winning Django Unchained, but also penning her first book, Know Small Parts, a guide to turning "minutes into moments and moments into a career," without having to always land the leading role. GLAM was able to chat with the prolific artist on how she was able to establish her presence in Hollywood, what is was like working on Django Unchained, and what inspired her to write it all down.

Q:

You play Lara Lee Candie-Fitzwilly in Quentin Tarantino's buzzed-about Django Uncahined. How did you get involved with working on the film?

A:

Quentin lets people read his script the day he finishes it and I'm one of those people that gets the script the day he finishes them. So, I read the script about two years ago and I was about two-thirds of the way through the script, totally enjoying it, and being blown away by everything about it, and then I cam across this line that said "Lara Lee Candie-Fitzwilly, a 40ish, attractive, strawberry blonde, Southern belle." And I went "What?!" He had written the part with me in mind so obviously I was involved with it before I even knew I was involved in the project!

Q:

As with most Tarantino films, Django Unchained garnered a lot of publicity and generated conversations around a dark time in American history. How did you prepare to take on your role?

A:

I spent a lot of that time digging into my own family roots, as did a lot of the local actors here. [Cayouette was raised in Maryland but her family is from Louisiana, where the film's fictional Candyland Plantation is located]. A lot of us got the opportunity to explore our own family histories and bring that to the table. And we would sit around and talk about our family stories. It was a really unique experience. So that was one of the things I did to research. And then, obviously, there's a lot of information about how people lived and what was expected of them from that era that I spent a lot of time working on. And Dennis Christopher, who was one of my co-stars, he generously gave me a book about the 1800s that was very helpful.

Q:

What about set morale? You're working with great actors like Christopher Waltz, Kerry Washington, DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx, but of course, the content isn't at all light-hearted. How did Tarantino manage to direct that atmosphere?

A:

Quentin is very smart because he understands that even if we had been making a movie about hot-air balloon riding, just making a movie is hard — it's just hard on people. So, even if the topic hadn't been so heated, it would have been a grueling shoot anyway. And he has this thing that he does, whenever the days get long or he has to ask for another take, and we're all like "Really?!" He would always stop what was happening and say "OK, we're going to go again. Why?!" And everybody would chant together "Because we love making movies!" And that would just get you in such the right mindset to enjoy this job and not get into how tiring or how grueling it was, and instead just enjoy the privilege of having such an amazing job.

Q:

Speaking of amazing jobs, you've been in the business for 20 years now, and you sort of compiled your knowledge from over the years into your first book Know Small Parts.What inspired you to write it?

A:

I have a blog called L.A. to N.O.L.A. and I have talked about my move from L.A. to here. And mostly, the blog is about my love -- huge love affair with this city. It's a three-plus year love letter to this city. And some point in that, I was trying to figure out what is was from my 18 years in L.A. that I wanted to share, either as a novel or as a memoir. I was planning with that idea and during that time, I was coaching a girl here, a local girl, for an audition — I think for "Django" — and the questions she asked were things that were so scary for her and they were so easy for me to answer. And I thought, this is what I should be sharing, this wealth of information and experience. I have been lucky in so far having shared my journey with all these Academy Award winners and nominees and iconic figures who have given me so much advice and wisdom throughout the years, and I thought, let me share that story. Let me share that story of how to be a working actor, how you do this thing that I've done for over 20 years. It is a book that has all the things you expect like how to break down or sing or audition tips, but it also tells you how to survive rejection or how to talk to celebrities, and all the different things that come in to play in the real job of being a working actor.

Q:

In that, you've referenced turning "minutes into moments and moments into a career." What was one of those defining moments and how did that shape the advice in your book?

A:

What I'd want to say is that when I did reach that moment of clarity, I never looked back. That is for sure. Once I made the decision to become an actor, I sold my house in Maryland, I started training in New York, I quit my job as a teacher, I quit my job running a dress boutique, and I dedicated my time entirely to studying acting and becoming good so that I could work.

Q:

There are a lot of people who follow that same path, give up everything for their acting dream, and think their talent alone will make them successful, but you really emphasize training. What would you say to a young actor who thinks training isn't important?

A:

Then I would say you better be really super talented, and disciplined, and hard-working because it is a very tough job, and just like any other tough job, you need training. I can't imagine somebody waking up in the morning and saying, "I want to be a professional basketball player, but I don't want to practice." I think it's a strange thing that we think that just anybody can do it. And then we have these moments where, Quvenzhané Wallis has been nominated for an Academy Award when she was [6] years old when she played that part and is not a trained actor. And she was brilliant, undeniably brilliant! But, if she wants to continue to be brilliant at 18 or 28 or 38, she might have to take a class or two.