Ex Los Angelino and newly resettled Texan Laura Lane chats comfortably with a waitress at Kerbey Lane Café on S. Lamar. It’s a setting, job and schedule that Lane once kept, those long-ago waitress days, and one she still feels a familiarity with, and respect for, as part of her own personal fabric. This day, though, finds Lane the epitome of Austin slack and ease -- her loose blond hair and offbeat outfit belying the not-so-long-ago glam life of an LA actress on a hit comedy series. Lane spent seven years playing the rigid, conservative yet loveably-comical character CC Babcock on CBS's The Nanny, and although the gig was, admittedly, a good one, it represents just a sliver of what this classically trained actress can do with a character, and even less of who the real woman is and how she is blossoming and evolving since landing in Austin three years ago.
Soon after The Nanny ended, Laura found herself 41, living in Post-911 LA, fresh from a difficult divorce and mother to a beautiful one-year-old daughter. “All I really wanted to do was to be with Kate,” Laura recalls. But being in the business means keeping your name and face out there if you want to work again. The process proved to be grueling and depressing, with Lane facing a whole different set of standards and expectations than before. The final straw came when she auditioned for the role of someone’s mother on Melrose Place. The character was described as “incredibly fit and beautiful despite being 40’,” Laura describes, rolling her eyes. “I was not incredibly fit, having retained some pregnancy weight. The twenty-something show creators appraised me coolly, heard me read and gave me the curt ‘thanks’ that amounts to rejection. I left in tears, knowing I was done there. I thought about the inevitabilities of my profession, how staying in LA at the age when actresses get fewer parts would mean downsizing, would mean growing away from friends whose focus was still on career,” Laura explains. “That’s when I called my sister, and two months later we were gone.”
Laura and wee Kate moved in with the family of her sister, Kim Lane (AustinMama.com’s founder), and scouted out Austin as a place to put down roots. Laura soon settled into a comfy South Austin bungalow and into the luxury of days spent discovering Austin with her daughter. The availability of close family ties is an endless blessing to Lane, especially with Kate’s cousins who are close enough to feel like siblings.
In an expanded career move, Lane recently accepted a position lecturing at Texas State University in San Marcos. “I’m so lucky that this job allows me to take my daughter to school each day, and pick her up each afternoon,” Laura smiles, adding, “and I learn so much from my students. I think teaching has made me a better actress.”
Working classroom hours also allows Lane to continue acting professionally. Recently she appeared in the Zach Scott production of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, a play that boldly explores our cultural interpretations and expectations of what it is to be female, one that celebrates the deep passions, heartbreak, wonder and everyday minutia of real women. Lane relishes this type of role, especially for its distance from Hollywood’s conception that the post-ingénue actress is no longer lusciously attractive, sexy, sexual or vital. In one segment, Lane performed a moan montage so universally recognizable that the audience erupted with voyeuristic giggles, not knowing for sure if she’d revealed her own passion moans. “I’ll never tell,” Laura smiles wryly.
Mysterious, clever, sexy, engaging and productive DESPITE being 40+... can that be possible?
Hell yeah, baby.
Laura recently talked with AustinMama.com about her childhood dreams of stardom, her Oklahoma roots, and finding the creative muse in motherhood. Here's what she had to say:
How come we also know you as Lauren Lane?
I’m known professionally as Lauren Lane because there was already a Laura Lane in the Screen Actors Guild. We had a contest at Grad school to see who could come up with the best new name for me, "Pepper Lane" was one of the more conservative offerings. My friends ended up calling me Gypsy, though, because as a little girl I wanted to change my name to something highly exotic like Nancy, Candy or Gypsy.
Who inspired you when you were growing up, and why?
I have come to realize that my family gave me everything. I was the little girl who dreamed of making an Oscar acceptance speech and thanking all of the imaginary people that had inspired me. I was the little girl, tap dancing alone in my room on an actual detour sign, imagining my exciting life in NY or LA. While imagining all of this future excitement I was surrounded by eccentric southern men and women who taught me about humor and suffering and love. Skinny, smoking men who swaggered and told stories about having the ability to rip out a Doberman's throat with a fist! Men who would embarrass and thrill me in restaurants by grabbing a Hoover vacuum and doing a stand up routine, complete with song and dance, FOR THE WHOLE RESTAURANT! Beautiful southern women who sat at kitchen tables and laughed over stories of falling out of moving pick up trucks and accidental (and non-lethal) hangings of siblings. I grew up with farm folks and city folks, I have hid in root cellars from tornados and been tied to a pecan tree for the wolves to come and get by my great grandfather in an attempt to try and get me to stop pretending I was a dog. I come from champion bowlers, champion smokers, champion drunks, champion domino players. I come from women who sing GORGEOUS hymns in harmony and follow those up with sappy songs about dogs being run over by trains. I come from men who died too young and women who survived and started over. Flo, Clo, Lila, Theda, Jewel, Virgi, Dan, Tim, Dan Jr., and Kirk to name a few. I am so grateful to have sprung from this Oklahoma tribe.
You are face to face with your ten-year-old self. You have one thing to say to her about her future, what do you say?
All of the power you feel in your deepest self is real. Believe in it instead of the opinions of the popular girls.
If your daughter shows a desire to go into acting, will you encourage her?
I try to expose her to many kinds of work in ways that cast them in just as exciting a light as acting.
What is the biggest challenge you see mothers faced with today?
The pressure to take care of her children, her partner, her money, job, her retirement, her looks, her social standing, her health WHILE being a size six, smiling with bleached white teeth and staying on a budget. Geeeeeeez.
What do you see as your biggest challenge in being the kind of person you want to be?
My own inner critic letting me know there is always something more I could be doing; something better I could have done. (I sense my 70-year-old self whispering the same advice I claim I would have given my ten-year-old self!)
What makes you most happy about what you give back to the world?
When I sense that the more "evolved" part of myself is truly present. When I can sense, for example, my ultra-patient self calming my daughter's frustration or when I feel deeply good about mowing my lawn and I take a second to compare that delight to the things that were my priorities when I was living in Los Angeles.
What makes you most happy about the way you parent?
I am an "older" Mom, I had my daughter when I was 38. I am so happy to be her Mom, to hear the word "Mommy." I have no desire to be doing anything more ego gratifying. Which may have been the case had I had her at 28. I am pretty good at being very present except when I'm not.
How do you balance motherhood and art?
Like the clown Bill Irwin, trying to make her laugh, me laugh and pretty much anyone in the vicinity. I am lucky that my job allows me to drop her off at school in the morning and be done in time to pick her up when school is over. I try and make the afternoon our time but of course there is ALWAYS house work. I was a waitress for many, many years while I was going to college and grad school. I am pretty good at thinking in five places at once AND getting my side work done.
Which two notable people would you like to see handcuffed to each other for a day?
Bush and Christ. Maybe the former would then be more reticent to act on behalf of the latter.
What do you wish you could automatically grant, like a fairy godmother, to mothers during trying times?
Four hours where everyone who usually needs something from her mysteriously falls asleep like Dorothy did in the field of poppies, a dvd of her favorite comic film, an entire chocolate cake, the beverage of her choice, a vibrator with fresh batteries and clean sheets.
COFFEE WITH ... LAUREN LANE
Lauren Lane chats casually with baristas at a Starbucks on South Lamar Boulevard as she orders latte and an ice water on a recent weekday afternoon. The baristas know her. She in turn calls them by their names. Clearly, Lane is regular here.
Actually for more than a decade, Lane was a regular on prime-time television. Among many other shows, the Oklahoma-born, Arlington-raised Lane was on the police drama "Hunter," then on a multi-episode arc on the popular "L.A. Law" and finally she played the tactless, ambitious and unlucky in love C.C. Babcock on "The Nanny" for the shows entire 145 episode six-year run.
Although its oven-hot outside, Lane arrives at Starbucks crisply but casually dressed, relaxed and unruffled. She has strikingly beautiful white hair, bright blue eyes, and she moves with an easy confidence.
She's taller than she seems on television.
The question begs to be asked: Why leave the biz? Why exit Los Angeles six years ago? Why land in Austin?
"I was 40," she says with a shrug. "And L.A. is not kind to women over 40. And there's no need to elaborate on why that is."
Don't get her wrong. Lane isn't bitter. She's exudes a kind of down-to-earth practicalness as she explains why she left Tinseltown to settle in Austin. The 47-year-old Lane is a single mom to 10-year-old Kate. When Lane's gig on "The Nanny" ended in 1999, she became acutely aware of the lack of roles for women who are, well, not barely-past-adolescent ingenues. "And I didn't want to fight that fight," she says. "I had seen the struggle other actresses had faced — the pressures, the humiliations — and I didn't want to spend the next chapter of my life like that."
And besides, Lane wanted her daughter to grow up somewhere that was not the epicenter of the celebrity-driven image-crazed entertainment industry.
It was easy for Lane to find her way to Austin. Texas is home turf. Lane didn't have to leave home to graduate from the University of Texas-Arlington with a degree in theater. And she has plenty of family scattered around the Lone Star State, including her sister Kim Lane, a writer who is founder and editor of the popular AustinMama.com Web site.
"Theater in Austin is thriving," Lane says. "And Austin seemed like a place to carve out a comfortable life. Of course, at first I didn't know how I was going to do that."
But through a series of fortuitous connections, Lane landed a guest gig at the University of Texas where she taught acting for two semesters. That led to her current jog: assistant professor of theater at Texas State University-San Marcos.
"I love teaching, I love my students," she says, the rich timber in her voice melting to almost a purr. "Really, I have a great balance in my life right now."
She does. On top of the rewarding teaching career she's established, the great little house in South Austin she bought and remodeled for herself and her daughter, the proximity to family, Lane hasn't left the limelight altogether. Last week, she began a five-week run starring in "The Clean House" at Zach Theatre. A finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, the winsome comedy by Sarah Ruhl finds a young Brazilian woman employed as a maid for a driven, dirt-hating, humorless successful female doctor. Only the maid doesn't want to be a maid — she longs to write the most perfect joke in the world. Clashing sensibilities set off a chain of events that sends everybody spinning. Lane plays the character named, coincidentally, Lane, the female doctor who finds her world upended.
"It's sort of magical realism come to the stage," the actress says. "There's a warm humor and a lot of striking visual images to the script."
Lane is an admirer of Ruhl's sense of language as a playwright, its verbal richness and sharp timing. Well, Lane is a devotee of good writing of all kinds in general. She wants to exchange titles of recently read books with a reporter; she gushes over "August: Osage County," the literate tragicomedy currently tearing up Broadway that just won the Tony Award; and she can't over-recommend the short stories of George Saunders or Alice Munro.
And as much as she'd like to, she can't stay and gab forever over coffee. She has to be at the theater in two hours to get ready for the opening preview of "The Clean House."
But first she has to go grocery shopping
"That's glamorous, isn't it?" she says wryly and then flashes a big smile.
AUSTIN WOMAN, by Marilyn McCray
Auditioning for a fifth grade production, Lauren Lane recalls listening to her classmates read the script. “They were terrible. I kept thinking that all you have to do is say it the way you would in real life.” Her interest in acting was fueled by the fantasy worlds of television shows like Lost in Space and Star Trek. “I had a crush on Spock,” she later confessed. “When my mother explained that these people were actors and were just pretending to be in outer space,” Lane said, “It was the undeniable beginning of my longing to be an actress.”
Lane graduated from UT Arlington with a BFA in theater. “At that time I was reading that Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Mandy Patinkin had all gone to this magic place called graduate school. So I set my sights high and auditioned at Yale and the American Conservatory Theater.” Accepted at A.C.T., the 24-year-old from Texas set off for San Francisco. For 14-hours-a-day she studied, rehearsed and lived theater. Her life was changed forever.
Six weeks out of graduate school, she auditioned for the television cop drama Hunter and landed the role of Chris Novak. “I had no idea what I was doing because I was classically trained in the theater,” Lane recalled. Recurring roles on long-running series including LA Law and guest appearances on other well-known shows followed. The Nanny was Lane’s big break in the role of C.C. Babcock, the egocentric, insensitive and mean-spirited partner of a Broadway producer. Tall and blond, Lane was the perfect foil to Fran Drescher’s character. Lane’s C.C. Babcock has proved to be so popular, that C.C. has her own page on Wikipedia and comes up in a Google search.
“While I loved playing C.C. and was grateful for it on so many levels, it was limiting. I had to balance the fact that I’m tall with a deep voice and that categorized me in Los Angeles as the evil seductress. And that’s what I kept getting auditions for, over and over. Eventually, for television, I would get a breakdown of a role like in Dawson’s Creek – of a really hot 45-year-old mom who still does yoga, frustrated with her ex-husband and drives a Lexus. In other words, these were shallow, superficial descriptions of middle-aged women as seen by a 20-year-old male writer,” remembers Lane. “Those were heartbreaking to me and literally drove me out of L.A. I had a four year-old at the time and I just knew I wouldn’t survive.”
After L.A., Lane and daughter Kate chose to call Austin home. “I’d been to Austin many, many times and I thought this is like a little oasis where I can figure out what was next,” said Lane. She continued to be active in regional theater, performed at The Kennedy Center and as part of the acting company of The American College Theatre Festival.
Lane has settled into her oasis with her daughter, surrounded by extended family and her dogs. Her days are filled with making lunches, running the dogs, supervising homework, watching episodes of Glee with Kate and teaching acting full time at Texas State University in the Department of Theatre and Dance.
“I love teaching and I love my students,” exclaims Lane. “We are making artists as opposed to teaching students to go out and do just one thing, to be the funny gal on some sit-com or be a commercial actor.” The Texas State students get conservatory-like training and this is the only undergraduate-level program in the state to take students to showcase their talents to New York casting directors. Her students also get cast locally. Michael Amendola had the role of George in Zach Theatre’s production of Our Town.
“I’ve always longed to have an artistic home,” says Lane. “Your work gets better when you work with people you know and trust over and over. Austin is so lucky. Not only do we have a great equity theater like Zach with such an eclectic season, but also we have the Rubber Repertory, Hyde Park Theatre and last year I did House of Seven Stories at the Austin Playhouse. The audiences are smart and very willing to experience new stuff – cutting edge stuff – or they are willing to be surprised.”
Lane will be taking the stage at Zach Theatre for Becky’s New Car, the romantic farce written and directed by acclaimed Austin playwright Steven Dietz. The play was commissioned as part of Seattle’s ACT’s New Works for the American Stage program that matches patrons to playwrights to generate new scripts. It was a gift from donor Charles Staadecker on behalf of his wife Benita who will attend the opening performance at Zach.
“It is very different than Clean House, the last show I did,” said Lane. “Becky is different, much more middle class and sort of more like where I came from, socioeconomic-wise.” Becky is a somewhat content, somewhat stressed-out wife and mother who works at a car dealership. She moves through her not-quite-satisfying existence in quiet desperation. When a socially inept millionaire falls for her at first sight, he offers her nothing short of a new life. Becky’s life spins out of her control.
Dietz lowers the fourth wall at a number of points, making Becky available to the audience. He wanted to have Becky literally take them on her journey and to have the audience literally be her confidants and helpers. “I’m actually processing what Becky’s experience is directly with the audience. It is intimidating and exciting,” shares Lane. “I know the Zach audience pretty well from all the other shows I’ve done. And I think this will surprise some people.”
LAUREN LANE'S AUSTIN
By Spike Gillespie / March 11, 2010
Some might call it opinion. I state it as fact: Lauren Lane has got to be Austin's best actress. We're lucky to have her — she went off to LA once upon a time and did well for herself. If you've ever seen The Nanny, you know Lauren — she played C.C. Babcock. Now that she's back, she spends her time hanging out in South Austin thrilling us with performances at Zach Scott Theatre.
She could stand on a corner reading the phonebook, and I would stand, mesmerized, listening for hours. I'm lucky enough to call her a friend, and even had the pleasure of sharing the stage with her, not that she really needed my foil. Lauren shines all by herself. Here, she shares with us her favorite things to see and do and eat in Austin.
Describe Your Perfect Day in Austin.
My perfect Austin day starts with a long walk in my neighborhood with my dog Mr. Happy. I see a lot of the same people every morning, old timers who share with me news of what is in bloom. I have a favorite grove of Bamboo where magical things have happened — my secret.
Then I might return videos to my favorite video store, Vulcan Video off of South Congress where the clerks are incredibly knowledgeable and just surly enough to make me trust them. Try Lars Von Trier's MEDEA — stunning.
Then I would wander South Congress Avenue. I would start with a coffee from Jo's where, if I'm lucky, I will see my friend Paul Soileau, local "artistic terrorist" and recent Chronicle cover story, who augments his artistic life with a day gig at Jo's and always makes me laugh.
Then I would meander south on Congress to Big Top Candy Shop where I might buy my twelve-year-old daughter some chocolate covered bacon or a root beer sucker while listening to the calliope music. Heading north again my next stop would undoubtedly be Uncommon Objects , where, on my perfect day, I would spend two delicious hours meandering, reading old post cards, adding to my ceramic Boxer collection and gathering items for my next overly ambitious art project.
Time for Enchiladas! A working lunch with good friends, playwrights C. Denby Swanson (an excellent cook) or John Boulanger (House of Several Stories). Verde enchiladas on the patio at Guero's, or Polvos, brainstorming ideas in the warm Austin Spring weather.
After lunch and a nice walk back home, I would head to rehearsal at Zach Theatre, my local artistic home. Maybe rehearsal in Zach's new space; the ZPACC, with Zach's Artistic Director Dave Steakley, or maybe Steven Dietz, a nationally known playwright and Austinite who directs many of his own plays for Zach. Or if I'm lucky we might have a play reading as we did recently with Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan Lori Park's newest play, The Book Of Grace.
After rehearsal I might see a show at Hyde Park Theatre or have dinner and a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse in my neighborhood. If it is Hyde Park Theatre, I hope Ken Webster, the Artistic Director is either acting in the show or has directed it, because his work is always thought provoking and full of seat-of-your-pants thrills. If it is Alamo Drafthouse, then it's fried pickles, Shiner Bock beer, and a great film.
My perfect day would end with a slow evening walk through my neighborhood with Mr. Happy and my out-of-town boyfriend by my side, making sure to check in with my magic bamboo grove.
What's Your Favorite Dish?
Kerbey Lane South, sitting at the counter with a Cobb salad (no onions, lemons and olive oil for dressing), a short stack of buttermilk pancakes with butter and maple syrup, and a good book.
What's Your Best Kept Austin Secret?
Enfield public pool, Texas State University Theatre Department, Thom's Market on Barton Springs, Bouldin Creek Greenbelt, Cafe Caffeine Improv.
Q&A WITH LAUREN LANE (nov. 2010)
Lauren Lane, assistant professor in the department of theater and dance, portrayed the business-minded Chastity Claire “C.C.” Babcock on the ’90s TV sitcom, The Nanny. Lane said even though the money is great in television she prefers theater because of the actor’s relationship with the audience. Next week, she joins with her Nanny co-star Daniel Davis (Niles the Butler) at the Long Center for Performing Arts in Austin for a rendition of the off-Broadway play Celebrity Autobiography.
JP: How did you make your way to Texas State?
LL: I started out as an adjunct here and then became a lecturer and then senior lecturer. Now, I’m an assistant professor. I was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Texas: Lubbock, then Dallas, then Arlington.
JP: What classes do you teach at Texas State?
LL: I teach intermediate acting for the B.F.A. track-acting students. I teach the senior B.F.A. class. I teach acting for television and film.
JP: When did you know you wanted to be an actress?
LL: My imagination always was big that way, but I didn’t imagine that I would be a professional actress, even after my first year in undergrad. I was a journalism major, but I just couldn’t stay away. I only did one play in high school though. I secretly longed to be an actress. And then in college I just couldn’t stay out of the theater. I just kept auditioning for things and getting things until finally I switched my major over. So I sort of backed into it, I wasn’t brave enough to say this is what I want.
JP: What was your first professional paid performance?
LL: The Dallas Theater Center. I was an ensemble member of (The) Skin of Our Teeth which was directed by Peter Gerety, who’s a pretty well known regional theater director and actor, who’s also on the television series The Wire, among many other things. And I understudied the role of Sabina, which is sort of the big female comic lead, but I never played her, just understudied it. And I was 19.
JP: When did you make it out to L.A.?
LL: I did the master’s program at American Conservatory Theater. After I finished the graduate program someone from NBC came up and saw me in (a production of) Burn This and then called me and offered me a development deal. Six weeks after I’d arrived in L.A. I auditioned for this detective show called, Hunter. I did that for a year and the show was canceled. And then shortly thereafter I did a reoccurring role on L.A. Law. And then auditioned for The Nanny and got that.
By Robin Chotzinoff
The cucumber salad Lauren Lane’s family makes was traditionally served at her grandmother’s Thanksgivings. “It was refreshing, especially when you were eating all the carbs and the tryptophan,” she recalls. “And it has jalapeños—a little bite to it. At my grandmother’s house we ate huge meals! My grandparents moved to the city, but they still ate in those farm rhythms: on Thanksgiving, the men would all eat first. It was always put forth as a nurturing thing . . . look what we women cooked for you. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t pretty.”
Pretty or not, Lane likes food that comes with a narrative. Widely known as the kind of actress who inhabits her roles right down to their psychiatric DNA, she’ll make up a food story if a real one isn’t available, and passionately drifts toward the things that interest her.
Last fall, she ran out to buy Bake until Bubbly, a retro casserole cookbook. Aunt Bea, she decided, would serve such things to Andy and Opie. More recently, Lane went in a different direction. “I just got a whole book about Yorkshire pudding,” she announces. Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen ate Yorkshire pudding, not to mention the Queen Mum and perhaps Helen Mirren—all women whose work Lane admires. So late this December, Lane’s small household—her mother and 12-year-old daughter, Kate—will probably watch an ancient VHS tape of A Christmas Carol while eating rare roast beef and Yorkshire pudding because that’s what an Austin Anglophile does. There’s room for Mayberry and Bloomsbury; it’s a pretty big kitchen.
Still, nesting is relatively new to Lane who, before moving to Austin eight years ago, lived in Los Angeles, working long hours as Fran Drescher’s icy nemesis C.C. Babcock on The Nanny. On rare off hours, she did serious theater with Tim Robbins’s Actors’ Gang. Most nights, she remembers, dinner consisted of a turkey hot dog and a small square of unfrosted sheet cake.
“I wouldn’t call my relationship with food the most balanced back then,” she says. “Sort of like, ‘maybe I shouldn’t entertain myself with this giant cake?’”
In 1998 came daughter Kate, but by the time Kate turned four, Lane decided Los Angeles was no place to raise a child; her series had been cancelled and her agent wasn’t encouraging about Hollywood roles for 40-year-old women. The market for parts might once again open, but “probably not till I turned 60,” she remembers—another unpretty story, but a happy ending was just around the corner.
Once in Austin, she found work as a theater professor, began acting in local productions and gathered friends, spending more time cooking than ever before. The South Austin house she remodeled from the ground up pretty much revolves around the kitchen. It’s the first thing you see from the front door, and though its fixtures may be top-of-the-line, its ambience is relaxed and friendly: the Mac in the corner blasts show tunes; the big ipe-wood island is half covered with books, snacks, old china, a sewing machine and one or two of the vintage plastic thermoses Lane considers collectible.
“I can’t hide my messes in here,” she says. “The three-second rule is witnessed by everyone.” So what? The entertainment here is food with a story, not housekeeping. “My big fun is friends coming over for Mad Men,” she says, “cooking a fillet with bacon wrapped around it . . . I like to drink martinis and laugh.”
Most meals, however, are non-martini’d. On Sundays, Lane roasts enough vegetables to fill a week of brown-bag lunches. “I really love that time,” she says, “following a recipe, learning as I go, with a program open on the computer, folding clothes . . . Kate sitting at the island with all her homework books spread out.”
These days, Lane doesn’t wait until Thanksgiving to make her beloved cucumber salad—it shows up on the menu pretty often. Years ago, in an attempt to impress a boyfriend’s snooty East Coast parents, she whipped up the salad in their opulent home. Distracted by the crosscurrents of emotional tension in the kitchen, she forgot to rinse the cucumbers and onions after they had soaked in brine overnight.
“Everyone tried to eat it, politely,” Lane remembers. “And then I sheepishly suggested that everyone stop eating it because it was basically cucumbers in seawater.”
Lane has since learned to rinse.
LAUREN LANE'S BE-SURE-TO-RINSE-IT CUCUMBER SALAD
5 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
1 white onion, diced
4 c. water mixed with 4 T. salt
1 jalapeño, finely diced (seeds optional)
2 T. mayonnaise
3 T. lemon juice
Place the cucumbers and onions in a large bowl and cover with the salt water. Cover the bowl with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, drain the cucumber-onion mix in a colander and RINSE WELL with cold water for approximately 5 minutes, turning the mixture with your hands as you rinse. After 5 minutes, taste a cucumber. If it’s very salty, but not inedible, it’s ready. Pour the cucumber-onion mix onto several folded paper towels and pat as dry as possible—but don’t squeeze! Place the mixture in a clean bowl and add the rest of the ingredients (add the jalapeño slowly and taste for heat). Best made at least a few hours ahead of eating.
It is 6pm on a Wednesday in 1968, it is hamburger night at the Lane household in Oklahoma City, and I am two feet away from the black-and-white TV set with my turquoise Melmac dinner plate on the floor in front of me as the theme song for Lost in Space begins. I wanted more than anything to be an astronaut like Penny Robinson, but I was told that you have to be good at math to be an astronaut. ("Oh the pain, William, the pain!") When my mother explained that these people were actors and were just pretending to be in outer space, it was the undeniable beginning of my desire to be an actress.
I am currently obsessed with Battlestar Galactica. I come home from performing our show, put in a DVD, and relax to some of the best "fraking" writing and storylines on television. Mary McDonnell is an actress whose work is so complex and subtle. I would like to be the first fortysomething Viper pilot in the fleet! My qualifications: I am excellent at pretend math
Many people would recognize Lauren Lane on sight as Fran Fine's ice queen nemesis, theatrical associate, C.C. Babcock on the long-running situation comedy, The Nanny, and she is currently making a name for herself as the sympathetic and caring business mogul, Angela Mercier, on Harpers Falls. Right now, we have a chance to chat with Lauren and to get her take on her roles as Angela and as C.C.
AG: Welcome Lauren, to Harpers Falls.
LL: Thank you, it's wonderful to be here.
AG: Most people are getting to know you as compassionate businesswoman, Angela Mercier, but yet you are still remembered mainly as the hilarious C.C. When you took the role of Angela, did you put in something of C.C. at all?
LL: I put C.C.'s business acumen into Angela, and infused her with the compassion and love that C.C. herself couldn't show. In many ways, I kind of felt sorry for C.C.
AG: As did I. C.C. never got a break it seemed. However, you seem to love playing Angela.
LL: I do. She is a fun woman to play.
AG: When it comes to the other characters, who do you enjoy working with?
LL: I think Eden Riegel (Sheila) is a fun person to work with. She was such a groundbreaker as Bianca on All My Children, and she is just as professional as can be. She and Elizabeth Hendrickson (Hannah) are groundbreakers in their own right.
AG: It must have been a wonderful reunion for you when you met up with Madeline Zima (Rosemary, ex-Gracie) and then when Fran made her guest appearance. It must have been wonderful to work on The Nanny.
LL: It was. Fran was and still is, a wonderful woman. I was glad to see her, and it's wonderful to also work with Madeline. She has grown up so well.
AG: When you heard about Fran getting Uterine Cancer, how did you feel?
LL: I was shocked, as was most everyone. I never thought that she was sick, but I didn't know. It was so hard on her, with her marriage ending, the show ending, then her getting sick. I am glad that she is better. She is a great speaker about cancer prevention. She's always so positive, and she turned something so terrible into a positive herself.
AG: I agree, she is a positive woman, with all that effusive energy! Is it tough to be working with a lot of series veterans, like Morgan Fairchild (Cynthia); Delta Burke, (Arielle); Barbara Bosson (Wendy); and Dixie Carter (Denise) among others? Or has it been a seamless transition.
LL: In some ways, I felt a bit unnerved, because of the combined experience. But I got used to it as I was as much a veteran as well. However in many ways, it is a learning experience. I learn from them and they learn from me. We all learn from one another, and that is the best way to do things.
AG: That is always the best way to go, I am sure. I bet it was a turn as well, when after Aileen (Marcy Rylan) was discovered to be your daughter, and that changed her life for the better, then your aide, Celia (Sharon Spelman) became the new villain.
LL: I admit, it was surprising, but it was more or less expected, since the show needed a new villain, and Celia, who until that time, had been a minor role, seemed to be perfectly fit for the heavy role.
AG: Besides your work as C.C., which people see you all the time on Lifetime Televison, I understand you work as a professor now?
LL: That's right! Under the name of Laura Lane, I am a professor and lecturer in the theater department of Texas State University in San Marcos. It's a very rewarding job.
AG: Who would you like to see come back, either for a guest role or permanently?
LL: Well, Fran, definitely, and perhaps some of my other former cast mates of the Nanny. I miss Daniel Davis, (ex-Niles), I still remember all the wonderful dialogue I had with him as C.C.; Charles Shaughnessy, (ex-Maxwell); Nicholle Tom, (ex-Maggie); Renee Taylor, (ex-Sylvia) and perhaps Ann Morgan Guilbert (ex-Yetta).
AG: Lauren, it is always a pleasure and an honor, indeed to have you in our show.
LL: Thank you very much. How much did you like C.C.?
AG: I liked her a lot. She was a class act.
LL: (in her best C.C. Babcock voice) Well, I thank you, Albert! I think you are a class act too!
The Shock of Losing Nanny:
Just moments before taping was set to start on an episode of The Nanny a few weeks ago, the cast and crew were assembled and told that the series was only months away from ending production forever. Lauren Lane who plays the precocious theatre producer C.C. Babcock, recalls a strong feeling of unease that day. “We had no idea the end was coming,” Lauren says. It was a shock to everyone. Then we had to go right out afterwards and perform and be funny.”
Lauren says that although the show’s big wedding between Fran Fine (Fran Drescher, the Nanny) and her well-to-do boss-turned-lover Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy) was a ratings winner, everyone knew it came at a price.
Television history is full of sitcoms and dramas that have flat-lined once the long-running sexual tension is resolved.
“The thing is that Fran and Max had been teasing for five years, so they had to go somewhere with it,” Lauren says.
“But the show’s built on a formula which includes sexual tension. When it suddenly goes, you have to find another way of giving the viewers what they want. I think that’s why they’re playing with the relationship between Niles (the randy butler played by Daniel Davis) and C.C.”
With just four episodes left to shoot when TV WEEK caught up with Lauren, the actress guarantees plenty of surprises still to come- not least of which is Fran’s pregnancy.
“Oh yes, she’s pregnant, but I’m not going to tell you with what because that would ruin the surprise.” Lauren says.
One thing that Lauren can reveal is that, despite rumors, there won’t be a spin-off for the warring-flirty Niles and C.C.
“I think the fans really want it, but to be blunt, it’s not going to happen.” She says.
The characters were created by the then husband-and-wife team Fran Drescher and Peter Marc Jacobson, but now the couple have separated and are keen to go their own ways.
“The show has become like a family and we’ll miss all that.” She says “But I am looking forward to doing other things.
“The trouble is memories are short- when you’ve had success with one thing, that’s all people think you can do.”