BROADWAY, MOVIES, TV, COMMERCIALS, ARTIST, AUTHOR…MEET LORI HAMMEL
I met Lori Hammel in 2002 on the 2nd National Tour of Mamma Mia. She came on to the tour to understudy the 3 female leads as well as secure her own role in the ensemble. Let me repeat that, if you’ve ever seen Mamma Mia! (and yes the movie counts, Meryl Streep plays the lead doesn’t she?) you’ll understand what a task learning just one of those leads would be. Lori had to learn all three, plus her own role, 4 roles in total. One night after rehearsal, we all went out for drinks, Lori ordered a diet coke. Not a feather was ruffled, not an ounce of frustration. It was like a light had followed her in. She began telling us about herself, while she was talking, telling us her journey, her excitement grew, until she stopped herself saying “Look at me, I’m high on diet coke!” All of this just to introduce herself to the group, and not a moment of complaint at the amount of work, I immediately fell in love. Today, and 12 years later, Lori is an accomplished Author, Artist, Actor, and an incredible soul. Crackpop was lucky enough to sit down with her, and at the world famous Harry Cipriani in New York City no less.
crackpop: Lori, you’ve been in love with the arts since growing up in New Salem, North Dakota and have really made a name for yourself appearing in countless theatrical productions both off Broadway and on Broadway tours, national television, feature films, several commercials, as well as your own original web series “Margo Rose Ferderer Reports.” You seem to find success in everything you do, what’s your secret? Where do you find your inspiration to be the rock star that you are?
LORI HAMMEL: First of all, thank you for the compliment and for the opportunity to do this interview. I feel like it’s a combination of hard work and persistence. It’s so easy to give up when things don’t work out the way you want. My intention is to keep moving forward and grow thru new outlets and challenges. It’s such a small world in the performing arts and I really try to create a positive environment in whatever situation I am lucky enough to find myself in.
I am inspired by all the other artists I see around me who are fearless and willing to put themselves out on the line for what they believe in.
cp: Your most recent endeavor, “The Bardy Bunch” running through April 13th at the Theatre at St. Clements (423 West 46th Street, New York, NY), is a comedic reinterpretation of Shakespeare set in the ‘70s played out by characters from the classic sitcoms “The Brady Bunch” and “The Partridge Family.” You’ve been a lead in the show since its beginning in March, how did you originally become involved and what initially attracted you to this show in particular? Could you give us a few of your favorite moments from the show without giving too much away?
LH: “The Bardy Bunch” has been such a fun show from the beginning. My friend, Dann Fink, turned me on to the project – he was instrumental in putting the fabulous creative team together - Stephen Garvey (writer) and Jay Stern (director). I love the idea of this show – it’s hilarious on paper and on stage. I heard that Sean McDermott was going to play Mike Brady and I was on board! Sean is so much fun to work with and brings an extensive Broadway experience to his role.
I have to tell you, this Carol Brady has a dark side – think Lady Macbeth and you’re on the right track. So, there are some pretty unexpected and crazy things that happen. Some of my favorite moments from the show are all the great 70’s pop songs that get twisted and taken very seriously and the Shakespearean themes – there is a lot of blood. Oops - I’m not supposed to say anything about that. But everyone who comes to see the show gets something different from it. It’s super funny and the cast is extremely talented and engaging.
cp: I totally recognized you from your role as the morning show host in “Burn After Reading,” what was your experience like working with the Coen Brothers?
LH: The whole experience with that film was such a joy. I have so admired the Coen Brothers and their sensibility especially Fargo. I so wanted to be part of their world. We’re from the same part of the country – that whole North Dakota/Minnesota world. I went to college in Moorhead, Minnesota, which is the twin city of Fargo. It was such a dream come true to get to work with them. The atmosphere on the set was so relaxed and inviting. I came on set early to watch the scene being filmed before mine and I thought no one knew I was there. But then, in the darkness, a wardrobe person came up to me with my costume watch and I realized that everyone on set knows exactly what everybody else is up to.
cp: Your parody of a local Manhattan newscaster, “Margo Rose Ferderer Reports” is literally the funniest thing I have ever seen. How did you come up with this lovably clueless character? The material is golden, is it scripted, or do you improv based on people’s reactions? What’s the craziest or most awkward situation Margo has found herself in?
LH: I love playing Margo Rose – she is a great outlet for me to be able to have a place to express really silly ideas. I started working on her after playing the morning show host in Burn After Reading and a political pundit on the Onion. I liked playing the reporter identity and I really wanted to work on something with my friend Peter Michael Marino, who directs the show. Our basic outline is to do a bunch of research on the person who will be interviewed and then get most of it wrong. There is lots of room for improvising in the actual interview, but the ideas are hashed out before hand. One of the wildly weird moments was when Margo was interviewing the amazing Bernadette Peters - and Ms. Peters hadn’t been let in on the joke. It was awkward because I personally didn’t want to offend her in any way since I’m such a big fan – and she smelled so good. Really, Bernadette Peters smells amazing. So, while Margo gets everything wrong and is known for being off center, I was star struck and didn’t want to offend her in any way.
Since Rocky is running on Broadway now, there is a lot of buzz about the show on the internet. Check out Margo Rose interviewing Margo Seibert from Rocky on Broadway below:
cp: Not only are you an incredible performer but you’re also a painter?! Your expressionist portraits are incredibly evocative, what inspired you to begin your journey in the non-performing art world? Do you draw any correlations between your work as a painter and your work on the stage and screen?
LH: I started drawing and writing as a teenager to express myself and make sense of the world. I kept a diary and would draw pictures in it as well. I went back and looked at my journals from that time and there was a drawing of one of the upperclassmen being carried away on a stretcher after a basketball injury. It was a traumatic scene because someone I respected and admired had something bad happen to him. I tried to understand it by writing and drawing the experience. That type of investigation is what continues to fuel my painting and drawing now, although sometimes it can just be a simple exploration of “the color blue” and that leads me.
I think that having the painting keeps me balanced since it is an inner/solitary discipline, where as acting requires working with others. Doing the show “Forbidden Broadway” was a great way to study faces and expressions since it’s all imitations of Broadway stars and legends – including Bernadette Peters. I love to paint faces and it’s great when your job requires you to study the things you love.
cp: In 2012 you co-authored the textbook Minding The Edge: Strategies for a Fulfilling, Successful Career as an Actor, could you tell us a little about the book?
LH: I am so grateful to have such an amazing writing partner and friend in Carl Menninger. It was his idea to write a book. We have been working together for many years and he wanted me to write down how I handle my career for the benefit of young artists starting out. I said I wouldn’t write it unless we wrote together and so that’s how it ended up happening. The book explores how to take care of yourself as an artist while making things happen in the business. It’s about finding fulfillment in the pursuit of your dreams and building on disciplined habits and thoughts.
cp: You have a strong passion for helping emerging actors get their footing in the industry, was there someone who did that for you in your early days?
LH: Indeed – so many people. I have such great respect for my teachers all along the way. In high school, my English and drama teacher, Mrs. Beckman, really encouraged me. And all my friends who believed in me and never let me give up. And my parents – 100%. John Freedson opened the door for me in New York by casting and directing me in “Forbidden Broadway” – that was a big stepping stone for me.
cp: If you could give one piece of advice to all the aspiring performers out there trying to make it big what would it be?
LH: Do something every day that helps you be a part of the world that you want to be a part of. Do your art daily in any way you can and surround yourself with others who believe in you.
cp: You are a naturally gifted performer and an extremely creative individual, do you remember a specific point growing up when you realized this is what you wanted to do with your life?
LH: It developed over time. I really don’t remember not wanting to do this with my life.
cp: “The Bardy Bunch” closes on April 13th, do you have anything exciting on deck that you’d like to share with us?
LH: There are some fun projects coming up, but it’s not all finalized yet, so I better not say until they are confirmed on the dotted line. Coney Island Queen, a short I did with film director Viatcheslav Kopturevskiy, will be premièring in New York City at the 25th Annual Dusty Film Festival in May. My website, lorihammel.com, will have updates on my projects.
Well put!! Thank you Lori, for giving us your time☺
"The Bardy Bunch" is playing Thurs-Sat @8PM Sundays @7PM Theatre at St. Clement’s 423 W. 46th st. For tickets go to www.thebardybunch.com, and if you wanna see that you better hurry (it closes April 13th). If you need a good laugh check out Lori’s website for more video on Margo. And keep an eye out for this ever-growing star, the one and only Lori Hammel.
Pic 1: Coney Island Queen. Cinematography by Renee Heitman
Pic 2: Coney Island Queen. Photo by Mor Shamay
Pic 3: Lori Hammel (Carol) Photo by Tom Henning
Pic 4: Sean McDermott (Mike), Lori Hammel (Carol) Photo by Tom Henning
Pic 5: Sean McDermott (Mike), Lori Hammel (Carol) Photo by Katie Settel
Pic 6: Coney Island Queen. Photo by Anna Elnikova
Pic 7: Burn After Reading courtesy of Focus Features
Pic 8: Photo by Ron Glow
Pic 9: Hammel’s Artwork, available for purchase @ lorihammel.com
Pic 10: Photo by Deborah Lopez
CRACKPOP WOULD LIKE TO THANK HARRY CIPRIANI FOR MAKING A MEAN BELLINI AND PROVIDING A LOVELY INTERVIEW ATMOSPHERE ☺
URBAN CULTURE: COOL PEOPLE
By Jeni C. Wilson and Aaron Reichlin for CRACKPOP