Q&A: Anger Management’s Noureen DeWulf Talks the Fast Pace of Shooting and if Her Indian Heritage is an Issue in Getting Acting Work
Noureen DeWulf stars as the crazy/jealous Lacey on Charlie Sheen‘s, Anger Management. The show, which airs on FX, just got a huge 90-episode pickup which shows the confidence that FX has in the show now and in the future.
DeWulf, who is of Indian descent, went to Boston University’s School for the Arts and after graduation, moved out to Los Angeles. Her first role was in the Academy Award® winning film, West Bank Story where she played “Fatima,” a singing and dancing Palestinian cashier who falls in love with an Israeli soldier. Since then, she’s had recurring roles on NBC’s Outsourced, TNT’s Hawthorne and MTV’s Hard Times of RJ Berger, and was a series regular on Lifetime’s Maneater.
Her film work includes Ocean’s Thirteen, The Back-up Plan, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (opposite Matthew McConaughey) and The Goods: Live Hard Sell Hard.
In this Q & A, she talks about working with the infamous Sheen, the fast pace of shooting the show and if her Indian heritage is an issue in getting acting work.
Anger Management airs on FX
Anger Management, it’s a comedy and “Lacey” is pretty over the top and a crazy character. I know you’ve said in interviews that you don’t have a ton in common with her. How do you relate to her and make her real?
Noureen DeWulf: Well, a lot of sitcom is the jokes. So I try to keep a balance between hitting the joke and keeping her grounded. It’s a precarious balance but it’s a sitcom format. So that’s what I do.
How are you enjoying working with the rest of the gang in the group?
Noureen DeWulf: I adore every single member of our group therapy. Barry Corbin and I eat lunch together everyday. It’s such an unusual pairing. I love him. Derek [Richardson] and Michael [Boatman], I just couldn’t say nicer things about them. Then, of course, Charlie [Sheen] leading our group…it’s amazing because he is such a sitcom legend.
So we all look at each other and just feel like, wow. You know, we’re working with Charlie Sheen, that’s really cool for actors in a sitcom world. So we’re excited. I personally, just adore our group. I feel the closest to them of our cast, I feel, because I spend most time with these guys. I love them.
Did you have any kind of worry or trepidation or anything before taking a role and working with Charlie Sheen with all the press and everything?
Noureen DeWulf: Yes, because you never know what you’re walking into. Charlie did have an amazing crazy last year with so much media attention. But when there was a discussion of Charlie Sheen…his big comeback to TV, I knew that Charlie, of all people, probably had the best odds of making a comeback, and successful one. I wanted to be involved in his comeback on any level. It’s an honor.
I was excited because no matter what he’s an eccentric guy. He’s interesting. I knew it was going to be an awesome experience for me to have personally and professionally. I think it turned out for the best. Our premiere episode opened…it debuted higher than any other cable premiere ever had. So that’s the risk I took and it was an amazing one. I’m so glad I jumped on board with him.
Did you go through a lot of rehearsals before the show started or did they just kind of throw you in and see how you all work together?
Noureen DeWulf: We don’t really rehearse that much on our show. We shoot at such a rapid pace that we pretty much shoot the rehearsal. I mean there is no rehearsal, essentially. We just shoot. So everyone is just kind of being very instinctual. I think it works the way they cast the show. The actors have kind of shown that these characters exist inside of them. They’ve played similar things before or they’re characters that we can all live with. We kind of just run with it.
Do you enjoy that?
Noureen DeWulf: It’s just we don’t follow the traditional sitcom format of shooting. Typically, you would get the table read on Monday and then you would rehearse Tuesday, Wednesday; Thursday and Friday shoot in front of a live audience. On our show we shoot one episode on Monday and Tuesday. We have a table read on Wednesday and we shoot the next episode on Thursday and Friday. So we’re working twice as fast and we don’t have a live studio audience. So it does provide an interesting, not dilemma, but it does provide a challenge, I think, to all of us actors because you know we do want to tell and nail these jokes at the same time. There’s a certain kind of confidence that it does build in you and a freshness that I think is pretty unique. So we all try to focus on that and just give it our all every day that’s what we have to do.
You recently signed on to do a new movie with Paul Rudd. Is that going to shoot during hiatus and can you tell us anything about it yet?
Noureen DeWulf: Yes. Absolutely. It stars Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler. It’s directed by David Wain who is responsible for Children’s Hospital and Wet Hot American Summer…. I play Paul Rudd’s secretary. It’s very similar to the role that I played in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past alongside with Matthew McConaughey but this time I’m speaking in that role. The movie is kind of a spoof of romantic comedies. So it’s interesting. I’m playing a character by the same name, “Melanie.” I actually already shot it. I went to New York and shot it in our earlier part of our hiatus.
Do you prefer movies or TV or enjoy both?
Noureen DeWulf: I enjoy both. Honestly, it was really fun. You forget how fun it is. Obviously, Paul Rudd is so–I just can’t say nicer things about him. He is so lovely and he’s hilarious. Watching him and Michael Ian Black improv. I felt like I was learning. I felt like I was just around the best of the best. I just was kind of blown away by how amazing they are at improv, so it was fun to kind of tag along and their scenes and just add when I could.
I love working on movies because of that, you know, and especially in comedies where we can improv and stuff. TV is amazing too and this is my first time as a series regular even though I’ve worked for so long, I’ve never really been a regular on a show. It’s awesome to me because every Thursday night I get to watch at least a couple of jokes that I’m doing or something that I didn’t. That’s awesome for me as an actor to have that. To be able to say, oh yes, I’m on the show. So that’s pretty cool too and be in people’s homes. I think that’s a nice thing.
I love to go back and forth because there are such different mediums that it’s fun to remind yourself how to be more thorough, how to be less thorough, how to punch a joke, how to not. Usually, I’m going back and forth in comedic television and comedies. Honestly, that’s really what I do. But I learned from Charlie Sheen. I learned from Paul Rudd.
I feel like every acting job I’ve gotten has been with someone legendary. I don’t know why. I’m so lucky to stand in the scenes with them. I’ve learned so much from my costars. They’re better acting lessons than I ever could take in a class in L.A.
Is your heritage even an issue anymore? Or is the proliferation of Indian actors making it easier for you to get more mainstream kind of roles?
Noureen DeWulf: Well, when I first started in 2003, I felt like I was maybe one of five people. I’ve worked hard to get out of the box, out of the roles that are completely defined by my ethnicity. I don’t want every line to be about the fact that my heritage is Indian or every joke to be about my race. So at the beginning of my career, I did have some of those.
I played a foreign exchange student, but as the years have gone by I’ve made a conscience effort to get out of the box and really fight for roles that are not ethnic specific, “Lacey,” for example, my character in The Goods a movie I did with Jeremy Piven. In a lot of films that I’ve been in have nothing to do with my race. That’s really important to me. Yes, I think the more the better. The more diversity that we have in our cinemas is positive for everybody.
It represents the true diversity of our country. I think that’s how film and TV should be. We should have some ethnic diversity in the cast. But my personal goal has always been to test against other actors that are not–I don’t like to go into an audition and only see other Indian actresses. I much more want the roles that are not designed that way. That way I can serve my own self better and serve people who look like me better by not making everything focused on my race, you know.