If this whole acting thing doesn’t work out for Lane Garrison, he could easily start a career as a motivational speaker. Talking to him was like getting a big bolt of acting energy. You can tell he loves acting and being an actor and he’s one of those people truly happy when others succeed in the business.
His career is pretty damn hot right now, so don’t hold your breath on the whole motivational speaker deal. He just starred in the History Channel’s Bonnie & Clyde mini-series and is soon to appear in Robert Rodriguez’s new series From Dusk Til Dawn and the Breaking Bad spin-off, Better Call Saul.
He’s currently starring opposite Kristen Stewart in Camp X-Ray, writer/director Peter Sattler’s feature film debut about a prison camp in Guantanamo Bay. Lane is ‘Randy,’ a prison guard who finds himself in a love triangle with ‘Cole’ (Stewart), a newly enlisted prison guard and ‘Ali’ (Peyman Maadi), a self-proclaimed innocent detainee at the prison. It was a must-see at this years Sundance Film Festival and Lane himself told me that he’s “more proud of the work in this film than anything I have done yet.”
In the interview, we talk about Camp X-Ray and working with Kristen Stewart, moving to Los Angeles with only $400 in his pocket to start his acting career, auditioning and more. Seriously, lots more. This is a great interview! And if you have the time, I recommend downloading and listening to the full interview.
For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes.
Camp X-Ray opens in theaters October 17th
Lane Garrison: So you’re also an actor too and then you just started the site and then it’s just kinda taken off?
Yeah, I started the site a couple of years ago and it’s doing really well.
Lane Garrison: That’s awesome. Yeah, I like the site a lot. I really think it helps actors and everywhere from headshots to resumes to schools. It’s nice to come to one site and just be like, “hey, here’s some tips, here’s some things you can do.” It’s always helpful. A lot of people end up just coming to town and they’re clueless, not know where to start and don’t even know.
Right, yeah. That’s the goal. Interview people like you and get advice, talk about your projects. And I love doing it, it keeps me busy.
Lane Garrison: My biggest advice for an actor is to be all in. There’s never a plan B, you’d better love this with your heart and soul because it’s gonna be a roller coaster. You’re gonna have highs, you’re gonna have lows, and you just… you’ve gotta love it.
Did you always know that you wanted to do this?
Lane Garrison: I wanted to play football but it didn’t work out. There was no slot position in the NFL yet. Although my route running was impeccable, I just didn’t see a future in it. Friday night lights for me was my training ground. That was my theatre. There’s not a bigger stage in Texas that you could be on. We’d have photo shoots, we’d do magazine interviews, we would do team dinners, we’d meet with city councilmembers, we’d do volunteer work. So it was almost like you were already a celebrity or an actor and it was honestly the best training ground I could have.
And then my other love was during the offseason I would spend so much time at the movies. I mean, I saw every movie released. And I was always fascinated by the fact that…. You know, my parents were always fighting. I grew up in a kind of crazy household. And I remember as a little kid when they’d turn on a movie it was 2 hours of silence in my house. And I remember drawing that connection that this was something so powerful that it could shut these people up and I had to be a part of it.
And so it was always something I loved and I just had no idea how to do it and I had a theatre teacher… I was in theatre class but I didn’t get to do a lot of plays because I played football. But she said you’ve got some real natural talent and she knew of a manager out here, some junior manager, and said he would hook me up with a job. He would hook me up with a job if I moved out here. And I did, I saved up 400 dollars and I drove my beat up car down here and I just went all in.
I skipped college, I chose not to go to college. I was just like, “I’m gonna follow my gut. My heart is telling me I love this and I wanna be a part of it,” and I just stayed the course. I stayed the course and worked really, really hard.
What was your first professional job? The one that got you your SAG card?
Lane Garrison: Well, here’s the thing that’s crazy. I feel like God’s had a guardian angel looking after me. But I came to town with 400 dollars, which isn’t enough to live. And my first 2 days on the job, I ran into a commercial agent. I sort of told him my story. “Look, I just… I was working as a janitor, I moved out here, I have 400 dollars to my name”, and he sent me on an open call audition for a national commercial and out of 250 kids I ended up booking it. And it was for EastPack Backpacks and it was a national commercial. So it gave me some money to live, it got me in acting school. It was a blessing and a curse because I booked my very first job out of all these kids I’m like, “Oh, I’ll be Tom Cruise next week.” He was like, “You have no idea. This is a gift and a curse. It never happens.”
So that was my first gig. And then there was a long period of lull and just really studying and learning the craft. And I read every book under the sun. I read Meisner’s book, I read Uta Hogan’s book, I read Stanislavski’s book, I read Margie Haber’s book and then I took classes from everyone under the sun here. Beverly Hills Playhouse West and then start working with a teacher named Catlin Adams who I loved. I was sorta just taking from all of the great artists and sort of piecing together what worked for me and what didn’t work for me.
And during that time there’s a lot of down time, obviously, as an actor. You can go out of your mind. I started writing scripts. And that’s really what broke me in the business. I sold my first script to Madonna’s company, Maverick Films when I was 21.
Lane Garrison: And that got me signed to, it was a company called Endeavor. It was before William Morris merged with them. Now it’s WME. And that launched my acting as well. I did an independent movie called Quality of Life and that was my first big film where I was the lead and carried it. The film did really well, it got an honorable mention in Berlin in 2004. 10 years ago basically my career started. And it went around the world and it did really well. And then from there that kind of led to Prison Break and other things and jettisoned the roller coaster ride.
When you booked that commercial, did you think, “Oh, this is easy,” and did you quit your job?
Lane Garrison: Yeah, I did. Eventually I did. I quit 3 months later once I started getting the first residual checks. I’m like, “Oh, this is great.” But I quit the job and I just focused solely on writing.
I’m not kidding you, I’ve watched 8 Mile and I go, “Oh my God, this is my life.” My car broke down, it was done, I was taking the bus every morning, and I was just watching every film, reading every book I could on filmmakers, and just losing myself in the work. And I wrote 7 scripts with a writing partner, we sold 4 of them, and not one of them had been made and now finally we’ve got 2 going into… well one’s going into pre-production, another one’s soon to be going into pre-production. So, you know, it’s been a 7 year journey with these scripts.
That’s why I was saying it’s a business of you’ve just got to be in it for the long haul. You have to trust your instincts and just totally believe in you because you’re gonna have people that don’t and you’re gonna get a lot of rejection and you’ve just gotta stay the course and know, “hey, I’m I’m right where I need to be.”
I actually have one movie made where I wrote the film but they hired me as the writer, rewrote the entire thing, and used me as an actor.
Lane Garrison: Yeah, that was a really interesting process.
Writing has taught me a lot about acting and just how to break down a script and what’s the writer saying here? Where are we coming from? It taught me so much about acting, writing. So I enjoy the painful process in some weird way.
When you get a part, do you break down a script? Do you have a notebook or are you writing notes in the sides of the script? What’s your process?
Lane Garrison: So I’m from the old school class where I need to print out the script. Before I even look at slides, I print out the script, I read a hard copy, and I just – with a pen, what my gut instincts are telling me immediately. What are my first ideas for a character, and that’s how I start breaking down on the script.
And then for me I’m the type of actor, I work from the outside in, which you’re an actor so you understand that. I mean, I’m the type of guy what does this guy wear? What does he look like? How does he walk? What are his mannerisms? And once I get that, then I get kind of a second weird part to that. I find kind of music the guy likes. Sort of emotionally set the tone for the scene and, yeah, that’s how I work to emotionally connect and get inside a character.
When you have auditions, how does that work?
Lane Garrison: I do the same thing. I won’t do an audition unless I get the script. I mean, outside of like an Avatar. But I demand to read the script, to know the entire script, just because I need to know what other characters are saying about my character, where we’re at in the script, what’s just happened. I always read the entire script and then I start breaking down the sides. And the same thing, I’m one of those guys I like to go in the room as much looking at the character as possible. That helps me be lost in that moment. So, once again, that’s outside in.
Do you still get nervous when you audition?
Lane Garrison: I do. I get that moment of the butterflies, the just excitement of just being able to go in the room. You know, something that changed, which I think a lot of actors go wrong is they think about the job and, “Oh my God, this could be big, this could be money, and this could be fame.” And you get so caught in your head of all the external factors.
I do that all the time. It’s annoying.
Lane Garrison: Yeah. I mean, look, we all need to pay our bills at some point and we all think, “Oh my God, this could be my big break.” I’ll tell you, Phillip Seymour Hoffman had this quote which changed auditioning for me. Once I started processing that, I might not get every job but I get feedback where that guy was solid. That guy made strong choices and maybe I was too short or too tall or didn’t have the right hair color or whatever. But Philip said that any time you get the chance to act, even if it’s an audition, you should love it. You should love it. So now I just go in the room and I play. I don’t even think about getting the job or money, I just think did I get a chance to go play with these people. And the more I’ve done that, the more success has come. Plus it makes the process enjoyable. I don’t have to worry about “did I get it? Did I not?” I know I went in there and did a good job and made strong, bold choices.
Do you memorize the sides?
Lane Garrison: Yeah, I mean, I try to be off-book. I mean, it’s rare. Sometimes the material will come in last minute that’s so dense that you’re not gonna be fully off book, but I always keep the sides right there in your hand and try to be as off-book as possible.
Let’s talk about your film. I haven’t seen it yet, but I can’t wait to check it out.
Lane Garrison: Lance, I’m telling you right now, I am more proud of the work in this film than anything I have done yet. And I’m so proud of this movie.
This film, I didn’t know what to expect. We premiered and sort of opened Sundance this year and I hadn’t seen the film. So I’m stuck in Eccles Theatre and basically sweating bullets even though it was snowing outside and I’m thinking, “Oh my God, I don’t know what to expect.” And after the film was done literally standing ovation after standing ovation. People crying. It’s just a powerful movie and it’s Kristen Stewart’s best performance yet. I told her that to her face. I said, “You should be beyond proud of the work you’ve done in this movie.”
We did this on a shoestring budget. I don’t know the exact budget, but I wanna say it was around a million, and we shot in 24 days. So this was a run and gun, intense film. Peyman Moaadi, from A Separation, plays the lead detainee and, you know, watching this man’s work is a beautiful thing. He’s just got this soul that radiates on screen. And I’m very proud of this movie, very proud of this film.
You guys shot so fast, you said 24 days, do you guys get together before and rehearse everything? Or is it just right before you shoot?
Lane Garrison: We did a 2 day rehearsal with me, Kristen, Peyman and the director. We didn’t go through the script because Pete didn’t want to do that. He wanted it to feel real. But we just talked about character dynamics and who these people were. And once you’re inside that environment, we were basically at a rundown prison, an empty prison, outside of Whittier [California]. Once you’re inside that facility with the razor wire and everything else, everything came to life. But really it was more about us getting to know where our characters were coming from and who they were as people. But, yeah, that was the process.
So when the director says action, that’s the very first time you guys are doing it?
Lane Garrison: Yeah, that’s the first time we’re doing it. We’ll do a blocking rehearsal, but we would never reveal where we were at really emotionally. And I believe in that process myself. I don’t like to get locked in on a performance or something I’m anticipating. I like the generals and then I like to let go and breathe and see what happens emotionally when I’m connected. So the process worked great for me and I think Kristen and Peyman both enjoyed it.