By Ryan McPherson
A veteran actor of television, Monica Lacy has pretty much done it all. From comedy to drama, there doesn’t seem to be anything she can’t do. Her latest challenge however, might be her most interesting to date. Lacy plays soccer mom Sharon Burke on Amazon’s “The Kicks” — a role that hits a little close to home. On top of being a working actor, Lacy is a real-life soccer mom, with actual kids much like the one’s she raises on TV. Lacy can’t help but see similarities between the mother she is and the one she portrays. Even though she’s busy with two families, Lacy talked working with Amazon, the pilot season, being a real and fake soccer mom, not being quirky enough, and being born an identical triplet. You can find the pilot episode of “The Kicks” here, and look for the rest of season 1 in June.
What can you tell us about your upcoming role on “The Kicks”? We’ve read it’s not completely unlike your own personal life. Is this true?
I play the role of “Sharon Burke” and the story lines are eerily familiar to my own life right now. I play mom to 12-year-old daughter, Devin, and 10-year-old son, Bailey. In real life, I have kids who are the same ages as my TV kids, and I have a boy and a girl as well. As you can imagine, I’m already completely in sync with preteens and this age group, what they are capable of, obsessed with, what’s appropriate etc. Also the show deals with realistic struggles that I’m also dealing with in real life, such as the frustration of kids constantly on their phones and iPads, and having kids that are way more tech savvy than we parents are. I get to play a “modern Mom” meaning that the kids actually listen to my words of wisdom every once in a while, but I’m not preachy or authoritarian about it. And even we parents actually respond to the kids’ advice for us too, like when my son “Bailey” tells me I’m trying way too hard to make friends with the other Californian Moms. On the show I’m helping my family adjust to this huge move to Southern California from the East Coast, and you see the kids as well as Mom and Dad struggle to this adjustment. But, in real life I’m a California native, so that’s a big difference.
“The Kicks” was part of Amazon’s Pilot Season, leaving a lot of the decision of whether or not the show got ordered to series up to their online community. What was the experience like, getting to literally watch comments and votes come in, with the fate of the show up to whomever happens to hit play?
I actually liked the fact that the pilot was online and available to anyone and everyone to watch and review. I enjoyed reading anonymous and honest reactions to the show. Thank goodness I’m proud of the pilot, and that most of the reviewers agreed with me. Occasionally I disagreed with a review, but it’s hard to argue with a process that is quite fair and democratic. Normally when I shoot a pilot for a standard network, only the studio and network executives ever get to see it. So, a show I’m thrilled to be a part of often never gets it’s “day in court” so to speak. This part of the process is usually out of an actors’ hands. I guess it still is, but it seems to me that if there is a quality show put out, it has a better chance to find an audience with the streaming method.
With the new “binge culture” created by streaming services (like Amazon, home of “The Kicks”), an entire season worth of shows is put out into the world all at once and many viewers devour it in a matter of days. As an actor, what is your perspective on this type of viewing?
I am becoming a classic binge watcher like everyone else. I would rather stay home and watch 3-4 episodes of my favorite TV show than go to the movies now! We kind of consume episodic TV now the same way we consume a movie. We don’t have to wait a week to see what happens. I do worry that if we watch an entire series in a day or two, will audiences still be as vested in the characters as if they had taken 5 months to watch? My answer is yes, the story and work is still there. I am also able to see more shows, so I like this accessibility to content that binging affords.
Looking at your list of credits, it’s hard to describe you as a specific kind of actor. You’ve done television and film, as well as comedy and drama. Is there a medium or genre you prefer working in?
I’ve done a little of everything, but I prefer comedy hands-down. I was once told that I was “too pretty” to last in comedy. Of course, I took that as a challenge. It’s true, that often I hear, “I wish she was more quirky” because sometimes comedy is associated with “funny looking.” But that means I have to do my job, and be funny. Eventually people see that I’m really a quirky, kinda nerdy, off beat kinda person….who happens to live a conventional “girl next door” body. I love making people laugh when they don’t expect it.
Have you had any “déjà vu” type moments when it comes to your television kids and your real life kids?
Yes, quite a few actually. One time shooting the pilot episode, I instinctively kissed Sixx, my TV daughter, on the head….which is what I would have done with my own daughter, but it was like a reflex reaction to comforting her. When I see my TV son Gabe, talking about funny apps he’s found, or a gif, or even his love of comics…it’s definitely a deja vu. My real and the TV sons are very similar, with similar interests. They are both avid readers who enjoy a sly, sophisticated humor. Recently, Gabe (TV son) was showing me an app that he thought was hysterical, and when I went to show my own son, he of course already had downloaded it himself and knew all about it. They both are really into comics and literally enjoy the same titles and video games. So I feel like I’m in tune with this kid, I don’t have to even “try” or act…what you see is real.
As much of the best content being written these days has been going to television, do you feel like you have any kind of advantage already been a veteran of the medium?
There is so much TV content these days, and I’ve enjoyed acting in lots of TV projects, so I guess I do feel 100% comfortable acting for the “small screen.” Acting for films often can require much more intensity, emotional preparation, as well as character driven and unique. With TV, and comedy especially, there are certain tropes and timing that are unique to the genre, and knowing them can facilitate your work. I’m familiar with the fast pace of TV, and I feel comfortable knowing where the limits are, so I don’t go too “over the top” but also not too subtle that what I’m feeling doesn’t read on the monitor. Theatre acting is the “biggest” form of acting, requiring bigger physical movements and facial expressions, and film is typically the smallest, with TV comedy occupying the middle somewhere.
You stated you’be been told you’re not “quirky” enough for comedic roles. Is that criticism unique to women in the industry or do men face similar scrutiny?
I think it affects both men and women, but women perhaps face more limitations in roles available to them. For instance, to appear “quirky” these days, I’ve noticed quite a few guys sporting beards and wearing “slacker” outfits. That usually does the trick, and can help to hide a very handsome face, making it appear more “average” and quirky. For women, usually the role being cast requests either a stunning beauty or a quirky character played for comedy. It’s hard to hide a beautiful face. I’ve noticed that sometimes a woman can have an extremely short hair cut, or dye it black, or be a redhead…and this change can make them appear “unique” or “quirky.” But, having a “girl next door” wholesome beauty is hard to mask. Often they have the gorgeous lead (a big star) and they want an opposite type to be her foil character or best friend. So they want a real opposite. I hear “too pretty” or “not gorgeous enough” or “not quirky enough”. It means I’m just not “different” enough to stand out physically from the lead actress they’ve already cast. I know I’m right there in the middle, so that’s my challenge. Men have more chances to be cast because literally there are more roles for males than females out there. Often they want the good-looking guy or the edgy funny guy, and then there is the cop, the classic villain, the classic nerd etc. Basically for men and women actresses, it’s best to either completely look the stereotype you are reading for, OR so completely redefine the role that casting can now no longer think of anyone else to fit the bill after they see you. It’s a challenge for us all, really.
Lastly, we have to ask, growing up as an identical triplet, did you ever practice your acting skills by pretending to be one another to get out of something or maybe just for fun?
Yes, we did practice “acting” back when we were kids and did switch around a few times. It was strange to realize that even my dear friends in High School couldn’t tell us apart. All I had to do was walk up and act like one of my two sisters, and they believed it. Even as it felt like I was a super-hero, It also hurt my feelings. Here I was thinking I was all special and unique, when my friends couldn’t “see” it was me, or differentiate between us. We did trick one boyfriend to drive away to prom with the wrong triplet, but it did leave us all feeling kinda queasy at the same time. It’s a hazard of sharing a face with someone, or two people, I guess.