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Katherine LaNasa: Katherine the Great

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The Captivating New Orleans Native is a Force to be Reckoned with in Hollywood

KatherineLanasaWhile New Orleans enters hurricane season, it’s Hollywood that’s being taken by storm by adorable actress Katherine LaNasa! And it’s no surprise that the highly gregarious gal responsible for causing a tempest on the silver screen is a New Orleans native. After spending part of her childhood growing up on Audubon Street, LaNasa studied classic ballet at the respected North Carolina School of the Arts and danced professionally until the acting bug left an impressionable welt on her after she left New York to settle down in Los Angeles with then-husband, iconic actor Dennis Hopper. Since her acting debut, LaNasa has played memorable roles on primetime television, including “Three Sisters,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Big Love” and “House,” and on the big screen in productions such as “Alfie” alongside Jude Law, the star-studded “Valentine’s Day” and “The Campaign” with Will Ferrell.

LaNasa continues to embrace the tidal wave of opportunities in Hollywood that have come whirling towards her. This month, the Southern firecracker will star in Billy Bob Thornton’s “Jayne Mansfield’s Car,” which enjoyed a high profile screening at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. LaNasa also plays hard-core stepmother Sophia Bowers on NBC’s tantalizing drama “Deception,” and later will appear in “The Frozen Ground” with John Cusack and Nicholas Cage. New Orleans Living had a ball chatting with the charming, easy-going LaNasa, who was comfy at home in Los Angeles after a stint filming “Deception” in New York. During the breakfast-time conversation, LaNasa’s sweet husband of almost a year, handsome actor Grant Show, brought the good-natured beauty with the best laugh in show business a plate of eggs. This newlywed’s fabulously exciting and expanding career is definitely one well worth following!

Hey Katherine! Fans love your character Sophia Bowers on “Deception.” She’s one tough mamma!
Thank you! Yes, she’s a person you love to hate! I think the fact that they made her be so loyal and committed to her family is the one really likeable thing about her, although I haven’t been all that concerned about making her likeable. (Laughs). I kind of like playing the bad guy. And she’ll go for it; there have even been a couple of physical altercations on the show, like the scene in the grocery store with her ex-lover, Wyatt. Yes, Sophia will throw down.

Sophia will throw down so much that you’ve actually broken some bones on set. Your hand looked like a voodoo doll! Sophia likes to throw things, too.
(Laughs).Yes, it was bad! I broke my finger taping the show and I had pins in it. I’m still doing physical therapy. The director came to me and said, “Props has all this foam stuff for you to throw,” and I said, “You know what, let’s just turn on the camera and let Sophia go crazy!” (Laughs). Oh, and it’s really fun to throw things. In one scene I threw a glass up against a painting frame. It smashed everywhere. It was great!
You’re a newlywed, having married Grant Show last year.

Congratulations! You met Grant through work but you didn’t really think twice about him until he asked you out …
Yeah, I had just gone through a break-up and was crying to our mutual friend. Also, my son Henry’s father [Dennis Hopper] had just died. I wasn’t thinking about guys. But I really liked Grant and we became friendly and I thought, “Oh, he is so handsome and with all that celebrity stuff, he’ll probably be such a pain in the ass!” (Laughs). I couldn’t have been more wrong. He called me a couple of months later and asked me out. The minute he did, something just clicked. I thought, “He’s funny and I really just like this guy.” And now I’m complaining because he lives at the golf course! He didn’t get to play golf in the winter in New York. We were just negotiating what time he was going to be home today. (Laughs). I miss him when he’s gone!

I hear you! So I guess when you planned to study ballet you weren’t thinking that one day it would lead to you marrying Dennis Hopper! (Laughs).
No! (Laughs). I was on tour with a ballet company and we were in Los Angeles being photographed by LIFE Magazine. There was a party for us at Spago and Dennis moved himself around so that he was sitting next to me! (Laughs). But I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t really go to the movies so I didn’t know anything about him.

I understand that your father wasn’t exactly enchanted with Dennis at first.
Why would he be? I was twenty and Dennis was fifty. But I think once my dad realized it was going down he sort of quickly got over that. He liked him. That relationship was not problematic.

You play Donna in the upcoming Billy Bob Thornton movie “Jayne Mansfield’s Car,’ which is hitting theaters this month.
I’m really proud of that role. It takes place in 1969 in Alabama and I play a former Miss Alabama. It’s a family drama that has to do with the effects of war on multiple generations. I play the daughter of Robert Duvall and my siblings are Kevin Bacon, Billy Bob Thornton and Kevin Patrick. The Vietnam War is going on and our parents are worried about their boys going to war. It was a great, beautiful, fun, romantic part. Billy Bob is the best! I’m a huge fan of “Sling Blade.” I auditioned for a smaller role in “Jayne Mansfield’s Car,” but I didn’t get it and I was really upset. I thought, “If I don’t belong here, then where do I belong? This is the kind of movie I’m made for, I totally understand Billy’s work.” I thought, “I’ll just go get a regular job!” I picked up the phone to call my friend and ask her if I could help do costume returns for “Cougar Town!” (Laughs). But instead, it was my phone that rang. It was my agent, who said Billy Bob wants to talk to you about the lead female part. I couldn’t believe it. I was spastic!

(Laughs). I was ecstatic because it’s exactly the type of movie I want to be in, a character-driven piece that revolves around the writing and the acting. I just couldn’t believe my fortune. I called the five or six people that you call when something like this happens, and then I called them again! (Laughs). Kevin and Billy and Mr. Duvall were so supportive and have become friends, and Billy has become a mentor. It was just the best movie experience ever.

I can’t wait to see it this summer! You played Will Ferrell’s wife in “The Campaign” last year, which was filmed in New Orleans. It must have been great to spend time back home.
Yes! If I had a break I could always go visit my cousin! (Laughs). It was really nice. You guys are smart enough to have good tax breaks, unlike California. You can’t make a movie in Hollywood anymore! (Laughs). It’s great for the city and I didn’t have to go to the middle of America to do it. I love going to the jazz clubs. I love that Brussels sprout salad at Sylvain. I love walking around the French Quarter and looking at the galleries and antique jewelry on Royal Street. I love Bacchanal. And those antique oyster plates are great. I like folk art, so I’ll usually buy some. I’ll go eat on Magazine Street. Preservation Hall never gets old. Jazz Fest is awesome, but I hardly get to go because it’s always during pilot season. The caroling in Jackson Square at Christmas is really fun too.

Are you a big Saints fan?
I am always rooting for the Saints or LSU to win. I mean, what am I going to do? (Laughs). I will say that I had some surgery on my leg, and I showed up at 5:00 in the morning to the hospital in Baton Rouge and the nurse had one eye painted purple, one eye painted gold, these dangly LSU earrings and a glittery hand-painted LSU shirt. I looked at her and was like, “Well I sure as hell hope there’s a game today!” (Laughs).

You must’ve been ready to go under the knife after getting a load of that!
Exactly! (Laughs). G-E-A-U-X Tigers! She didn’t think it was that funny, which makes it even funnier! She was so serious. I wanted to say “It’s 5:30 a.m. and we’re in an operating room and you look crazy—you look like a mascot!”

As a native New Orleanian living in Los Angeles, how does New Orleans still affect you in your daily life?
It definitely makes me open minded. There’s something about the style— that great old French regality of chandeliers and French furniture mixed with the black-infused Southern culture of handmade things made with gingham and buttons. That mix is intrinsic to my interior style. There is a very visceral yet funky quality to New Orleans that’s helped me as an artist to be in touch with things. I don’t use recipes, but I’m a good cook. I don’t analyze why something looks good in a design; more so, I’m like, “Oh, it just looks good.” There’s a funky freedom to New Orleans that permeates probably everything that I do. It’s not that it made me appreciate things that are individual; it’s just that I can’t imagine anything else. Me living in in a new house in a subdivision would never float! (Laughs). I tend to like things with nineteen layers of paint on them, you know? And I definitely go up to 11. I get really hyper and really loud. Billy Bob ended up calling me Ruth Buzzy because I have such a big loud laugh. He’d say, “Well, I was going to be able to use the sound in that take until Ruth Buzzy ruined it with her laughter.” (Laughs). I do have a big personality, and again, I think it’s a New Orleans thing. And my favorite food is Tabasco! (Laughs).

What particular movie that Dennis starred in is your favorite, and what were some of Dennis’ thoughts about acting?
I really love “The Last Movie.” He got to make it after “Easy Rider” and he wouldn’t re-edit it and it sort of ended his career. He was really beautiful in that movie. That was kind of his moment. It’s such an interesting movie with beautiful music; I’ve always had a romantic feeling towards it. He taught me a lot. He gave me a film list to watch when we were first together. He liked Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder and he liked simple camera work and directors who kept the camera still. He hated voiceover! (Laughs). He hated when that jiggly style of camera work came in, like on “NYPD Blue.” He couldn’t stand that! He influenced me so much that sometimes I’ll have opinions that aren’t even my opinions. I remember this actress that was playing a sex symbol in one of his movies showed up wearing flip-flops, and he said, “How does she think she’s going to play that sex-pot wearing those mukluks?” That’s what he called them! (Laughs). If I’m wearing stilettos in a scene, I’m walking to the set in those stilettos. I’m always in the shoes of that character. And like Robert Duvall, he had a complete interest in other people’s careers and what they were doing. They are both so open minded to art forms and they’ve set an example for me to keep my eyes open to the world. You realize that’s why they’re so great, because they aren’t lazy and they never gave up.

I hear you love dogs. Do you have any pups?
I had three dogs when I was with French [Stewart]. I had a bull mastiff, a chihuahua and a corgi mutt that lived to be twenty. When French and I broke up, we had a second bull mastiff because the first one died, and we knew the corgi mutt wasn’t going to be around much longer, so we decided that we shouldn’t separate them. It was a hard decision, but French was thrilled to keep them. And it worked out well because I haven’t been home in a year and a half because of work. But now that we’re home, Grant has been pushing for a dog, and I’ve been jonesing for one too. I just love them. You can totally tell what’s going on with them. They are so happy when you come home and so excited to see you. You’re always the Beatles to a dog! (Laughs).