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Shmoozin' with . . . Lauren Storm

This article was reprinted with permission from JVibe, the magazine for Jewish teens.

If Lauren Storm looks familiar, it's no surprise. She's been all over TV recently, playing guest parts in sitcoms like "Malcolm in the Middle" and "Still Standing" and dramas like "24" and "CSI: Miami." Now she's got her own gig playing one of the stranded castaways in the NBC/Discovery Kids series "Flight 29 Down." Think "Lost," but the actors are teens. In JVibe's exclusive interview, she talks about filming in Hawaii, getting beat up in high school and being raised Jewish in an interfaith family.

Photo by Deidhra Fahey

Transforming Roles

Your "Flight 29 Down" character, Taylor, is a rather spoiled prima donna. Do people think you're like that?
I've read some of the message boards, and they think I'm annoying and stupid. It's very funny when people meet me and say I'm so different from Taylor. But that's what the character is supposed to be.

You've filmed two seasons in Hawaii. What has that been like?
My parents have a condo on the Big Island, so I've been going my whole life. But I'd never been to Oahu, and it's so different. The climate stays pretty much the same on the Big Island, sunny and warm, but on Oahu it changes minute to minute. The first season it was beautiful for the most part, but the second, it rained almost the entire time. I was sick all the time and bug-bitten. In a close-knit set like that, if one person gets sick, everybody does. I really felt for the crew. I could go under a tent or to my dressing room, but they were out there, working hard.

Do you think you would be able to handle a "Flight 29 " situation?

No, I think I'd have a week of freaking out, then despair and then total depression. I'd really miss my family. I'm really close with my parents, and not having them there and not having that feeling of security would kill me. If I have a major dilemma, the first thing I do is call my dad. He always knows what to say and what I mean.

You've done a lot of TV guest roles. What are some of your favorites?
The one I'm most proud of is "24 ," two episodes, though I didn't work with Kiefer Sutherland. I was one of the four kids with anthrax in season three. "Malcolm in the Middle" was my first really big thing. I did the hour-long Super Bowl episode at Dodger Stadium where I played this super-angry, screaming girl. "CSI: Miami," I was in the second season opener. I was a stuck-up rich girl, driving to the Keys with her boyfriend when a ship hits the bridge. A highway sign fell on the car; things were breaking everywhere. It was a small part, but so much fun. Most recently, I did a recurring role on "Still Standing." My good friend Renee Olstead plays the daughter--we met years ago at a charity event and became good friends. I played a slut, and they gave me double Ds. It looked so silly on me--I'm only 5-foot-3! My mom, the lovely Jewish mother that she is, was standing there at the taping, yelling, "My God, look at Lauren's boobs!" Thanks, Mom!

Jewish and Blond?

Have you ever played a Jewish character?
No. It's funny. ["Flight 29" co-star] Hallee Hirsh and I both auditioned for "Nip/Tuck" to play a Jewish girl getting a nose job, and she got it, and she's not Jewish. They looked at my picture and said, "You don't look Jewish. You have a tiny nose." It's all perception, I guess.

Are people surprised to find out you're Jewish?
Definitely. My dad is blond and blue-eyed, like me. He's German Lutheran and Mom's a German Jew. I was raised Jewish. We found a really happy medium in the family. He has attended temple with us, and we do some of the Christian holidays to honor my dad. We've made it work.

How observant are you?
Semi-observant. I did Sunday school. We celebrate the holidays. I like Passover because it's a feel-good holiday for me. I went to my friend Jessie's seder (her dad is Leonard Maltin), and I might join Jessie's temple. I don't know many Jews out here.

You're from Chicago, right? Did you go to a Jewish school?
The south suburbs. I actually went to a Catholic school--it was the best education in the area. That was hard, though. Catholic schoolgirls are brutal. I'd get beat up.

For being Jewish?
Partly. I was going to go to hell. I was a heathen. Plus, I was the smallest one and smart, so they picked on me. I told them exactly what I thought, and kids didn't like it. I had some good friends, but others were mean and cruel. But in the end it gave me character.

Did you have a bat mitzvah?
I didn't. I think I will have one later.

Is it important for you to date Jewish guys?
My mother is like, "Lauren, you need to find a nice Jewish boy." But not really--just as long as he treats me well and as long as the morals are there and the respect is there. I've had very little dating experience, but I'd like to date someone who is not an actor but understands the business. I work where I kiss other people. They have to understand that.

Had you done any plays in Chicago?
I was in "The Diary of Anne Frank" at my temple. I played Anne's German friend. It's such a sad story, but it really made me feel proud of who I am. I'm definitely proud of being Jewish, and I love to celebrate the holidays.

Any desire to go to Israel?
Definitely. Jessie and I are planning to do an Israel trip when we both have a chunk of time--the birthright trip. Things are kind of busy for both of us now.

Staying in the Business

How did you get interested in acting?
I was always really expressive and into performing. But I had a lot of confidence problems when I was younger, partly because of school. My mom decided to give me etiquette and modeling classes to build up my self-esteem a little bit. I did that for a while and then went to a convention in New York to meet agents and got invited to come to L.A.

What was your first job?
I did a commercial for the WNBA and then "Grounded for Life," in the first season.

What's next for you?
I'm working on a movie, Together Again for the First Time. It's a holiday movie about a blended family, and when we get together everybody clashes. I play the eccentric, hyper baby sister who's engaged to my older sister's ex-boyfriend. She doesn't know, and I decide to tell her by bringing him to the holiday dinner. Patty Duke plays my mom. It shoots in Utah, and it's the first location shoot I'm doing without my mother.

Do you have showbiz role models?
I really like Meryl Streep and Laura Linney. They're two very genuine actresses that do really wholesome, real work.

What does it take to have long careers like they've had?
A lot of people get famous because of hype--one minute in the spotlight, one minute out. I think to stay in, you really need to work on yourself and on your craft and always do good work, always work hard, and always be humble. Remember who you are and be grateful for your success, not think that you're God's gift to creation if you get a little bit of success. It's very lucky when people are successful in our industry and are able to support themselves over the years. I always have to remember who I am and where I came from.

Off the Set

What other things do you do in your free time?
Listen to friends like Renee and the Veronicas play music. I also listen to Rufus Wainwright and the Scissor Sisters.

Do you live with your parents?
I just bought a townhouse in Burbank, Calif. My mom goes back and forth to Chicago, but she's slowly letting go. I'm the only child. I'm 19, and I'm still in transition. Mom makes sure I get the bills done on time. Hopefully in a year, I'll be able to say, "I'm fine on my own." Once I'm settled I may get a puppy.

Any fun summer plans?
I really want to catch up on the independent films I missed. When we were filming Flight 29 Down, we were on the north shore of Oahu, and there were like two movie theaters. And I want to catch up on some of the classics like The Grapes of Wrath. I haven't read enough, and I want to do that. I'm also going to be a presenter at the Special Olympics in June.

Do you work out?
I do a lot of Pilates, about an hour every morning. Big butts run in my family and I have to keep the big butt at bay so I exercise a lot. I make sure I eat right--I eat a lot of vegetables and white protein and water, no soda.

Are you into fashion?
I keep the shopping trips to a bare minimum. My aunt works for Chanel, and she sends me stuff. I'd never spend $600 for a purse!

Do you plan to go to college?
I'm going to take a few classes, one or two at a time, to keep my mind stimulated. I've always been really good at math, and I love design. I've just always been fascinated by it, and I think it's something I could be good at. If I can't act for whatever reason, can't get a job, I'd have a degree in architecture. I'd have a backup in something I like. And my parents will kill me if I don't get a degree!

But they're supportive of your acting career?
Yes. As loud as we are, we're a very close and supportive family.

What goals do you set for yourself?
I really want to become more cultured and more knowledgeable as I get older. I think education is really key. And being so busy, it's hard to remember that. I'd like to be in a film that really pushes me. I've done things that are challenging, but I want something really hard that I really have to work at. That would be good for me.

Hebrew for "daughter of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish girls come of age at 12 or 13. When a girl comes of age, she is officially a bat mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bat mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The male equivalent is "bar mitzvah." The spring holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Hebrew name is "Pesach." Reform synagogues are often called "temple." "The Temple" refers to either the First Temple, built by King Solomon in 957 BCE in Jerusalem, or the Second Temple, which replaced the First Temple and stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem from 516 BCE to 70 CE. Hebrew for "order," refers to the traditional course of events, or service, surrounding the Passover and Tu Bishvat meals.
Gerri Miller

Gerri Miller writes and reports from Los Angeles about celebrities, entertainment and lifestyle for MNN.com, The Jewish Journal, Brain World, Lupus Now, Scholastic.com and others. A New York native, she spent a summer working at Kibbutz Giv'at Brenner in Israel and attends High Holy Day services at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood every year.

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