"I use everything in my personal life toward my acting and that’s my relief. It feels really good when you do a good scene."

H

ollywood has launched a thousand careers, and among them are the many extremely talented character actors and comedians we’ve watched for years, whose nuanced performances knock us on our asses every time we see them. They're the bit players, the minor characters, the people who give performances that sometimes outshine those whose names go above the title and for the most part these folks are pretty damn interesting. They’re the unsung heroes of Hollywood, and we thought it was high time they were given the attention they deserve. 

Alicia Lagano has appeared in such popular sitcoms as The Mob Doctor, CSI, CSI: Miami, and Bones among others, with recurring roles on Dexter and Prison Break. Her film credits include the Oscar-nominated Paranorman, Albino Farm, The Final Break, and Believe in Me

We recently talked to Alicia about her life and current residency on Lifetime network’s The Client List as Selena Ramos, main rival and antagonist to series producer and star, Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Did you always want to be an actor?
I’m from a big Italian/Irish family from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. We’d get together all the time—Sunday dinner: sauce and macaroni, all the cousins running around and I was always the one to say, “Let’s put on a show for the parents,” so I would be the one among the cousins organizing a play or a lip synch performance. Even then I liked performing, entertaining, and throwing myself into a character. 

So, there was no mistaking your future. 
Well, I either wanted to be a veterinarian or an actor. But at 19, I felt that if I had a fallback plan (or career) then I wouldn’t pursue acting 100 percent. And, if I didn’t pursue it 100 percent, which I would need to be successful, then I wouldn’t be successful. That was my mind frame at the time. 

Had you been trained as an actor?
I had a great teacher named Sandra Peabody in Oregon who had trained under Sanford Meisner in New York- which is rooted in the whole “acting is reacting” thing, telling the truth in imaginary situations. She was so honest. I would come into the room, do a scene for her and she’d say, “go back out, that’s crap. You don’t have anything.”

alicia2
'Selena Ramos' at work on "The Client List."

Did it prepare you for Hollywood?
Yes, but what I learned on set is a completely different story.

What motivates you the most?
If you push for it enough, I do believe, with the chops or talent behind it, you will be successful. I’m kind of hyper and have a lot of energy. It’s an escape for me. I use everything in my personal life toward my acting and that’s my relief. But, you’re not on every day. You’re going to have bad days, on set and off, but just as long as you have that commitment to your career, you’ll do ok. A lot of people are afraid to fail or take that chance in the audition room and that’s the opposite of what you should be doing. 

Have you bombed and gleaned some positive experience from it? 
Yeah (laughs) but you’re crying for the next two days, saying “Jesus, that was the worst audition and I didn’t get the part…” Everybody bombs. 

Was it a love at first sight with Hollywood?
No, it wasn’t at all. It took me a while. Number one, I was so young, 19, and I was moving away from my parents with whom I was very close. I had to pay rent and get a job. I also didn’t have a car. Here’s a cool story: When I originally moved there—since my dad installed windows and doors, he had this old Ryder truck (our family transportation) kind of like a U-Haul—so, he drove me down to L.A. for the first time and stayed with me for two months, got me all set up. We drove around in that truck.

Where were you living?
Burbank.

So, if you had an audition over the hill what would you do?
I took a bus. 

If you’re in L.A. getting around by bus can be brutal.
Yeah, but I didn’t think about it like, “Oh, god, I’ve got to take a bus.” It was more like, “Alright, you’ve got to go to your audition” and I’d call the bus line and ask how many busses do I have to take. Sometimes I would take about four or five busses, which would be a whole day’s work, just getting there. If you want it bad enough and don’t have a car you find a way to get there. 

Did you ever have that epiphany where you thought, ‘this is exactly where I want to be, and this is exactly what I want to be doing?’ 
I feel like I’ve had a lot of breaks. One time I booked a series and felt, ‘alright, I’m doing the right thing, this is where I’m supposed to be’ but then it only ran 13 episodes and didn’t get picked up. That’s part of the roller coaster ride of this business. Then I booked this movie called Dunsmore. It was a real small independent film with Earl Brown, Barry Corbin, Talia Shire, and just being on that set and working with these actors at 23. I remember calling my mom and dad who asked if I was having fun and I told them that this is what I’m meant to be doing…I was getting paid crap but that part didn’t matter. Unfortunately the movie didn’t do much box office-wise, but it did a lot for me. 

alicia group
(L to R) Kathleen York, Naturi Naughton, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Desi Lydic, Alicia Lagano and Loretta Devine.

Are there parts you prefer playing?
I play a lot of tortured souls- drug addicts, prostitutes, pregnant teens…gritty stuff is what I love doing. I love throwing myself into those roles for that reason and when I get an audition for that stuff I get excited. One of my favorite roles was whenI was a meth addict on Dexter.

Tell me about your character Selena on Lifetime’s The Client List.
This is our second season; Last season I played a sassy, mean bad girl villain of the year. This season they changed it up a bit—they’re going back into the history of Selena and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character Riley. People will see a more human side to my character—and why she is the way she is. 

But there is a real villainess quality to Selena, isn’t there?
I think she is an angry person but not a mean person. That comes from all the hurt and abuse and relationships along the way. But there are also going to be characters this season that break down my character’s walls. 

So, what else should we know about Alicia Lagano?
I’m a tomboy. I love shooting pool and playing sports. I love animals. I have two dogs, a black Lab and a Labrador/German shepherd mix.