The magpie

Lauren Ashley Carter talks fight scenes, troubled characters, animal inspiration and Artik

by Jennie Kermode

Lauren Ashley Carter with Jerry G Angelo in Artik
Lauren Ashley Carter with Jerry G Angelo in Artik

Three years ago my colleague Paul interviewed Lauren Ashley Carter about her striking performance in Mickey Keating’s Darling. Since then she’s appeared in the likes of Imitation Girl, Black Site and Darlin’, always making an impression, and now she can be seen as the loyal partner of a serial killer in Tom Botchii Skowronski’s Artik.

Though present in only a few scenes, the character of Flin is vital to the story, contextualising Artik’s actions and humanising a family on the brink. She also proves to be quite formidable in her own right. Two things persuaded Lauren to say yes to the role, she says.

“It was not a character that I’d ever played before and that’s something that I always look for, especially when I’m staying in the same genre, so that was the first thing and then the second was that Tom had a really concrete idea of what he wanted, especially visually, and I just loved all the artwork and the images that he brought to me... I got a good vibe from him.”

Bad news for unexpected visitors
Bad news for unexpected visitors

This character seems more vulnerable than those she’s tended to go for in the past.

“Yeah,” she says. “It’s interesting because she is. She’s just very open, you know? She doesn’t worry about concealing anything from anyone and I think that’s probably a lot to do with her being isolated and just being with her family and not around anyone else.”

Flin is also a dangerous character, in her own way. Does Lauren find herself drawn to characters who are on the edge?

“Yeah, I think so. I mean, they’re a lot more fun to play, that’s for sure!” She laughs. “But yeah. I think really at the root, everyone in this film is traumatised, even her. And they act out of that trauma.”

I ask if she sees Flin as an abused character.

“I think that she definitely had some abuse in her past – I don’t think at the hands of Artik. I think that’s one of the reasons she’s so drawn to him, that this violence is not happening at her but she’s included in it. I think she does get some kind of power out of him being the protector and” – she hesitates – “this hero in her eyes. Obviously he’s not. But even without that I think there’s something about her personality. She’s a follower, not a leader.”

On the wrong side of Artik
On the wrong side of Artik

This is a film that gives Lauren a lot of room to get physical, and there’s a fight scene near the end which is as much about character as action, with Flin fighting in an instinctive way, like an animal.

“I was really drawn to the magpie for animal inspiration for her,” Lauren says. “The way that they steal and the way that they swoop in to kill other birds and get them out of their nests. She’s small so she has to use her speed and also her petiteness to her advantage because she’s not very strong.”

We’re all used to seeing fights in films where characters have special skills and training and are really good at it. This felt much more like a real life fight, scrappy and messy.

“Oh yeah, definitely. I’ve always really liked to do hand to hand combat. I think when you get in on film Twitter talking to people about what realistic fights look like, whether you’re trained or not, I think that everybody really appreciates an honest fight – while still making it presentable to the camera. A lot of the time you’ll be doing something that feels super awkward because you have to get the right angle so everyone can see it, even though that might not be how it really goes down. You always have to keep your face out and open, which is the last thing that you would actually do if you were fighting.”

She seems to keep ending up in films where she gets knocked about a lot.

Seeing double in Imitation Girl
Seeing double in Imitation Girl

“I always like to be thrown around and get into it if I can,” she says. “I think it’s like a dream for a past life or a future life or something, to be a fighter. I love fight scenes although I myself am just like a rabid squirrel. But it’s always fun. Although while we were filming this I was three months pregnant so I was like, ah, ‘I feel like he’s okay in there. He’s so tiny at this point, he’s probably the safest he’ll ever be,’ but also ‘How much can I get away with?’ I did check in and we were careful, as careful as we could be, and we had pads and things. I think usually I would have gotten a lot crazier, but I was a little careful.”

Her small son, listening in, makes appreciative noises. I ask if the director and cast members were cautious about filming those scenes with her.

“I think that they just let me determine how comfortable I was and how far I could go. They just trusted me.” The stunt guy, she says, was very relaxed about it. “I felt totally safe with everyone.”

Artik is one of a number of genre films she’s made in recent years. Was that a deliberate decision on her part?

“I love genre. It’s one of my favourites, and once I did The Woman then Jugface came quite soon after that and once I’d been in Jugface I just kept getting offers on genre films... Unfortunately I very rarely would get scripts or be able to go out on auditions for comedies. There’s just more out there for me in genre than anything else.”

Artik poster
Artik poster

I mention that I loved her performance in 2017’s Imitation Girl, which, whilst technically genre, allowed for more traditional dramatic acting.

“Yeah, yeah. And I knew Natasha [Kermani] – we both lived in New York City at the time. “We met through a mutual friend and then she directed a short film that another friend of ours wrote and I was in. Then I wrote a webseries and she directed that, and so we were collaborating together for a while and Imitation Girl was something that was, I don’t know, six years in the making? Between the first short film that she wrote and then the feature itself. We had a really great relationship.”

The next film we see her in will be Eating Cars. I ask if she’s at liberty to say anything about it.

“It’s a very experimental type of film and Trevor Hollen was the first director I ever worked with when I was in university, on a short film. We kept in touch here and there and then he had this role for me. I flew over to LA to do it. It’s all in these like makeshift spaces so it’s kind of Brechtian in the sense that it’s not complete sets. You know, you’ll have a bed or a piece of a door, the frame of a car but not the whole thing, the idea of a street but you’re not on a street. there’s always lots of comedy involved in it as well. Trevor’s a really quirky, fun guy and it’s a very female dominated cast and crew.”

That may, in fact, be the last we see of her. She tells me that she wants to take some time out now to spend with her son and to get back into education. She hopes to get her master’s degree in the not too distant future. It remains possible, however, that the silver screen will beckon again.

“Never say never. I might be back in some capacity at some point but I just want to stretch myself in some other ways for a while.”

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