WL chats with actress and Silver Spring native Lisa Ann Walter.
By Anna Jacoby
If you’ve ever gone to a museum that wasn’t a Smithsonian museum — and were utterly baffled as to why you were shelling out nearly $20 for entry because you assumed all museums were free — then you must have grown up in the District of Columbia. Growing up here, you’ve rode the metro with your friends wherever its majestic rails would take you, gone on spontaneous weekend trips to the Delaware beaches in the summertime (and indulged in the salty, vinegary goodness of a cup of Thrasher’s fries), partied at the 930 club, eaten food from almost every culture, and shopped at stores in Georgetown you can’t find anywhere else. So has Lisa Ann Walter.
When I spoke with the Silver Spring native, Killers actress, and creator and on-camera judge of Oxygen’s “Dance Your Ass Off,” it was refreshing to hear how wholly relatable she was. Walter exuded pure charm and enthusiasm while reminiscing about growing up in the area, doing her own stunts in the new film Killers, working with Ashton Kutcher and Katharine Heigl, and ultimately finding happiness and stability through dance while overcoming personal battles. Lisa Anna Walter has a solid career ahead her as an individual full of personality, zeal, and mental toughness.
Washington Life: Did you come to DC often? What are some of your favorite things about DC?
Lisa Ann Walter: Oh golly yes! The DC line ran right through our house. We’d pop on the Ride On bus and go everywhere. I’d go downtown by the time I was 15 or 14 all day and then go to the clubs and just dance. My favorite non-Smithsonian things to do were to go to the 930 club and dance; my girlfriends and I would go to Georgetown and shop. There was a great second-hand shop we used to go to—I wish I could remember the name of it. I just loved all of the thrift stores.
DC was like a buttoned-up industry town in the way that LA is. My family was always really politically active. I was always at fundraisers and working for polls. I also worked at La Brasserie on Capitol Hill and waited on a lot of people from the Heritage Foundation—it was very Republican at that time. The area was so mixed racially, culturally, and class-wise. It was a fantastic upbringing and experience that I got to have there and I think it’s severed me well.
When I went to New York some people just never went into the city like we did in DC. That was the really weird thing for me when I moved out of DC. We’d go to the Smithsonian (which is free) about twice a year with the school. Going to New York museums they charged me money and I was like, “What!?” I was surprised museums cost anything! I thought they were all free!
WL: Do you ever come back to DC? What are some of your favorite DC places?
LAW: I still have family there but I haven’t been in a while. I’d like to this summer to take the boys (I’ve got 9-year-old twins).
We loved to go to Adams Morgan and eat the food there. You know, before international cuisine was really a thing. There is just so much great flavor there.
In high school we just kind of did what we wanted to do. We’d pile into somebody’s van and go to Bay Bridge heading to god knows where to sleep for the weekend and get Thrasher’s fries. My family would go to St. Michaels where we crabbed practically every day. We’d go to Bethany, Rehoboth—wherever you could walk for 2 blocks and go down to the beach and just stay there all day. We would be in the water so much that when you go to lie down at night you’re still moving. I just loved it.
The beaches here on the west coast aren’t like the beaches there. The Pacific is cold! I mean, you have to wear a wetsuit if you want to swim! Also, why isn’t there a place by the LA area where the ocean is just right there? Back at Rehoboth, Bethany, or Ocean City there are boardwalks right there on the ocean. That just doest really exist here… you have to drive a pretty far distance.
WL: How do you feel about DC voting rights?
LAW: That’s something ongoing for years and years. Today though, it’s not like the era where everyone just kind of forgot. That’s the problem along with being in an industry town where there’s all sorts of excitement and bipartisan behavior. People just get in each other’s way. I’ve never been a fan of people that get in the way of others trying to get their voice.
WL: What can you tell me about your character in Killers, Olivia Brooks?
LAW: I’m allowed to tell you this now: I’m the killer! Which was fantastic and so fun. I played a cougar, I got to shoot a Glock! I got to really have a good time and do something I’ve never done in my career. I couldn’t have any of the food on-set though because I was in tiny cougar wardrobe.
WL: What was it like working with Ashton Kutcher, Katharine Heigl, and the rest of the cast of Killers?
LAW: Ashton Kutcher is just ungodly handsome and to also be that smart and prolific in terms of his productions and how they turn out. Heigl was a blast and she was just funny and sassy and reminded me a lot of myself. She has a sharp wit. I love women who have opinions. It reminds me of me.
I got to hang out and work with lots of really funny improv people. Somebody would start a topic and then the next person would pick up the ball, turning it into an improve session that had us laughing for hours. It’s the most fun I’ve had on any project.
WL: This is an action film—did you do any stunts?
LAW: Oh, yes! I got to do the stunt driving on the Mustang and shoot a gun. They really gave me a lot of responsibility on the film and tested me out with everything. I’d be practicing and they’d say, “What else you got? Let’s see it again! More!” I dug it. It’s a little scary how much I dug it.
Doing an action film is like being a kid at Langley Park and flipping the picnic table over and pretend it’s a starship—that’s what you’re doing as an actor. You’re playing “let’s pretend.”
WL: What was your inspiration for developing “Dance Your Ass Off?”
LAW: The pressure that women feel. I’m actually writing a book about women, self esteem, and the challenges we face called “I Hate Me.” I grew up with all that stuff because I was a chubby kid in a time when white girls were supposed to be pre-naturally skinny. I mean like cocaine-diet skinny. I’m a curvy girl. Maybe if I grew up in a culture with a celebrity like Kim Kardashian, I wouldn’t have had all that self-loathing being a curvy girl.
I went through a divorce, which was really demeaning, diminishing and just wacked me self-esteem wise. It happened right around the time of filming Shall We Dance? I was dancing 10 hours a day with people who gave me a million dollar education. I had to eat 10,000 calories a day to maintain the weight for that role. As a result of all that, I went through a year’s depression where I couldn’t get out of bed.
I finally said, “Enough! I’m done. I’m done with self-loathing.” I didn’t want to work out though. I’ve got 4 kids, I work hard enough! I want to dance! I see people on the treadmill killing themselves exercising that way and I don’t want to do that. Continue to move because it’s something you love. It doesn’t even have to be dance, it could be playing ball with your kids. I wanted a show about a healthier, fitter version of you and your self-esteem. I kept pitching it for 5 years because knew there was an audience for it.
WL: If you could be any character, who would it be?
LAW: Probably Scarlett O’Hara. Great clothes, stunningly beautiful. Feisty and capable but still can pout and be adorable. And there’s hope at the end of it! I think [Rhett] comes back! Nora Charles would be my second choice. Again, beautiful, great clothes, fun life, and with a real partner where they laugh together all the time.
WL: When you get a break from filming, what do you usually like to do?
LAW: I read veraciously. Doing a movie is the only chance I get to read because my life is so busy. I like to do crossword puzzles, dance, and I really like to cook. Emeril ate 3 servings of my lasagna!
“Dance Your Ass Off” premieres Monday at 11pm on Oxygen.