LaVoy Finds There Is One Life To Live

By: Jan. 16, 2008

There is life beyond off-Broadway and actress January LaVoy has found it. Lavoy, who captured the attention of New York audiences and critics playing the lone woman in the 2007 Lucille Lortel Award winning play, Two Trains Running has landed a contract role on ABC's "One Life to Live" playing Noelle Ortiz. 

It really is a case of life imitates art as LaVoy went from waiting tables in Queens to waitress 'Risa' at the Signature, to waitress 'Noelle' on ABC's "One Life to Live" in a year. This is truly an exciting time for LaVoy, whose credits are mostly theatre-based.

TJ: How did the role on OLTL come about?

LAVOY: It was a very basic audition situation, something that was set up by my agent.  I'd been in for Julie (the casting director) before, but never for anything of this magnitude.  What's kind of funny is that I've told lots of friends, if I had known this was a contract role from the beginning, I'm sure I would have psyched myself out early on!  But, initially, I was told that it was a "recurring/possible contract" and I just thought well, they say that all the time, "possible" contract.  So it wasn't as intimidating as it might have been if I had known from the start.  And here I am, with a contract! 

TJ: Tell me a little about your character. 

LAVOY: Noelle is, in my humble opinion, one of the sweetest characters ever to be seen on a soap.  Our Executive Producer once referred to her as a "true believer".  Noelle believes in love, and hope, and second chances.  She was born and raised in Paris, Texas, and she thinks it's a pretty great place.  She's a hard worker, and she tries to do everything possible to help the people around her.  And she's darn proud of her pie baking skills! 

TJ: Is she going to be coming to Llanview? 

LAVOY: The producers and the writers have told me how much everyone loves Noelle so hopefully that means her bags are packed and en route to Llanview, but in the world of soaps, you have to be open to just about anything! 

TJ: Will she be mixing it up with the likes of show characters Dorian and Todd? 

LAVOY: In fact, both Todd and Dorian have already shown up in Paris, Texas -- they came to her!

TJ: Have you been hanging out with any particular cast members in the off hours?

LAVOY:  I've struck up friendships with a few of my castmates (I always say that, and it sounds like I'm doing a play!), and in particular Justis Bolding (who plays Sarah Roberts) and Beth Ann Bonner (who plays Talia Shire).  Both of them were very quick to welcome me into the fold.  But everyone's been lovely, and some of the more experienced actresses have been incredibly generous with their time and advice.  Erika Slezak, in addition to being just a phenomenal actress, has been a dream to work with. She's one of the loveliest women I've ever met.  And I share a dressing room with Hillary B. Smith and Catherine Hickland, both of whom have been beyond kind to me.

TJ: What is an average day like for you as an actress doing a soap opera?

LAVOY: Very little sleep!  After years of staying up late doing theatre, it can be challenging to have to arrive at the studio before 7am...the first week I worked, I don't think I slept at all, because I was so nervous I'd sleep through my alarm clock.  But once I get there, it a VERY brief rehearsal -- usually about 15 minutes -- and then off to hair and makeup.  After that, we usually have an hour or so to ourselves, to incorporate any notes the director gave in rehearsal, go over cuts and changes to the script, and then -- ACTION!  It's really fast, such a different skill from preparing for theatre.

TJ: How long is your character set to be on the show?

LAVOY: I was hired in October, and I'm under contract until the Spring.

TJ: How did you get into acting?

LAVOY: My grandmother was very involved in community theatre when I was growing up, as an actress, director, and administrator.  They couldn't keep me away!

TJ: When did you decide that this was what you wanted to do with your life?

LAVOY: I've always known.  There were times when other interests were piqued, but I always came back to the same conclusion:  "I can always play that if I become an actress!"

TJ: What was your first big break and do you remember your reaction and where you were when you got the news?

LAVOY: Breaks are funny.  Sometimes the true breaks that you get -- the jobs where you get noticed, the relationships you forge that give you new access -- aren't even detectable when they happen.  Sometimes you can't recognize your breaks until later.  But, I think the first really exciting thing that happened was when I got the call, a few months out of grad school, that I was going to be playing one of the leads in a world premiere of a play by Christopher Durang.   It felt huge, because at that point I knew no one, no one knew me -- I knew that I got it because I went in and gave a great audition for Chris and Tracy [Brigden, the director] and that I was right for the part.  That was big for my confidence. Also, I have always been a huge fan of Chris's work, and getting to work on a new play with him was a dream come true, for a kid right out of school.  I was in my apartment in Queens, alone - neither of my roommates were there - and I think I had polished off most of a celebratory bottle of wine by the time they got home!

TJ: So you went from being a waitress to playing one on TV??  Is there something karmic about that?

LAVOY: I'd like to think that all those years of serving the fine citizens of NYC have paid off karmically, LOL!  The best part was that on my first day on the set, there were one million props, trays, dishrags, real food that had to be served...despite all my nervousness, once I settled into the real task at hand -- working in a restaurant -- it was second nature.  I felt totally relaxed.  I thought, "I may not remember all my lines, but at least I know I won't drop this tray!"

TJ: What was it like for you being the only woman in the cast in the show TWO TRAINS RUNNING?

LAVOY: Well, I got my own dressing room! TWO TRAINS was pure joy.  I hope that I am lucky enough to have more experiences like that, but nothing will ever be quite the same, I suspect.  I still regularly see many of my castmates, whom I adore.  I have never been more proud to be a part of a show.  After August's tragic and untimely passing, I think we all felt a tremendous responsibility -- to his legacy, to his wife Costanza (who worked on the production with us), to the public, and of course, to the play itself.  We all took very special care of each other, and being the only woman as well as the youngest, I think all of the men looked out for me even more.  I still get unexpected calls from them, just checking in :)

TJ: Were you surprised at the success of the show and the critics reviews of you?

LAVOY: Surprised?  No.  Delighted?  Yes.  TWO TRAINS is about as perfect a play as has ever been written, and our production (although it had its flaws like any other) had its heart in exactly the right place.  Our director had a tremendous vision, and on the nights when we were able to channel our energy and the character's souls and the audience's attention (the play ran over 3 hours) together, the results were nothing short of magical.  The notices were lovely, but they were incidental to the experience that we (and, I hope, the audiences) were having in that building every night.

TJ: Do you give a lot of credence to reviewers and do their comments affect how you portray a character?

LAVOY: Interesting question.  I think I can honestly say that I've never let them affect my portrayals.  I work very hard on all of my characters, and I stand by my choices.  I try to be as honest with myself as possible in regards to my work, so if it's not up to par, and someone says that, I'm not suprised.  You can't always craft a character in time for an opening night - some are slow to be born - and if I feel a character isn't fully formed yet, I won't read reviews.  I wouldn't want someone else's experience to influence the creation of the character at that point.  

That said, I am at a point in my career where it is important for me to know what is said about me, so that I can use the good notices to further my exposure in the business.  So, I do read reviews, and I try to keep them in perspective.  They say if you believe the good ones, you kind of have to believe the bad ones too...but I choose only to believe the ones I like!

TJ: Now let's talk about some of your favorite things to get to know you a little better. What is your favorite NY restaurant?

LAVOY: Fatty's Cafe, in Astoria.  I worked there for years, and in my opinion, it is the finest, coolest, most wonderful restaurant NYC has to offer.

TJ: How about your favorite book?

LAVOY: Oh, boy.  I have to do categories.  Favorite classic is "The Great Gatsby". Ancient classic is Plato's "Republic".  I've probably read the Hobbit/LOTR books a dozen times in my life.  I love politics, and I love escape.

TJ: And your favorite singer?

LAVOY: Right at this moment, I can't stop listening to KT Tunstall.  Overall, Ani DiFranco.  As an artist, and as a business.  She's done it all right.

TJ: Do you have a favorite vacation spot?

LAVOY: I've not traveled as much as I'd like, but here in the US, it's Disney World, hands down.  You get to be in the audience as well as in the show!

TJ: If you weren't an actor, what would you be doing for work?

LAVOY: I'd be a veterinarian.  If I could make it through vet school without skipping out for auditions :)

Many thanks to LaVoy for sharing some time with us and much success to her.You can catch LaVoy on ONE LIFE TO LIVE on ABC Mondays through Fridays at 2:00PM EST.  January's character on "One Life to Live" is very lovable and she has quite a fan base already. Her scenes are mostly with the great Erika Slezak. For more information about January, visit her website always, folks, ciao for now and remember, theatre is my life…except for 2:00PM weekdays.


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