Lisa Howard: Why TWILIGHT Cast Welcomed 'Some New Blood' on Vampire Phenomenon
Lisa Howard is featured in the latest and final installment of the Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn - Part 2, portraying the role of vampire 'Siobhan'. The talented actress has appeared on Broadway in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, 9 to 5, South Pacific, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. She recently starred in the George Street Playhouse's production of 'It Should Have Been You', directed by David Hyde Pierce. Her voice can be heard on her debut album, Songs of Innocence & Experience.
Howard recently spoke with BWW about what it's like to be part of the worldwide Twilight phenomenon and what's ahead for her busy career.
I understand you were a big fan of the Twilight series even prior to being cast in the film.
Yeah - most definitely! I read them all when I was doing [Broadway's] 'Nine to Five.'
Did you ever imagine you'd wind up making your film debut in the franchise?
No. Never. When I found out I even had the audition I just thought that was pretty fun.
Can you tell me about your character, Siobhan?
She is a vampire, although she is on the good guy's team. She isn't a vegetarian, she does chew humans, but she's civilized at least. And she is friends with Carlisle Cullen and she comes as a witness for them to say, 'no they did not make an immortal child.'
In order to achieve some of the special effects for the film, some of the scenes were shot in a field surrounded by green screens. What types of challenges did that present?
Well, there's a lot of imagining because you're not actually in a clearing in the forest. We were actually indoors in an arena. It was a field of fake snow, but there were times that they said, 'Ok, now in this shot, you have to imagine that you're seeing the volturi come out of the forest.' So you know, you got to use your imagination and just think, 'Ok, how would I be reacting?' So that was a challenge. I never had to work like that before.
What is it about these books and these characters that resonate with people all over the world?
Gosh, that's a tough one because I know I loved it, especially because of the love triangle and it also has a mystical element to it and there's danger. It's just the right recipe of all of those things. I think this series has had the right combination of romance and mystery and all of that that just makes for a huge phenomenon of worldwide fandoms of this series.
This latest film is the first time your character is introduced. Since most of the other actors had worked together on the previous films, was it hard to come in as a 'newbie'?
No, in only that there were so many new characters in this final film because they gather all of their vampire friends from around the world. I think there might have been eighteen new vampires who all have significant presence in the books. So there was a whole group of new people. So we all stayed at the same place and we would hang out together. And I think for those actors who had been working together for years, I think they welcomed some new blood, new people to hang out with, new people to get to know.
I assume there was no pun intended when you just said, "Welcome some new blood"!
Turning to your Broadway career, you were most recently in 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.' What was it like not only to wear those outrageous costumes, but to get in and out of them so quickly?
Well, as one of the Divas, we were non-stop that entire show. Whether it was getting into the harness and then the costume over the harness, flying in. I don't even remember how many costume changes I had, but it was a lot. But they have it down to a science. They're such pros back there, the dressers and the stage management and they really just whip you through. Wig comes on, wig comes off. But it was a lot of fun, it was hard work, but a lot of fun. And I had never flown before in a show, so that was a new experience.
I guess you don't have a fear of heights?
No. And it was fine. For most of the time we flew in the harness that goes around your legs and snaps like a belt and that was perfectly comfortable, even the first time I went up I wasn't scared in that. But in the finale, when we came in those bird costumes, the cockatoos, we were standing on perches, which were like trees and we only had a belt around our waist connected at the back. That was to me very scary. And I did that for the first time thinking, 'Maybe I didn't tighten my belt tight enough' and I was leaning forward. I was perfectly safe, but I freaked out. That took a little while to get used to, but eventually I did and it was no big deal.<
You originated the role of Rona Lisa Peretti in 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.' When it moved to Circle in the Square, was that your Broadway debut?
It was. It was a wonderful show to make my debut in. I felt very fortunate.
What was it like to move from off-Broadway to Broadway so quickly?
Well, actually the whole thing, from the very beginning went very, very quickly. I did one of the workshops when it was being turned into a musical. Originally it was an improv show from 'The Farm", an improv group. And they basically had this small little show based around a spelling bee and they brought in their funny little characters. Sarah Saltzberg was a member of that company, and she was also Wendy Wasserstein's nanny. Wendy came to see the show and said, 'My friend Bill Finn would love this. You should turn it into a musical." So she showed it to Bill Finn and he said yes, and they ended up turning it into a musical.
So I came in at the very beginning when Bill did, and so we did a workshop up at Barrington Stage and that was February of 2004. In the summer, we did a production of it in Great Barrington but it was in a cafeteria, one of the little tiny, tiny theaters, literally it was a kid's cafeteria. And then from there, that fall, we went Off-Broadway and by early in the year we had gone to Broadway. It just never happens that fast. It was crazy, just a whirlwind of, 'oh my gosh, what? We're going to Broadway? what?" A year later, come spring 2005, I'm on the Tony Awards! It was very fast. Not your typical path for a show going to Broadway.
And now I believe it's among the most produced shows by community theaters, regional theaters, high schools.
Yeah, I can see why - minimal set, lots of kid's characters. I mean it's kind of perfect.
Do you find it more challenging to originate a role as you did in that show, or to step into a show that is already in production?
As far as say, going into Priscilla, I would much rather originate a show, create a character or re-create a character but have it be from the beginning of the production. I think it's much harder to just pop into a show. I'd much prefer to go through the whole rehearsal process and all that. It's a lot more work, but it's more rewarding. I had actually been cast in the original company of Priscilla and then ended up having to turn it down because I had knee surgery. So it really came full circle. When the track opened up that I had originally been cast for I went in and was like, 'Oh yay, I get to actually do it!" because I had felt so bad having to turn it down. So it was nice that it came around again.
So what's next for you? Do you have any plans to come back to Broadway or do you want to pursue your film career?
Well, I'm going to pursue both. I'm actually waiting, we're not really sure when it's going to happen, I'm thinking next fall, but I had recently done a show with David Hyde Pierce, he had directed at the George Street Playhouse called 'It Shoulda Been You' with Tyne Daly and Richard Kline and Harriet Harris and Edward Hibbert. So we're waiting for that to happen.
And you recently released your debut album.
Yes, called 'Songs of Innocence and Experience'. It's actually all Williams Finn's music, since I made my debut in a show of his.
Well it sounds like you've got a full plate.
And a two and a half year old, so it's really full!
Oh my gosh, that alone would be enough! Well best of luck with 'Breaking Dawn' and we're looking forward to seeing you back on Broadway real soon!
Photo Credit: Jennifer Broski
Character poster courtesy of Summit Entertainment