Lauren Tom on Fandom, Cons and Playing a Kickass Female Character on Supernatural!
We had a lovely chat at NJCon with Mama Tran herself, the adorable Lauren Tom. You already know how much we love Osric – well, his ‘mom’ is just as awesome!
Lauren was doing a drawing at the con to benefit the charity Home Boy Industries, which would give a lucky fan the chance to have breakfast with Lauren and Osric. Osric’s mom joined in the last one, much to the lucky fan’s surprise. We all know Supernatural is a family affair, and Lauren and Osric have extended the tradition, both onscreen and off.
Lauren: My mom is going to come to the drawing breakfast in Chicago, where I’m from originally. She really wants to meet Osric. I met his mother, so…
Lynn: Well, he’s her honorary grandson.
Lauren: That’s right! Osric’s mom is so adorable. We tweeted out a picture of the three of us, and people were like, you guys look exactly alike…
L & K: Hmmmm…
Lauren: [laughing] Twitter humor sometimes gets lost in translation. Osric reminded me of that when I was so surprised when I tweeted out a happy birthday message to Misha and said “too bad he’s not handsome”
Lynn: Meaning obviously that he IS…
Lauren: Right! I mean, that’s just my sense of humor, but I had people answering “I beg to differ, I can’t believe you’d say something like that.” I have to write ‘joking’ I guess!
Lynn: Well that’s hard to believe. This is Misha – I mean, look at him!
Lauren: (grinning) Exactly!
Once we’d all taken a moment to gush a bit more about Misha’s handsomeness, we got to our actual questions.
Kathy: We wanted to ask you about the family dynamic that’s at conventions. I think that’s one of the reasons that the fandom has just welcomed you into the family – I hope you can feel it. We call ourselves the SPN family, and we love the family dynamic between Kevin and his mom. But there’s family dynamic between you and Osric too, and it comes across onstage.
Lauren: Oh gosh. I love that kid. And I have to say I was actually taken aback when he talked about how much time he spends playing video games – that was news to me today!
Kathy: I think I have a picture of the look on your face when he was talking about that.
Lauren: To me, he has so much potential, I mean the kid is a genius! So I’m like why are you wasting all that time, just refocus it on something! But I’m not worried, he’s so young, and wherever he lands – I mean, acting obviously is his main thing, but I think he can direct and produce. He’s already doing it, but I think he can do it on a bigger scale. He just has to have more confidence that he can do it. It would be great for him to direct an episode of Supernatural if they would let him.
Kathy: Well, he talks about spending a lot of time gaming, but he’s also so driven, so devoted to his craft. And he does so much.
Lauren: I think the gaming is like a stress reliever too, and he’s doing it to relax.
Lynn: Also he’s young, so he’s got the energy to do that and then still be productive the next day. I would be like…zzz…
Lauren: Oh me too, hello! I’ve been reading books about how children succeed, and it’s not just academics and great grades that are gonna lead to happiness and success necessarily. It’s really more grit, and resilience and drive and ambition and resourcefulness. Being able to get back up.. Well, you’re a psychologist, you would know.
Lynn: [nodding] You have to find something you’re passionate about, and you have to work hard because if you don’t, you never feel any sense of self efficacy.
Lauren: I had a tiger mom, and the one thing she gave me that I’m so grateful for now is a sense of discipline, that kind of self regulation thing. When I was young I started out as a dancer, but I started late at 13. Every single day from the age of 13 to 17 I was at the studio for five hours a day after school and then came back to do my homework. I was like a phantom student, I wasn’t popular, because I was barely there. But then when I was seventeen, the show A Chorus Line came through Chicago – this is a million years ago – and there was a part for a small Asian girl, and they picked me. So I didn’t have any friends but that sort of set me on my way for my career, so I toured for a year as they trained me and then moved to New York and did it on Broadway for 2 years.
Lynn: You were so young!
Lauren: I was so young, and I remember thinking well if I died right now, at least I did something! My poor parents were terrified, I was from this tiny town in Illinois and they were so protective. It was my tiger mom that worked it out for me, because my dad was so traditional. He wanted me to get married and become a dental hygienist. That was his plan for me.
L & K: lol
Lauren: But my mom was really ambitious, and she prevailed. She moved there with me and helped me find a suitable apartment with a doorman so she knew I was safe.
Lynn: So you and Osric in a sense had similar trajectories, because he seems to have learned the same lessons about hard work and persistence. Once you learn that it pays off, you keep doing it.
Kathy: Once you find the thing you want to do.
Lauren: That’s the thing I hope my kids learn, what they actually love. Right now it’s tackle football. They’re 13 and 10, but that’s scary to me because people are breaking bones and getting concussions. I want them to get through that and put that away!
L & K: We can relate.
Kathy: So when did that family dynamic happen between you and Osric?
Lauren: Immediately. Immediately. I took a look at him and I loved him. There must be something about me that reminds him of his own mom as well, because it was just immediate. And he mentored me as far as this whole fandom goes and getting me onto Twitter. I’m a dinosaur when it comes to that, but he told me that I really should do it and it would be good for me and fun for me, so I said okay. So he helped me create the account and the next day I deleted it because I didn’t really understand it. And I had 0 followers and it just made me feel like such a loser! I thought I’m not gonna be able to do this, this is horrible. And he was like no no get it back up, let me help you. And then he made a tweet and like within 30 seconds I had 500 followers!
Lynn: Well nobody knew you existed on twitter before that!
Lauren: They barely knew I was on the show, since I’d only done one episode. So it kinda has grown now.
Lynn: Although from that first episode, we noticed the reception that Mrs. Tran got from the fandom.
Lauren: Well I noticed they don’t like weak women, right?
Kathy: True, and they don’t like all female characters either. But the first time you were on all the reactions were positive. Like, damn, Mama Tran is kickass!
Lauren: (beaming) That is so sweet. I do remember how overwhelmed I felt by reading all of those tweets. It really was something
Lynn: Why do you think the reaction to Linda Tran was so positive?
Lauren: You’re the psychologist, you tell me! But I think maybe living vicariously through the character, because I think sometimes women in particular have a hard time standing up for themselves. Sometimes they can do it better for their child than they would for themselves. Even for me, I actually found some kickass element within myself just from doing this character. You should’ve seen me walking around LA the week after we shot it. I was like, walking around like I’m 6’8”. I got into a huge parking altercation with this guy, and it got so bad that he came over and spat at me, on the windshield. And I would just not back down and I swear it’s because I still had Linda Tran in me! It was kinda nutty though. Later, my family was like are you crazy, you can’t do that in LA, you could’ve been shot!
L & K: Um, true!
Lauren: So maybe that’s what it is. I think everyone, as a race, we’re sorta striving always towards wholeness, what could make us more complete and strong and healthy. And I think when we see that someone is standing up — rightfully so, not in a bullying way, because she was justified in almost everything. Though maybe she shouldn’t have killed that guy in that last episode. You know, it’s so interesting, because the way the writer wrote that, in the script, he said that the character really struggles with whether or not to do that. And I asked the director at the time, Jerry…
Lauren: Yes, Jerry. So I said, do you want me to follow the script in this way? Because I’m so mad right now, because the scene came after I [Linda] found out that Sam lied to me and Kevin is dead. I said, I can do it either way you want, or we can shoot it both ways and you can decide later. He goes, oh, absolutely not, you just kill him, and I was like okay.
Lynn: Supernatural collaboration at its best.
Lauren: I don’t think I’ll ever get that far into letting Linda Tran take over me…
L& K: Let’s hope not!
Lauren: But I heard that Jared or Jensen, one of them outed me with that little mishap that happened on set…
L & K: What? I think you just outed yourself!
Lauren: Umm, never mind, everything’s fine…
L & K: [laughing] Oh no, now you have to tell us. What did you do?
Lauren: Well, there was a real knife and there was a prop knife…. can I just leave it at that?
L & K: O—o.
Lauren: But everybody is fine! But I have to say, the great thing about Jared and Jensen – suffice it to say that those two men were so adorable and sweet, and this is nothing new to you guys, but I felt so horrible because I made a little mistake and they went out of their way to make me feel like it was okay, it’s no big deal, everybody stabs people…
L & K: Well, that’s true on Supernatural…
Lauren: They were like, please, don’t even think about it!
Lynn: It was fine. I mean, everyone survived…
Lauren: No one even got hurt but it could’ve been bad. I was like thank you god. I just really take things seriously. The joke that Jensen and I had throughout that whole shoot was that I would always go full out even in rehearsal, because I would always forget whether or not we were rolling. I’ve been in this business for 30 years and you would think that I would know, and save it for my close ups. And Jensen would say, “Lauren, Lauren we’re rehearsing!”
Kathy: Wasn’t that exhausting?
Lauren: It was, and sometimes then it’s hard to conjure it on take 25 because we were started from so far back doing the master, and then it just keeps getting closer. But I just love the show, I love the challenge. It’s such a challenge for me to do that character because I feel like it requires both comedy and a lot of depth.
Lynn: And a pretty deft combination of comic and serious. The character, for being on only a few times, has a lot of depth.
Lauren: [smiling] Thank you.
Kathy: I feel like we understand her and relate to her.
Lauren: And yet, it’s so operatic what happens to that family!
Lynn: But that’s the interesting thing – the things that happen on the Show are fantastical and don’t happen in real life, but the characters are so real and so genuine that we relate to them anyway. As a mom, I relate to your character. If someone does something to my kid, goddammit, I’d feel the same!
Lauren: Right, that’s what I was saying this morning too. If there’s enough truth in it, I think the community supports it.
Kathy: For me, it’s the small moments. Absolutely one of my favorite moments was when you’re getting the tattoos, and you reveal that you’ve had a life (and tattoos) before. And all of a sudden you went against all the stereotypes that people might have had about you as Kevin’s mom. And it was like ‘yeah I had a life, get over it’ – I adored that moment. Moms are allowed to have a life too!
Lynn: That’s a lot of what Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls is about – about women being allowed to have a life, and to like what we like, and be passionate about something.
Lauren: Moms are people too! What did you find, from a psychological point of view, about fandom?
Lynn: Fangasm is like our story, our roadtrip through fandom…
Lauren: That’s so neat!
Lynn: But it’s really about two women who are asking who am I, what am I passionate about? Not me the mom or the professor or the psychologist, but ME — and do I have the guts to go out and be real? And your character, that’s the way people related to her too, as a woman. Women aren’t allowed to be real very often. Linda Tran is imperfect and badass and loving and real.
Lauren: And practical! That is so cool, that’s so nice to hear.
Kathy: A lot of people relate to Felicia Day’s character, Charlie, too.
Lauren: And Alaina Huffman? She’s so pretty.
Kathy: Everybody loves her, but it’s a bit different as far as relating to her, since she plays a demon.
Lauren: And Kim Rhodes? What does she play?
Lynn: Sheriff Mills. Oh yes, people relate to her too – she’s also a kickass character that people relate to. You would love her, she’s awesome.
Lauren: I hope I meet her at one of these.
[Lauren’s phone rings]
Lauren: Oh, that might be my son… [checks phone and starts to laugh] Oh, never mind, it’s Words With Friends – I play four games at once! I love word games.
Lynn: Do you ever play with Jared? He plays too. He says he’s pretty good.
Lauren: I could take him.
L & K: Yep, our money is on you.
Lauren: [laughing] He’s so funny though….the two of them…
We had a little Jared and Jensen appreciation session there for a minute before we could continue. Don’t judge us.
Lynn: So, back to the episode. The one where Mrs. Tran finds out her son is dead – we talked to Kim Rhodes about how difficult it was to play that scene when Jody is talking about the loss of her eight year old son.
Lauren: [gasps] Eight years old? How could the writers do that?
Lynn: Right, and Kim really struggled with it.
Lauren: Does she have kids?
L & K: She does, yes.
Lauren: Oh, I’ll have to talk to her about that.
Lynn: How was that for you, to play that scene?
Lauren: I had to call my good friend who’s a great actress and have her talk me through it the night before, because I could just feel the resistance in my body that I just did not want to go there. And you know, because so much of what we do is calling on our imagination and the use of our personal lives, that for me to really go there, I almost didn’t want to because in a metaphysical sense – I’m probably outing myself again – but I do believe that we’re all connected and it’s all energy and you can actually manifest things by concentrating on them hard enough. And I sometimes get a little afraid of my ability to focus, because of that.
L & K: [are nodding]
Lauren: This is a sidestory, but I wrote an essay on it that was published online – about getting the role in Friends. That I was watching the show and I thought David Schwimmer was cute and I said what’s that guy’s name, that would be so much fun to be on that show. And then I wrote the name down after. My agent called me the next day and I was eating a donut on the treadmill…
L & K [crack up]
Lauren: [laughing] Working out and eating at the same time, going in and going out… And she said I have an offer for you. I said what is it and she said this show Friends and I almost tripped and fell off the treadmill!
L & K: OMG!
Lauren: So I felt like woah, that’s like crazy. There have been certain things in my life that have happened in that serendipitous way, so… I’m also just one of those people who likes to play games in my head, like if the elevator comes in the next 30 seconds, that means this meeting is gonna go well.
Lynn: I think we all do that sometimes.
Lauren: It’s a silly superstition, but in that sense I didn’t want to feel it or manifest it. Just didn’t wanna go there. And then two things happened that really helped me. Jared was completely present for me and all I had to do was look over there at him.
Lynn: So what does that mean actually? We’re not actors, so I’m not exactly sure. What did he do that helped?
Lauren: This is what makes a great actor sometimes – when you feel like they’re right here. They’re not thinking about their lines, they’re not trying to conjure something from their past, which was the method acting of like Marlon Brando in order to get to that place. But you’re actually very very present, so it’s almost like Zen. That’s why animals and children are so fascinating to watch, because they’re so present. They’re completely un-self-conscious and in the moment, and you can’t help but be connected to that person. So these guys have been doing this show for what, 10 years? It would be so easy for them to walk through it at this point, they know their characters so well, they could just toss it off.
Misha too, and Mark and Osric, I have to compliment all of them, the level of the acting is very high. And it makes you better to act with people who are really doing it and going for it and not phoning it in.
Lynn: I see what you mean.
Lauren: So anyway, he made it easy for me because all I had to do was look over at him. Also, in the script, it said that when I realize, it’s just from the look, because there’s no line. And it was like, I turn like this, and it said that I had to buckle and collapse on the floor. Which would have been easy for me to do as just a physical moment, but I wanted it to be completely connected and I was just a little bit afraid of the moment, to be honest. And the director said, you know what? I don’t want you to do that, I want you to be way stronger than that, I want you to just take it in and then decide what it is you need to do, and that you’re gonna deal with it later because you don’t have time right then. Like you want to get out of there. And I think that was the right choice.
L& K: Me too.
Lauren: Because I think if I had collapsed into a puddle there, then suddenly in the next scene I’m killing the guy…
Kathy: I can’t see her doing that anyway. This is like a battlefield moment, you don’t have time.
Lynn: And there’s nobody who was watching that who didn’t know the depths of that, how hard that knowledge hit her, just from the look on your face. You didn’t need to fall to the floor.
Lauren: That’s what it’s like sometimes with these more operatic shows, that’s it written so heightened, and if you don’t do it 110% – the way that it’s written is so dramatic, there’s so much going on that’s not normal.
Lynn: But Supernatural can sometimes be a sort of subtle show.
Kathy: And people keep their emotions inside.
Lauren: But still, all these fantastical things are happening, so it’s probably smarter to make it seem like, you know, normal.
Lynn: It’s interesting that in that episode there were so many choices that you and Jerry made together, to go slightly different than written. Supernatural often seems like that, so collaborative.
Kathy: And they made her stronger. The reaction was positive, so it must’ve been the right way to go.
Lauren: That’s good to hear. And I also feel like my character got stronger as the episodes went on too, because I was really upset in that first one. And by the end I kinda felt like my character had traveled and taken a journey, and she was already pretty strong. I really do hope they’ll bring both of us back.
Lynn: Me too! I was going to ask, what do you think Mrs. Tran and Kevin are doing out there with Kevin in the veil? But then Kathy was like, don’t ask her that, that’s a silly question.
Lauren: [laughing] Well, we just don’t know really…
Kathy: That’s why it’s a silly question.
Lauren: And they’d kill me if I said anything if I did know anything. Osric warned me about that early on.
Kathy: Here’s a convention question, then. This is kinda a boys’ club. How has it been for you, coming into it?
Lauren: Well I’m glad Alaina and Kim are around too, but I feel kinda special that they would even want to invite me, given it’s a mostly female fandom. I think they’re just trying me out, so I hope it’s going well. I’m having a great time. This is the closest thing I’ll ever be to a rock star!
Lynn: That’s what all the guests say.
Lauren: There’s one I’m scheduled for that Osric isn’t yet, though, and I’m like, how would my panel go without him?
Kathy: I think it would go fine, but I love the two of you together onstage. You play off each other like mom and son.
Lauren: It’s true. I do care about him that way. And it’s good practice for my kids. One’s a teenager now, so we’re getting to that phase. So what do your kids think of this [fandom thing]? Do they tease you or like it?
Lynn: A lot of the plot of Fangasm is us trying to do this fandom thing and our families and partners and kids being like, who are you? What do you mean you’re running off to a Supernatural convention?
Lauren: And people pay a lot of money to come to cons. I feel sort of bad…
Kathy: I just had this conversation with the fan studies class I teach. Right now there’s a lot of push back from my students saying fans should be spending their money on more important things. But how do you define more important?
Lauren: it’s what floats your boat, what you’re passionate about.
Lynn: And this community of people is so powerful for so many fans. It’s not just this frivolous thing, it’s identity exploration, especially for women, it’s community building, it’s giving back through charitable work. I’ve heard many people talk about how this Show and this fandom have saved their lives. It’s a lot different than it looks from the outside. That’s why we wrote the books.
Lauren: You know what I forgot to mention, I wanted to say, to the fandom, because they are just so sweet and generous. I feel bad as I’m surfing around twitter, this fandom is hit up constantly by everybody, every single actor has their favorite charity. And then there are all these fans too, and I try to RT as much as I can, but you can’t get to everything. So I appreciate the contributions even more because of that, because I know how constantly bombarded they are with requests.
Lynn: That’s true, but part of fandom is it’s a community and communities support and take care of each other. I don’t think people resent it, it’s always been a part of fandom, giving back.
Lauren: I hope I’m giving back enough that people don’t think OMG there she is again…
Kathy: Last night at karaoke Matt [Cohen] took off his shirt – he was originally wearing 2 shirts – and it was really sweaty and then Richard had the bright idea to auction it off for charity, so right then and there they got $500. And it was like people were thrilled at the opportunity, and that it was for charity. Misha once auctioned his bloody bandage at a con…
Lauren: (making a face) EWWWW. It had his DNA on it I guess.
Lynn: Someone can clone him…
Lynn: But seriously, there’s a lot of research that shows that giving is the best way to be emotionally healthy. It’s good for us. And I think that’s a wonderful part of fandom.
Lauren: I made $750 so far for breakfast tomorrow morning, which made me feel good because I didn’t think I’d get anyone without Osric, since he can’t do it with me tomorrow. In Vancouver he did it with me and we made $1900. But I’ll pitch it again at cabaret because not everyone was at the panel. It was so early – I’m surprised you were there! You’re so busy running Fangasm and tweeting and everything, you must be exhausted!
L & K: (shrug) At least we’re in the same time zone at this con. And we would never miss the cabaret or karaoke!
The SPNFamily has certainly come through to help Lauren raise money for Homeboy Industries. Shortly after we met with her, they tweeted:
Homeboy Industries @HomeboyInd: Thank you to @LaurenTom9000 and family for raising $8,565 to help former gang members redirect their lives! #homeboy5k
That’s what it’s all about!
Fingers crossed that we’ll see both Kevin and Mrs. Tran back on Supernatural in Season 10!
So, is everybody ready for the incredible milestone we’re about to reach on Tuesday with the 200th episode?? I know we are!
And then we’re off to Burcon on Thursday – if you’ll be there, stop by the vendor’s room and pick up a copy of Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls or Fan Phenomena: Supernatural! Or bring your copy by and we’ll be honored to sign it for you. Follow us @FangasmSPN for live tweets throughout the weekend of the last con of 2014.
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Fan Phenomena Supernatural by clicking the
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