- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Katherine LaNasa took a chance two years ago on a young director’s first full-length feature film.

The Louisiana actress ended up not only starring in but also executive-producing the controversial “Love is All You Need?,” based on an earlier short film, both from director/co-writer K Rocco Shields. The independent film hit iTunes in November, and Amazon and Google Play in December.

“I met with Rocco, and she just had a lot of moxie. She’s someone that’s easy to get behind,” LaNasa, a New Orleans native and former Baton Rougean, said Friday from her Los Angeles home.

“Love” tackles the ultra-timely issues of bullying and prejudice. Shields approached her topics in an unconventional and eye-opening way.

Co-written by David Tillman, the movie swirls within a parallel world: Gay is straight, straight is gay, and it’s the heterosexuals who are bullied. LaNasa, 50, portrays one of the mothers of 11-year-old Emily (Kyla Kennedy, “The Walking Dead”), who realizes she likes boys, and is so ostracized for it she attempts to take her own life.

“I think it’s really enlightening,” she said. “What’s great about that inverse world is that it really makes it easy for the viewer to get into the shoes of someone that’s the victim of bullying or prejudice.”

As for LaNasa’s character, Karen Curtis, the actress said she had an “instinct that she should be kind of unlikable. It’s just part of the story.”

“I just approached her as someone that was well-meaning, but intolerant, and I felt that that was something we could all relate to; where, in hindsight, we see that our parents’ hard-headed mistakes were really being done because that was the way they were raised, or that’s what feels safe to them, or that’s how they think they’re going to keep us safe by not letting us make mistakes or make our own choices, or our parents’ own fear of the world. And all of those ways, that’s all of us, whether we’re gay or not, or have felt shut down by our parents or by authority, but not all of it is because these adults were bad people; it’s because they were trying to protect us, oftentimes.”

LaNasa said she wanted to play the stern Karen in a way that would convey to viewers how it feels to be that child who believes there’s nowhere to turn.

In pulling viewers so close to this despair, LaNasa said she hopes for an opposite effect.

“I think that no one wants to identify as the bully or on the side of the bully after they see the movie,” she said. “The movie is so raw and really does make you experience what these kids that are being bullied experience.”

Another upside of the film’s realism LaNasa has witnessed is that it opens up dialogue in families.

The 2011 short film “Love,” with 50 million-plus downloads, has served as a teaching tool in schools, and the producer hopes for equal success with the longer film, which had its world premiere at Cinequest in San Jose, California, in March, before a 20-city screening tour.

“I don’t think the movie has really hit its stride yet. I think it’s still yet to find its audience, so we’re trying to push that. It’s a really timely, timely film, and it’s very well done and I think it deserves its viewership,” LaNasa said.

Bound for Bravo

LaNasa will be back on TV Feb. 7 for the new Bravo series “Imposters” in a more sensitive role. She plays Sally, a longtime cohort of main character Maddie, a con artist who changes personas and mates in rapid succession. She loves them, robs them and leaves them. Maddie’s then on to her next prey, directed also by Max (Brian Benben, “Private Practice”). But after amassing three victims, the tables are turned on Maddie when they seek revenge.

“She’s a complicated character. You see me as this old lady. I actually go back and forth between playing a Polish housekeeper, and the real Sally.

“We get to learn as we go along more about Sally’s past and how she came in to being a con artist, and the relationship with the two other people in the con.”

Veteran actress Uma Thurman will be featured in an arc of episodes, and LaNasa will share some scenes with her.

LaNasa describes “Imposters,” shot in Canada, as a noir comedy whose cast includes some extremely funny male characters, Benben among them.

“I had a great chemistry with him,” she said. “Sometimes you just get in there with people, and it just clicks.”

Prior to its U.S. premiere on Feb. 7, the actress said the show is selling very well overseas, especially in Australia and Asia.

“It’s very well-written. It has a lot of style to it. It’s sexy, it’s fun, but it also has a dark edge to it,” she said.

In the 10-episode first season, LaNasa said viewers can expect to learn more, but not all, about the multi-layered characters.

And in the seventh episode, look for another former Baton Rouge actress, guest-star Katherine Dent, in the role of Cynthia Van Duzer.

LaNasa’s last TV series was the USA Network drama “Satisfaction,” which ended its run in December 2015 after two seasons.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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