Vanessa Lengies ('American Dreams')
’Truly Living The American Dream’
Vanessa Lengies stars as Roxanne Bojarksi - whose bold eagerness to push the envelope and never-say-die attitude earn the star-struck teen and her best friend (Brittany Snow) spots dancing on the popular ‘American Bandstand’ in NBC's new drama ‘American Dreams.’
Born and raised in Montreal, Canada, Lengies’ television credits include regular roles on the children's cable series ‘Are You Afraid Of The Dark?’ and ‘Sponk,’ as well as a co-host role on the science program ‘Popular Mechanics For Kids.’ She also starred in the cable film ’Ratz,’ with Ron Silver and Kathy Baker. Along with her television appearances, Lengies has starred in a variety of animated series, including ‘For Better or for Worse,’ ‘Little Lulu,’ ‘Tales Of The Great Bunny,’ ‘Arthur’ and ‘Calillou.’
Taking some time out with the 17 year-old, who ”kinda” lives on her own, in her own apartment in Los Angeles, she picks the phone up on the second ring … and then proceeds to answer as if it’s not actually her! As my silence quickly envelops the moment, she almost as quickly admits that it’s indeed her and that she was just joking! In fact, Vanessa has every right to feel jovial today as she swiftly reveals. ”Today I woke up early and I’m very anxious because I’m gonna buy my first car today! So, I’ve cleaned my room, I read a magazine and I’ve just been kind of waiting for the car dealers to open and run over there! But, we can’t go too early because we don’t want to seem like we want it too much, you know what I mean!”
What’s your first car gonna be? ” For my first car I’m gonna get a Jetta VR6 and it’s gonna be fully-loaded, with power steering and a black leather interior! It’s gonna be perfect for my first car. I’m so excited!”
How much of Vanessa is in the ‘American Dreams’ character of Roxanne? ”Probably a fair bit. I mean, she’s kind of a bad girl, but she has this loveable aura - like a crazy side, you know what I mean. I guess I’m a little crazy too and that’s how I get Roxanne’s character sometimes. It’s hard to make a bad girl be loveable, so I think that kinda makes her vulnerable. So all those traits I kind of take from stuff that’s happened to me in my life, but then again I’m not like her in ways that she’s kinda all over all kinds of boys and never has one boyfriend! She always gets into trouble, she always talks back to her teachers and I’m not like that at all! Probably the opposite.”
How did you get the part in the first place? ”I think I did abut four auditions for the casting agents and then some for the producers, and then some for the studio executives! And then you have to go to the network and do it in front of a room full of worried businessmen looking at you sternly! Then, when the process is finally over they tell you whether you’ve got it or not. I was so lucky and fortunate that they called me that day and said ‘You were the best one there and we want you to be Roxanne on American Dreams.’ I started crying, and screaming, and even my mom couldn’t even speak! It was very exciting!”
Is ‘American Dreams’ the pinnacle of your achievements thus far? ”So far, I would say yes. ‘Popular Mechanics For Kids’ was probably a close second. That was just something that was good for me at the time, for me as a person. I got to travel all over the world and do all sorts of amazing things that I would never have gotten to do otherwise. I drove Hummers, I flew planes, I got to do so much outdoorsy, athletic stuff. That was like my dream, you know. But this, this is the next huge thing. NBC is a wonderful network to work with and I’m living the American dream and I just feel so fortunate. I couldn’t have wished for anything more. ‘American Dreams’ is just a wonderful show and I work with some wonderful people all the time. The crew is adorable and kind and the producers and writers are just such nice people. You hear horror stories about Los Angles producers, but the producers on ‘American Dreams’ are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I mean, wow, have I ever lucked out … because I really have.”
Will we ever hear your singing voice on one of the ‘American Dreams’ CDs?! ”The CD that just came out, which was the ‘63-’64 ‘American Dreams’ soundtrack, actually Brittany (Snow) and I did some singing on it! We sang back-up vocals for Stacie Orrico’s version of ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’! So, we were the back-up singers, but it’s just little steps and maybe next year we’ll have more to do with that season’s CD. But, we’re not asking for more, but Brittany and I sing on the set all the time! That’s all we ever do. We’ll sing Alanis’ ‘Ironic’ and things like that to keep the atmosphere up.”
You’ve done voice-overs for animation many times before, but is the rumor about you voicing the forthcoming ’Arthur: The Movie’ a true one or not? ”OK, ‘Arthur: The Movie’ is a rumor, but I think …” It’s right about now that Vanessa suddenly, and without a hint of a warning, breaks off to pose the question to one of her parents. ”Dad, are there any new facts on ‘Arthur: The Movie’?” [Response: ”No.”] ”So, they’re not making it or they are making it?” [Response: ”I think they are, but it’s only a rumor right now.”] ”I think they are making it,” she reveals now to me once again. ”but they’re thinking about it, you know what I mean?!”
Er, OK, but you’ve recorded voice-overs for the TV show, haven’t you? ”I’ve been in all the last seasons of ‘Arthur.’ I was DW’s little friend Emily and I did a couple of episodes a season for that. It was my first thing that I ever did. Before I even started to act I did cartoon voices! That’s what I started out doing and so the company that does ‘Arthur’ were the first to let me into the business. Then my first acting job was ‘Lassie,’ but yeah, I think ‘Arthur: The Movie’ is a rumor,” she says, bringing the answer full circle.
Reveal a behind-the-scenes secret from the set of ‘American Dreams’! ”Well, Geri Halliwell (‘Ginger’ Spice) was supposed to come on for episode 125; our finale episode, and at the last minute she couldn’t do it! So, they then didn’t have a performer for ‘Bandstand’ and so we had to reschedule all the ‘Bandstand’ scenes and everybody was in a panic! It’s hard when you have singer scheduled and then at the last minute they pull out, but on the very last ‘Bandstand’ day Kelly Rowland (Destiny’s Child) came in at the last minute and it just turned out to be so much better! Because the whole final episode was all about the Philadelphia riots and she sang ‘Nowhere To Run’ which was just perfect for what was going on!”
So what’s this about you aiming to receive a degree in Architecture? ”Oh yeah, I just love everything about it. I’ve always been fascinated by it and with it. I’ll just get up one morning and I’ll have the urge to draw, or plan, or design something! I’ve already designed three full houses! I have little sketches of rooms that are not just decorated. They’re architecturally different from regular rooms. I have this one, two-floor room that’s got a net in between the two floors and the top floor is a rock climbing room! And so, if you fall, you fall in the net, but the net also has this thing that comes up the walls so you can get from top floor to bottom floor without hurting yourself. I just love designing stuff, but I need to know how to put it all together and know the physics of it all. Otherwise, if I build it, it’ll all fall apart! So, I hope to go to college and study design and architecture and hopefully one day build some of the houses that I’ve got in my head.”
What is the most interesting thing to know about you? ”That I have all my movie stubs from when I went to my first movie in the theatre … which was a cartoon like ‘The Lion King’ or something! I have all those movie stubs, and I knit like scarves and sweaters, and I used to collect coins! But, I left my coin collection in Canada because it’s so heavy now I can’t bring it anywhere. It’s huge! It’s kinda funny, because when I moved to Los Angeles I left my whole life back in Montreal. So all my stuff is there. I just see all this as a new adventure for me and I’m not gonna bring stuff from home to here because I’m gonna get new stuff here, you know. “
But, do you have a treasured possession that you definitely couldn’t do without and that had to make the journey with you? ”My dog,” she laughs. ”She’s a black, fuzzy, poofy Toy Teacup Poodle and her name is Marci! And she’s gonna be four years-old on June 25th! I always celebrate the dogs birthday,” she laughs again. ”Yeah, I throw her birthday parties and I make her cupcakes!”
Finally, do you have a recurring nightmare?! ”Oh, my God. I constantly have dreams about being chased by a cheetah and then having to give in because he’s just way faster than me! Constantly, and I don’t understand why, but I constantly have cheetah dreams! And they’re so weird. Like, I’ll be walking in a school, or talking to a teacher and out of nowhere comes this cheetah and everyone goes, ’The cheetah’s hungry! The cheetah’s hungry’ and then I have to start running. And then I’ll run for maybe five minutes, but then I’ll be so tired and then I’ll just all like collapse and then he gets me! Then I wake up!!”
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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