Alexis Louder ’13 was a senior in high school when she performed her first monologue in drama class. The course was an elective — an “easy A” she had signed up for to balance the science and math she was taking on her path to medical school — but she didn’t skimp on her choice of text, an Act III speech from “A Raisin in the Sun.”
“I was shaking like a leaf,” she said during a recent visit to campus with her Great Dane, Hamilton. “I’m pretty sure that performance was awful, but I got off the stage and thought, ‘I really have to get good at this because I’m pretty sure this is what I’m going to do.”
She shifted her sights from doctor to actor and followed her older sister to UNC Charlotte, where she walked onto the track team as a seasoned high jumper. By her second semester, she had earned a track scholarship, which she kept until she graduated in 2013, often coming to theatre rehearsals with ice on her knees.
As her career has taken off, the combination of athletic and acting skills has come in handy, most recently in her leading role in the movie “Cop Shop,” where she plays Valerie Young, a rookie cop in Nevada who has “an insatiable thirst for justice.” Also starring Frank Grillo and Gerard Butler, “Cop Shop” will be released in 2021.
Valerie Young is her first leading role since she played Nina in the UNC Charlotte production of Chekov’s “The Seagull,” but Louder has had a string of supporting, guest star and recurring appearances in movies and television series, including HBO’s series “Watchmen” and theatrical release “Harriet,” NBC’s “Chicago PD” and Showtime’s “The Good Lord Bird.” She even had a small role in “Black Panther.”
During her hometown visit over Thanksgiving weekend – she lives in Atlanta now – Louder (and Hamilton) stopped outside Robinson Hall to chat about her growing career and her time at UNC Charlotte and offered words of wisdom for today’s theatre students. Here are some of her thoughts.
On “Cop Shop” and her first leading film role:
“I knew it was a lot to be a lead, but it wasn’t until I was highlighting my script and my highlighter ran out of ink that I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’
“The first few weeks of filming ‘Cop Shop,’ I was doing weapons training and going around with the technical advisor, who was a lieutenant for the Miami-Dade Vice Department.
“When it comes to excitement, ‘Tomorrow War’ (also releasing in 2021) and ‘Cop Shop’ brought me the most excitement because they’re action movies. I love action movies. I was able to use my athletic abilities that I have been training for since I was in middle school.”
On early successes … and a mistake:
“My first paid gig was ‘Good People’ at CAST (Carolina Actors Studio Theatre in Charlotte). My first paid gig on camera was a web series called ‘Acing the Undergrad,’ and it was to help high-schoolers prepare for college. It was a really cute series. I was going to be a theatre actress and use film to get back on stage, but then I started falling in love with film as I was doing it.
“When I first moved to Atlanta, I got an agent right away, but I had no connections there to know whether my agent was reputable or not, and I got scammed. I started taking on-camera classes at Drama Inc. I was growing my skills and technique. That’s where I built a community, that’s where I realized I had a bad agent.”
On playing Ruth Williams, the mother in ‘Watchmen’s’ opening sequence, which depicts the historical events of the 1921 Greenwood Massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma:
“’Watchmen’ was very challenging. As I was auditioning, I wasn’t sure what I was doing. They had a lot of secrecy, and the directions were very vague. At the callback, the director asked me if I knew what it was about, and I said, ‘No, they haven’t told me anything.’ She said, ‘Well, it’s about Black Wall Street and the massacre,’ and I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ I was actually doing a play called ‘Deep Greenwood’ that was about the Tulsa riots. It was so surreal.
“Afterward, I had the feeling that I booked it, and lo and behold, I got an email booking me.
“I had to learn the piano for that role. I had to get piano lessons, because I do not play piano at all.
“The whole series has a lot to do with trauma for generations. We knew what we had to do was difficult. Everything that you see on screen, the actors had to experience over and over. They set the tone very well for making the environment conducive to work. They had a pastor come out and bless the set. (For more about the filming of the opening sequence, see this article in Vulture.)
“It was one or two scenes, but people were moved by that opening sequence. I knew it was powerful, what we were doing.”
On the UNC Charlotte Department of Theatre:
“I found a good community here and made friends that I still am in touch with. The faculty were all very influential and inspiring. They took our career so seriously without taking it so seriously. They wanted us to learn.”
Some advice for current theatre students:
“Everyone’s path is different. Whatever your spiritual guide is, or your inner gut, it’s usually telling you the right thing, if you know how to interpret it.
“Don’t be afraid to say no, even when you’re at the ‘bottom,’ because if you don’t build up the habit of saying no to things that either cross your boundaries or don’t serve you, or don’t serve the community as a whole — whatever your guidelines are for yourself — then you won’t have the habit in the future. Build up that habit of learning your boundaries and knowing what crosses them and refusing to compromise.”
Photos: Alexis Louder and her Great Dane, Hamilton, during a recent visit to campus courtesy of Alexis Louder, and Alexis Louder in the opening scene of the HBO series “Watchmen” by Mark Hill for HBO.
Slider image (main Inside UNC Charlotte home page) by Daniel Cutts.