Talking Nightcap With Actress Lauren Blumenfeld

What can you tell us about your character?

I play Penny Jones on ‘Nightcap.’ She is the assistant to Staci (the brilliant Ali Wentworth), who is the talent booker on a fictional late night show. Penny has a heart of gold, a penchant for adorable animals, a weak immune system and a deep love for her boss. She is eager to please and extremely suggestible. I love playing Penny because no matter how bizarre the situation or predicament, she approaches everything with deep and unwavering sincerity.

How did you prepare for the role?

‘Nightcap’ was initially pitched to me as a highly improvised half hour comedy. The audition process had been primarily improvised (unscripted), meaning that I’d get a bit of information and then improvise a scene with Ali. It was thrilling and terrifying. When I found out I was cast, I was super excited and then I freaked out. I come from a theatre background and though I love improv and have taken some classes, I would not consider myself a master improviser. I worried about keeping up with the talented cast and being funny. I realized that in order to alleviate some of this pressure, I had to flesh out my character and get extremely specific about Penny’s likes, dislikes, behavior, physicality, fears, ticks etc. I figured the better I knew my character, the less worried I’d be about improvising and being funny and the more sincere I hoped my performance would be. Interestingly once we started shooting, the show became largely scripted. I was still grateful for my preparation but quickly learned that I had to be flexible, open, and unattached on set because despite having scripted lines, we had so many opportunities to play and at any moment, I had to be prepared to abandon a funny line or idea in service of the story or someone else’s even funnier or better idea. Listening (which is always important) became even more important on set.

Where would you like to see the show and your character evolve to next, as there are so many great opportunities I am sure you can explore.

I’m really excited to explore Penny’s life outside of the office. In Season 1, we got to know the characters in their work environment. I think there are great opportunities for comedy, complexity and even heartbreak when we catch glimpses of the characters at home, on dates or doing mundane daily activities. I would love to see where Penny lives (or if she just sleeps under her desk). And I’d love to see Penny in a romantic relationship and see what that might do to her already unhealthy, codependent relationship with Staci. Also, I love physical comedy and think it would be fun for Staci and Penny to take a dance class or aerobics class together. I can’t imagine it would go well.

What was working with your cast like and any special moments from filming you can share?

The cast of ‘Nightcap’ is very silly and genuinely lovely. We were all crammed onto the eleventh floor of a midtown office building for two months in the dead of winter, so we got really close really fast. There was always a lot of laughter and support on set. Since we are all far less famous than our celebrity guest stars, we spent most of the shoot being totally starstruck. Jacob Wallach (who plays Randy) is a diehard Howard Stern fan and nearly exploded when Beth Stern (Howard’s lovely wife) was on the show. We all lost our minds when Whoopi Goldberg visited. And it was insane getting our hair put in cornrows for Whoopi’s Lice/Racism episode. Fun fact: this cast includes some real white wine enthusiasts and at the end of the week we would often go to our favorite Midtown bar at the West Bank Café for a glass of Pino Grigio and a side of fries.

How did you get into acting and what was your big break?

When I was very young I told my parents that I wanted to be a set decorator (an unusual choice for a four year old). I would spend hours creating involved and bizarre sets in my bedroom. When I was in kindergarten, a brilliant storyteller named Kathleen Zundell visited my school with her puppet, Herbert. She told amazing stories and all I ever wanted to do from that point forward was to act out the stories she told. I would make my own sets and then perform weird one-person shows or enlist friends to play the other parts. Around that time, I followed a friend to an acting class and I was hooked. A casting director happened to drop by that first acting class and asked me to audition for the film “A Little Princess.” My supportive parents let me audition and I got a part playing one of the many schoolgirls dressed in green in the film. I wish I could say that my five line role as Rosemary in “A Little Princess” jumpstarted my career and I haven’t looked back since, but the truth is that my career has been a true “slow burn.” I attended the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA) and then NYU, performed at the Williamstown Theatre Festival for many summers, made my own work at Ars Nova and eventually booked a play on Broadway after years of working odd day jobs and just hustling. I always imagined booking one part would be my big break, but the reality is that my career trajectory has been far slower and more gradual.

What do you look for when you consider a part?

I first read the script to see if it’s a story that I’m interested in being a part of telling. At this point in my career, I haven’t had a ton of opportunities to play the lead and honestly the size of the role doesn’t entirely matter to me. I tend to be attracted to characters with big hearts. I do quite a bit of comedy and love it, but it’s very important to me that the characters I play not be the joke. I understand that certain comedic characters function as seasoning within the larger story and may initially appear one-dimensional on the page, but I’m interested in challenging this notion. I think it’s possible to be funny and complex and also a little sad all at once. No matter how silly or strange the character appears in the script, I look to see if there will be opportunities to deepen and humanize this person. If I can see opportunities for depth and complexity, then I’m in.

What do you like to do in your free time?

This year I’ve been splitting my time between Los Angeles (my hometown) and New York (where I’ve lived for over a decade). When I’m in New York, I love to volunteer at The 52nd Street Project, an organization that pairs theater artists with amazing kids in Hell’s Kitchen. I’m also a Smart Partner at the Project, which means that once a week I get to hang out with the most amazing 14 year old, Karen. The Project has been a huge and important part of my life over the past ten years. When I’m in Los Angeles, I love to hike, hang with my family, practice yoga and craft whenever possible.

What other projects do you have coming up?

I just finished shooting the new legal drama, “Doubt,” which premieres on CBS on February 16th at 10 PM. It stars Katherine Heigel, Dulé Hill, Laverne Cox and Elliot Gould. The show follows a team of brilliant defense attorneys who represent a wide array of underdogs in New York City. I play Katherine Heigel’s assistant, Lucy Alexander. Lucy is not the sharpest knife in the drawer but no one at the firm can bring themselves to fire her. In February, I’ll be back to work in New York shooting the second season of “Nightcap.”