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Athlete-Turned Actress Lauren E. Banks Takes Her Skills from the Court to the Set

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Lauren E. Banks, a stand-out basketball player-turned drama student, co-stars in Showtime’s “City on a Hill.”  And, even though she was a star athlete – the captain of her basketball team, in fact – she chose to let the court go to pursue an acting career.

Banks explained, “The summer before my junior year at Hillside High School in Durham, North Carolina, my dad sat me down at the dinner table and told me I had too much on my plate.  I was captain of our undefeated basketball team and the newly appointed president of the drama club, and he suggested that I needed to focus on one or the other…I chose the theater.  Deep in my heart, it was clear that my passion for acting, writing, and directing had outgrown my love for basketball.”

Once at college, however, she realized although she no longer played sports, she missed playing ball.  And, recently, she realized it actually had helped to prepare for her future career.

The actress said, “What I didn’t realize until recently…is that being an athlete made me a better actor; I had unconsciously taken all of my energy and habits from being on the court and threw them into my pursuit of working and performing on the stage.”

Athletes are used to hard work, of course, including teamwork, constructive criticism, and discipline.  Tus, she navigated seamlessly through the entertainment world, taking on various roles that helped to further build up her confidence.  When Banks was offered a position as a series regular on “City on a Hill,” it was a dream come true, and she knew she would have to up her game.

Banks recalled, “It was the first pilot I’d ever shot and the first time I’d completed a season of anything that wasn’t a sport.  The learning curve was steep, but I realize there have been strong correlations all along between my success in acting and my background as an athlete.”

She offered a couple of must-have principles to live by learning during her basketball days, including “the body is the source” and “process the process.”  In other words, Banks explained, “How I treat my body directly impacts my acting, not to mention the longevity of my life and career.  If I have a stiff instrument, I will more often than not make limited and contrived choices; a flexible instrument, on the other hand, will give way for fluidity and spontaneity.  If I’m not breathing, inspiration doesn’t exist.  If I lack sleep, hydration or nourishment, I’m challenged by critical thinking and my body does not perform at the height of its potential for a scene, much less a 12-hour day.”

She added, “In sports, one’s natural ability will only take them so far.  After a certain point, they must hone a consistent regimented process to achieve success on a high level.  The same is true of acting.  I’ve spent the last six years, between the end of undergrad and the duration of my graduate training, consciously cultivating and strengthening my process for acting, making adjustments as I go.”

Kevin Bacon even helped her to “process the process.”  Banks says, “[He] pointed out to me during one of our first days of filming that, contrary to popular belief, we don’t spend the majority of our day acting; we’re only actually acting in the small moments framed by the words ‘action’ and ‘cut.’   We actually spend the majority of our time in process.”

This has helped her excel in her role on the series, proving Banks can be an all-star in anything she pursues.

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