Laura Catalina Ortiz’s career in the entertainment industry started humbly. Who knew that young girl from Bogota, Columbia with aspirations of becoming an actress would move to California and eventually star in a T-Mobile commercial propelling her career to unexpected heights? Armed with a resume that includes portraying Ruby in Alexandre Aja’s remake of Wes Craven’s “The Hills Have Eyes,” Laura joined forces with friends Adam Green and Joe Lynch to bring the horror/comedy sitcom “Holliston” to life on television screens across America. With a cast that includes Green and Lynch, as well as Oderus Urungus of Gwar and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, Laura definitely has stories to tell. Steve Johnson of Icon vs. Icon recently sat down with Laura to discuss her beginnings in the entertainment industry, her influences, her love of the horror genre, and, of course, all things “Holliston.”
Where did you grow up and when did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
Originally I was born in Bogota, Columbia. I was there until I was 8. Then my mom’s job brought us to Rochester, Minnesota. So I grew up in the mid-west. The same kind of weather we are having right now, which is awesome. So yeah, I was pretty much a mid-west kid. My parents moved to Florida when I was 16. I knew that I wanted to move to either New York or L.A. to pursue acting. I was always pushing my parents to do that. I thought I could graduate early in Florida, so I did that. Then I got a full-time job and saved up a few thousand dollars. Then I moved out here when I was almost 18. It all sort of went from there.
What influences helped shape you, the actress we know today?
Oh my goodness! Definitely everyone I’ve worked with helped me grow. Definitely the horror world. That has affected my career in a really positive way. The first thing I ever shot was “The Hills Have Eyes.” I still keep in touch with almost everyone from that movie. From that kind of people … that’s how I met Adam Green from the show that I am doing now. Joe Lynch. James Gunn. Pretty much anyone in horror. They have become such good friends outside of work. They have definitely shaped who I am. I’m really lucky to have done a little bit of everything. Voice-over, comedy, commercials, and movies. My constants have always been the horror crowd, which I’m really happy with.
Speaking of horror films, do you have a favorite?
Oh my goodness! You know what? I’m a huge fan of the Stephen King TV movie “It.”
Yeah! It’s awesome!
I saw it when I was really little. I remember watching it on TV. I wasn’t very old when I first saw it. That’s the one movie that always gets me that I thoroughly enjoy horror-wise. I mean I enjoy a lot of them, but that one holds a special place in my heart.
You mentioned your work on motion pictures and television series. Is there a format you prefer?
A part of me likes movies a little bit more, but I don’t know if I’ve had a project that I haven’t had a great time on. They’re all so different. It’s great. I always leave with a new family from every show and project I’ve done, so I can’t say I prefer one over the other.
What can you tell us about Adam Green’s upcoming television series “Holliston” and your character Laura?
It’s a sitcom. It’s a comedy with a little bit of horror elements, which is why it’s on Fearnet. I’m nervous because Adam Green is sitting right behind me! [laughs] It’s about two guys that live on the east coast in the small town of Holliston. They are desperate to get out of town and make it. They just want to be horror movie filmmakers. It’s about that time in your life when it seems like everything should be going right, but it’s not. It has a lot of genre things in it, but it also has a lot of heart. I was talking about it yesterday, it’s a boys show and a girls show for so many different reasons. There’s so much heart and sensitivity. There’s blood and guts for the boys. There’s also blood and guts for girls. It’s got heart, sensitivity, romance and friendship.
Did you have any input into your character or was it laid out for you in the script?
Adam does such a really great job. We’ve all been really good friends for a while now. He wrote the characters specifically for us. At least for me, she definitely is a lot of who I was. It was definitely all his writing. We rehearsed so much that when we got there he really trusted us with the choices that we made. So we got to play around. A lot of ourselves and our own personalities are in our characters. I’ve said before that a lot of people think we are playing lesser versions of ourselves, but in my case I think I’m playing a better version of myself because I paint on the show. [laughs]
What was the biggest challenge in bringing the character from script to screen?
I just wanted to make the writer and director proud and those around me proud. That in itself is a challenge. To try and live up to them. The rehearsals really helped a lot. The fact that Adam was so good at writing. It was challenging in that we didn’t have that much time. We didn’t have a lot of things, but we made it work. Adam and Joe have been so great. It didn’t really feel like work. It felt like playing with friends. [laughs]
Adam not only directs the show, but acts in it as well. Was it difficult to adjust to Adam the director and Adam the actor?
No it wasn’t. He did everything. He was the director, the producer, actor. He was so easy. He trusted us so much. His crew … he uses the same crew for everything. It’s like a family. Everyone there from the camera crew to the actors were having such a good time. We have all at some point or another have worked together.
Dee Snider and Oderus Urungus of GWAR are on the show. Tell us a little about what it was like working alongside those guys.
They were so much fun. Oderus is really nice and so sweet. He didn’t have very much time to get through all of his stuff during the show, but he was so professional. His costume smelled kind of bad. [laughs] When he was done shooting … He’s this big rock and roll guy. I was waiting for this big rock and roll exit. Like something dramatic. He left us the sweetest drawing saying thank you and what a great time he had. [laughs]
Yeah! I was waiting for something very dramatic, but that drawing was so sweet. It was a big thank you from Oderus to all of us.
I wouldn’t expect that. It seems kind of out of place. I would expect something totally different!
I understand you filmed six episodes of the show. Can we expect more episodes in the future?
We sure hope so! I’m being optimistic, but I don’t see this not keeping on going. If I could do this for 10 years with these people I would feel very happy and fulfilled.
You guys are currently on the road promoting the show. What has that experience been like for you and what type of response are you getting?
It has been so amazing! It’s awesome! We came in Tuesday and we had a screening that day. Our flight kept getting delayed. We were supposed to get here with enough time to get off the plane and get to the screening. We ended up being two hours late to the screening because of the flight getting delayed and cancelled. So many things happened. People stayed. We played it for this crowd that had been waiting for a few hours. They loved it! They laughed! Really, the most special part of it all was yesterday we screened it in Holliston. We weren’t sure who was going to come. We didn’t know what to expect, but we had standing room only that night. We got a standing ovation. We played the pilot episode and episode three. We’ve watched the show and there are parts that we think are so funny, but we don’t know if they’re funny because we are friends and we have the same sense of humor. Hearing these people laugh at things that we didn’t know were funny or things that we were so hard on. People genuinely enjoyed it. Getting to talk to people afterwards … it’s been such a blast and such a blessing. It couldn’t be more amazing. I’m also with my best friends and travelling with them!
I imagine this tour has attracted some interesting people. Have you guys had any strange encounters with fans?
We haven’t had any strange interactions that I can think of. There have been so many different age groups. We try to ask that a more adult crowd come to the screenings because even though it is cartoonish, there is a little bit of violence in the show. Yesterday we had people probably anywhere from I would guess 15 years old to 80-year-olds and what not. Everyone definitely came and talked to us. We’ve been getting such a great response in such a huge age range of people. It’s really flattering and it really makes you know that you do have something special, which I think we do.
Where and when can people catch up with you guys on the road?
We go back to L.A. today and then we have an event in Anaheim at Wondercon. Booth 350 I believe. We have a signing in Chicago the week after that. We will be at Comic Con and I don’t know where else yet.
Your career has been very diverse already. Is there a genre or role you haven’t tackled yet that you would like to take a stab at in the future?
I don’t know. I’ve been really lucky in my career. I’ve been able to do everything from comedy, to drama, to horror. Getting a taste of it all, I don’t really have a favorite because they have all been so different, so right, and so wonderful to work on. I guess in the future I would like to be working with people I love on quality projects, whatever that may be.
Do you have any other film projects we should be on the look out for?
Not right now! I did “Chillerama” with Adam and Joe. That came out a few months ago. I have “Holliston” and that’s about it right now!
What do you consider the defining moment of your career so far?
Oh my god! It’s so hard because I’ve done so many different things. I did “The Hills Have Eyes,” which is where I met a lot of the people I’ve ended up working with. I also did a T-Mobile commercial when I first came out here that kind of put me on the map and led to a bunch of things. That commercial alone gave me a career in voice over. I would say it’s somewhere between “The Hills Have Eyes” and the T-Mobile commercial. Those two have opened so many different doors for me and have defined who and what kind of work I have done to this day.
What is the best piece of advice someone has given you along the way in your career?
Probably that auditions and work will always be there, but your family should come first.
That’s solid advice!
Oh yeah! [laughs]
Is that the advice you would give to someone who would like to get involved with the entertainment industry?
Yeah! I would say that there is no one way to go about this so that you make it. Work hard and don’t get caught up in the networking. People think that they have to go out and do all of these things. That helps a little bit. Be serious about it. Take classes. Nothing lasts without hard work. Work hard, always put your family first, and something will happen.
Do you have any last words for your fans?
Yes! Watch “Holliston” April 3rd! Call your cable network provider to make sure you get it!
Thanks for your time and have a good day!
Thank you so much!