OINTB Star Recalls Casting Jennifer Lawrence Her First Movie Role

Photo: James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock.
Long before she was an Oscar winner, Katniss Everdeen, or even the strong-willed Ree in Winter's Bone, Jennifer Lawrence got her first big-screen role in a small film by Lori Petty, best known at the time for her role in A League of Their Own. Now, many of us know Petty as well-meaning, schizophrenic inmate Lolly on Orange Is the New Black. But Petty will always think of Lawrence as a star whose potential she saw early on.

"I cast Jennifer Lawrence in her first film," Petty told The Huffington Post. "I wrote and directed The Poker House with David Alan Grier. When I saw her tape, I was like, 'Well, dammit, now I’ve gotta cast her. There’s our star.'"

Petty thought Lawrence's success was destined to happen. "Sexy, blond hair, camera loves her," Petty said. "She has no fear of the camera whatsoever — she doesn’t even act like it’s there. The camera just eats her up. Her instincts are on point. I taught her a lot in three months. I’m not taking any credit, but I’m just saying that I had to give her a lot of things that people taught me."

There's one skill in particular a teenage Lawrence needed to learn quickly on that set: how to use a record player. "I said, 'Baby, put the record on,' and she just kind of stood there like she didn’t want to look at me," Petty recalled. "I said, 'What’s the matter, honey?' She said, 'I don’t know what this is.' I said, 'Shit, I’m so sorry.' This is before records were cool again. She wasn’t an idiot — she was a teenager who never saw records before."

Petty told this Lawrence anecdote to prove that she has an eye for young talent, and right now, her eye is on OITNB co-star Samira Wiley. "The first time I saw [Wiley], before I was even on the show, I looked at her and I said, 'Look at this movie star,'" Petty said. "There are people who just hold the screen. Her eyes sparkle, and she’s just got it, whatever that 'it' is."