Take one look at Karrie Martin Lachney today, and you’d assume she always knew this would be her path: a Honduran-American from Louisiana making a name for herself in Hollywood, starring in the hit Netflix show Gentefied, and launching her own production company.
But when I ask Lachney if she had lifelong dreams to work in entertainment, she lets out a hybrid laugh-sigh. “Interesting story,” she says. “I should have known then what I know now.”
It’s not so much regret; rather, it’s respect for the journey and an understanding that you might end up somewhere radically different from the life you planned for yourself. For Lachney, 32, the original trajectory looked like it does for lots of people, especially children of immigrants: You go to college, find a good job, get married, buy a house, and have kids. These are the general expectations.
“In the South, it’s small towns, and you kind of grow up in little bubbles,” Lachney says. “The agenda is already made up for us.”
She attended Louisiana State University with the initial hopes of becoming a lawyer. “I wanted to be like Elle Woods,” she jokes. “I should have known then that all I really wanted to do was portray all these characters in film or TV and tell beautiful stories.”
In college, one of her sorority sisters was a theater major. It was Lachney’s first exposure to a creative career. “I kid you not, I was like, ‘You can do that,’” she recalls. After attending her friend’s shows, she felt inspired. Lachney swiftly enrolled in an English drama course and was hooked. She wanted to take acting classes, but she wasn’t sure who or what to look for on this newfound journey. So, like most curious millennials searching for answers, she turned to Google. Online, she found Judd Lormand, then an acting coach and now a series regular on the show SEAL Team, and began taking classes at his studio.
When Lachney didn’t land an internship after graduating college with a nutritional science degree, she took it as a sign that acting was more than an enjoyable pastime—it was a road she needed to follow. “That’s when I was like, ‘OK, I’m just going to surrender to this.’” She continued to take acting classes in New Orleans, and in 2012, she felt ready to take what she had learned to Los Angeles. “We were like, ‘We’re just gonna try this for six months,’” Lachney recalls of the big move she took with her sister. Time passed, and she eventually landed a job at Betty Mae Casting, a casting center where actors film self-tapes, practice auditions, and take photoshoots, while filmmakers book casting sessions and production meetings. “Honestly, it all came to life and into fruition when I started working there,” she says. “That place changed my life as an actor and as somebody just in this industry. I was able to see every side of it.”
Nearly a decade after climbing up the casting world ladder, Lachney landed her first lead role in Netflix’s Gentefied, playing queer Chicana artist Ana Morales. The hit comedy-drama follows three Mexican-American cousins chasing their careers while dealing with the realities of gentrification in East Los Angeles and the U.S. immigration system. Season 2 starts streaming on November 10.
“Ana is not afraid and is not ashamed of being unapologetically herself,” Lachney says of her role. “She takes that into season 2 by allowing herself to experience all the messy emotions of life, but she honestly hones that all in and focuses on keeping the family together. She’s taking the lead in her family this season.”
America Ferrera is an executive producer on the show, and she directed two episodes in season 1. For Lachney, a longtime fan of the fellow Honduran-American multi-hyphenate, working with the icon has been somewhat of a full-circle moment.
“I was such a fan of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books, and when they came to life and Ferrera was Carmen, it was so incredibly special,” Lachney says. “Working with her, it’s a dream. She was no-nonsense, but she also let us live in our space for every scene and allowed us the time to really drop into our characters.”
Off screen, the casting intern-turned-leading lady is injecting her Louisiana heritage into her latest venture. She just started a new production company named—what else?—Southern Ave.
“Street names in Louisiana are always super special, especially out of the French Quarter,” she says. “You have Magazine Street and Bourbon Street. It’s always been a thing here, and I love that. It felt right, it felt homey, and it felt like Karrie.”
For Lachney’s first producing project, an adaptation of the That Boy literary series by Jillian Dodd, she’s partnering with one of the executive producers of Gentefied, Teri Weinberg, who also produced Ugly Betty and The Office. “I’m so honored to work alongside Teri,” Lachney says. “She’s such an OG in this industry and really knows everyone.”
A bookworm at heart, Lachney is also looking forward to launching a book club on her social media accounts—tentatively titled The Bookshelf—where she’s hoping to stumble upon stories that she can both produce and act in.
“So many inclusive stories should be told in live-action form,” Lachney says. “Instead of us constantly repeating or doing remakes, let’s get some fresh stories out there. I love when my characters come to life. That’s what I’ve always loved about books: They’re adventures you go on without really leaving your home.”
From casting and acting to producing and book clubbing, Lachney is building a résumé to rival any A-list starlet. And who knows what’s still in store? She doesn’t feel like she needs to have it all figured out. After all, look where wandering down the unfamiliar path has taken her.