Could Lisa Joyce Be The Next Chicago-Born Hollywood Star?

Lisa Joyce recently got the kind of break that most actresses only dream of. The 31-year-old Chicago native was offered a starring role — sans audition — in André Gregory's staging of Ibsen's The Master Builder. That turned into an opportunity to showcase her talent on screen in actor/playwright Wallace Shawn's cinematic reworking of the tale. The film version, which director Jonathan Demme shot over the course of one week, is currently captivating audiences everywhere — quite possibly because of Joyce's breakout performance as Hilde Wangel, a beautiful, unhinged young woman, who is a stand-in for the Angel of Death.
While this may sound like an overnight success story, Joyce sharpened her acting skills at the DePaul Theater School and Steppenwolf Theater in the Windy City before landing a recurring role on Boardwalk Empire and hitting the big time. So, before she becomes untouchable, we caught up with Joyce to chat about how she's handling the recent attention, what she wears when she's not on screen, and why her favorite Chicago memory has something to do with the "Superbowl Shuffle."
Hair and makeup by Andrew Colvin.
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What are some of your fondest memories from growing up in Chicago?
"I remember doing the 'Superbowl Shuffle' when the Bears won in 1985. I don't follow sports, but my Bears nostalgia is so deeply ingrained that I'll be a fan for life."

How do you feel your education at the DePaul Theater School helped prepare you for your career as an actress?
"My training at the Theater School introduced me to a lot of different acting techniques, but didn't strictly advocate for one over the other. Basically, they gave me a variety of tools and then let me choose which ones worked best for me."

Vintage T-shirt and Madewell skirt.
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A lot of great talent has come out of the Steppenwolf Theater Company. What did you love about it?
"Steppenwolf has an incredible history of doing great ensemble-based work. I was thrilled and intimidated to be working there right out of college. I knew that I would have to rise up to the Steppenwolf standard — and that that was a very high bar."

Take us back to that meeting you had with director André Gregory [for the stage version of A Master Builder] when he offered you the role of Hilde.
"I knew he was an iconic director, so I was nervous going into the meeting. But, he couldn’t have put me more at ease. He offered me tea and we talked for a half-hour about our lives and what I thought of the play. It was a lovely, fascinating conversation, but I had no idea it would result in a leading role in a film."
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What did you do to prepare for the movie role? Where there any changes to your character, Hilde, or the story itself?
"Wallace Shawn's adaptation differs from the original in that the main character is introduced on his deathbed and Hilde visits him as a dream figure, thus making the story explicitly about confronting his mortality. As far as preparation, we rehearsed for about two years — which is unheard of for most theater productions. So, the luxury of that time allowed me to really explore the character. I also read a biography of Ibsen by Michael Meyer that gave me a lot of insight into who Ibsen was and what he was grappling with when he wrote the play."
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We heard you filmed the movie in one week! What was that process like? How did you manage to maintain your stamina?
"It was a marathon, but so exciting that I barely slept during the week of shooting. I think we were all running on adrenaline by the end of it."

Vintage dress and jewelry.
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You have some pretty intense encounters with Shawn. Was that awkward considering the age difference between the two of you?
"The shock of the age difference is a huge part of the story and I knew that going into it. But, as I became more and more immersed in the role, I thought about it less and less."

What’s one word of advice that director Jonathan Demme gave you for playing the role of Hilde?
"Jonathan emphasized honesty and spontaneity. Being alive in the moment and not trying to manufacture anything. He and Andre are very similar that way."
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Do you remember watching Wallace Shawn when he was in The Princess Bride? What were your thoughts back in the day?
"I actually don’t remember watching The Princess Bride growing up, but I DID watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and thought Wally's character Zek was hilarious!"

Since you were previously on the show, any predictions for what will happen on the final season of Boardwalk Empire?
"There will be blood!"
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How are you handling all of the media attention you’re getting lately?
"It's a bit surreal because I'm relatively private, but this film was such a labor of love that I’m hugely grateful that people are interested."

A.P.C. dress and Joie shoes.
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How would you describe your style off-camera?
"Since I dress up for a living, I like to be as comfortable as possible when I'm on my own. I wear lots of button-down shirts and oversized sweaters. I'm on the shorter side though, so I do splurge on high-heeled boots from time-to-time. That's part of what I love about New York; you can wear jeans to just about every occasion if you have the right pair of shoes to dress them up."
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How do you think your style has evolved since you started acting?
"I appreciate how an outfit, like a costume, can change one’s attitude. If I want to feel a certain way for a certain event, I’m much more conscious of how clothes can help me get there."

When do you feel your best?
"In my pajamas!"
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Now that you're 31, what’s something you learned about life in your '20s?
"I'm responsible for my own joy."

Do you have any celebrity crushes — or someone you’d love to work with?
"Oh, where do I begin! There are so many amazing women who I’d love to work with: Frances McDormand, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett... the list goes on and on. As far as directors go, I’m a huge fan of David O. Russell and P.T. Anderson. Getting to work with either of them would be incredible."

Comptoir des Cotonniers one-piece and A.P.C. shoes.
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What's the biggest shopping splurge you've ever made, and what prompted the purchase?
"I bought a pair of fierce Yves Saint Laurent boots at a sample sale. They fit and I just had to have them."

You have gorgeous naturally curly tresses! What do you do to take care of your hair?
"Ha! Pray that it doesn't rain! No, seriously, I'm actually learning that the less I do with my hair the better because it basically has a mind of its own. I use Aveda styling products when it’s wet and then Bumble and Bumble Semisumo Wax to tame the frizz when it’s dry. But, mostly I just let it be free."
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What are you looking forward to? What’s next for Lisa Joyce?
"I actually just got engaged, so I’ll be planning a wedding at some point! Also, I recently finished my first screenplay that I’m hoping to develop into a film within the next year. And, of course, encouraging people to check out A Master Builder!

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