Part of being a TV actor, Lauran September says, is consuming a steady diet of TV.
“You have to watch everything to know the voice and the tone and the clip of the language,” September says. “Any particular writer’s writing has its own style and essence.”
That said, when asked what prepared her for her role in the new HBO drama “Sharp Objects,” she says it was growing up in Bardstown.
The story is set in the small town of Wind Gap, Missouri. Amy Adams plays Camille Preaker, a Wind Gap native who is a reporter at a St. Louis newspaper. Her editor sends her home to investigate a series of murders in the sleepy little town, which brings up a lot of ghosts for her.
As Angie, September plays one of Camille’s childhood friends in three episodes of the show, starting Sunday night. The series premiered last Sunday, July 8. One of the other actors on the show is Frankfort native Will Chase, who plays the father of one of the murder victims, and September says casting director David Rubin recognized early on that they understood small-town life.
“People love to gossip,” September says. “Not a lot happens, so when something did, everybody wanted to talk about it, not necessarily in a negative way, but everybody wanted to talk about it.
“So when I was creating Angie, a lot of her character — this is terrible stuff that’s happening, but from her point of view and my point of view, it’s kind of exciting, because nothing ever happens in this town. Anybody from a small town can understand when anything happens, even bad things, you want to talk about it.”
September’s experience portraying small town life goes back to her days in the University of Kentucky theater department in shows like “Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean” in 2004 and in the Silas House play “The Hurting Part” in 2005. (She then performed under her birth name, Lauran Osborne. September is her middle name, after the Earth, Wind and Fire song).
Performing started very early for September, whose mother is a singer.
“I was tap dancing in the womb,” September says.
She remembers going to a festival her mother was performing in, and she wound up on stage singing Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All.”
“I think that’s when it started,” September says. “There’s like 2,000 people, and here’s this tiny little 4 year old who knew every lyric of her mom’s song, and you know, when you’re 4, you’re just fearless.
“I always knew I was going to be an entertainer.”
She lived in Lexington for a while, attending Morton Middle School from the sixth to eighth grade, before moving back to Bardstown and going to Nelson County High School, where she did a lot of musical theater.
She started at UK in studying voice, but found the operatic program didn’t suit her. Theater did.
“I fell in love,” September says. “Professors at UK exposed a whole different world to me.”
Unlike a lot of UK theater students who want to go on to professional careers, September moved to Chicago after she graduated, instead of New York. There, she did a lot of theater and sharpened her comedic skills in The Second City training program.
“I never felt overwhelmed in Chicago,” September says. “If anything, I felt free and unbridled and got to make mistakes and do great theater and make great friends and just live in a city.”
To her, moving from Bardstown to Lexington to Chicago was part of a process of moving up to “bigger ponds. And now I’m in the ocean,” she says of Los Angeles.
In nearly a decade in Hollywood, September has had her fair share of successes, including roles on Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” and NBC’s “Chicago Fire.” But in the audition process for “Sharp Objects,” she could feel things were changing. Instead of walking into a room of 12 people who looked like her, she was getting individual attention from Rubin, one of the most influential casting directors in Hollywood, whose credits include last year’s HBO hit “Big Little Lies.”
“I left that audition and felt really good about what I brought into the room,” September says. “I had a moment that ... I cried, because I was so grateful that I got to feel like an actor that day. It’s kind of tricky here. You don’t always get the most respect. The nature of these auditions is they don’t often instill you with a whole lot of confidence.”
After a period of occasional affirmations followed by long silences, she learned she got the part of Angie, which has her playing almost all her scenes opposite Adams, which she says, “is like a master class everyday.”
The part is half of a big July for September, who also has a recurring role on the fourth season of the Hulu hit, “Casual,” playing a Gordon Ramsay-style chef. It’s a show she had been watching for a while and really wanted to be on. But she acknowledges that getting the “Sharp Objects” role feels like a real career turn.
“HBO is an actor’s dream,” September says. “I have friends who were like, ‘You got an HBO?!’
“They do some of the best, interesting character work and exploration and writing. Their budget is as big as a network, but their material is intelligent and dense. It’s a creative milestone for me — a dream project in a world where I am very comfortable.”
▪ ”Sharp Objects” shows at 9 p.m. Sundays on HBO (Spectrum Ch. 700)
▪ ”Casual” season four premieres on Hulu July 31.