Born in Puerto Rico, Lisa Roumain grew up on the beaches of South Florida, where she spent her childhood dancing, playing soccer, drawing, writing and reading novels. After graduating from the University of Florida with a bachelors degree in Design, she worked briefly as an interior designer before she decided to pursue her dream of being an actress and began modeling and studying acting in Miami. Over the years, she has appeared in a litany of national TV commercials for brands including Nationwide Insurance, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and Disney, and has been featured in print advertising for Coca-Cola, Verizon, Wells Fargo and more.
In 2004, she had a small role in Kevin Smith’s Jersey Girl, and went on to appear in a series of independent films before singing on to take part in a top secret film project that would become the experience of a lifetime: James Cameron’s Avatar. Lisa was part of the exclusive Performance Capture Troupe, using her versatility to play multiple characters in the film, which was released in 2009 to critical acclaim and unrivaled box office success.
In 2014, Lisa received an Indie Series Award Nomination for Best Actress in a Drama Series for her work on Split, and she recently completed the dark comedy short Hurricane, a paranoia-fueled tale of family discord set during the Cold War. Written and directed by Christiano Dias, Hurricane will soon be appearing at film festivals across the country.
Aside from acting, Lisa is passionate about healthy cooking, exercise, dancing, home renovation, her husband and their two daughters. To learn more about Lisa, visit lisaroumain.net.
When and how did you first realize that you wanted to be an actress?
My mom has a few funny stories about me sneaking onto various stages when I was very young, at the ballet, on a kids TV show… so I’m pretty sure I knew very early on. I do have a very distinct memory of going to watch a production of West Side Story at the Elementary School that my mom worked at when I was about seven years old, and thinking, I WANT TO DO THAT!! I was absolutely mesmerized with everything about being on stage, and watching films like Star Wars and thinking that anything was possible if you could be in the movies. However, dreaming about it and actually thinking it was possible were very different things. For a long time, I thought it was something that could only happen to “other people.”
How did the opportunity to work on Avatar come about? What are your fondest memories of your time working on that film?
I had a dear friend who was working in Production on Avatar very early on, and at the time they were needing some “blockers” to go in and just work on location scouting (on virtual Pandora, of course!). They wanted people who were relatively tall and could move well. So she passed on my headshot (thank you forever JT!) and one day I get the call to audition, where I basically know nothing about the script or what I will be asked to do, except that I had to put on a mocap suit and become an “alien that moves in a feline manner.” After a very crazy audition of running and moving through an obstacle course and reacting to different scenarios, I was hired on, and eventually kept getting asked back to do more and more characters and ended up being in the “troupe,” which was a core group of about six-to-eight actors that basically created all of the Na’vi tribe and doubled all of the principal cast. It was absolutely the most challenging and magical experience. We were in this big grey warehouse, surrounded by this insane technology, playing like children in a surreal place that was beyond our imagination. There were moments in the “volume” where we as actors were so moved and transformed by the story we were telling, that I feel we all left changed. I made beautiful friendships, was awestruck everyday with the talented and kind cast and crew, and got to work with Jim Cameron, who is simply, the Master. He is truly one of the most absurdly brilliant people you will ever meet, and everyone is challenged and inspired to be their very best to just hang in his solar system. The awesomeness of being a part of Avatar will never be lost on me, I am so very grateful.
How did you approach your role in Hurricane? Did you have any particular goals for the character?
For Hurricane, I remember reading the script for the first time, especially the opening monologue by my character “Eva,” and simultaneously being completely delighted and totally worried. I was awestruck by her and was so worried about how I would be able to do the monologue justice, I felt like I was speaking for every frustrated wife at that moment! The script was so quirky, odd, hilarious and dark. It ignited so many emotions and was unique, yet it touched on some current relevant issues. I knew the challenge would be to ground this odd couple in the nutty circumstances, especially in a short film. It was important that Eva could have a razor sharp tongue but be vulnerable, and that there was a complex but true relationship between this married couple. Chris and I wrote very lengthy and detailed character descriptions and histories, and Corey Page, who played Oslo, and I wrote the story of how we met and what our life was like. Working with Corey was a huge gift, he’s so dynamic and truly a partner. Once I got in the room with Corey and David Jay (Benjamin), fireworks happened, I have serious love for those talented two! On the Production side, I had the unique opportunity to do the Production Design as well as the costumes, so I felt fortunate to be able to build “Eva” in many ways that I don’t normally get to in other projects. She was an absolute joy to play, Chris handed me a gem.
Hurricane is the third film you’ve worked on with Christiano Dias, after 2013’s King Eternal and 2014’s Monster in a House. How did you first become acquainted with Mr. Dias, and what do you enjoy most about working with him?
Mr. Christiano Dias… he is truly a wonder. I absolutely know that the day I walked into the audition for King Eternal, that my work/career went down a magical path. Firstly, King Eternal will be one of the sweetest and most close to my heart of my career. Chris is an incredibly humble, yet confident Director and he finds the most beautiful and imaginative ways to tell very simple and honest stories. He allows his actors to be true collaborators, and his generosity and kindness to everyone creates a set that is just a joy from beginning to end. When we did Monster in a House, it was an extremely ambitious endeavor, four days of lighting, staging, blocking, and rehearsals and one day, I repeat, one day to actually shoot because it was to be in one continuous take. It was technically a monster and Chris knocked it out of the park with a smile on his face always. His positive energy just radiates and everyone follows suit. Then you see his films and you are blown away with how visually stunning, honest, and special they are. He just REALLY gets it. When he shared Hurricane with me, and then asked if I would come on as Producer, I wasn’t sure he was serious, but I knew I would do anything he asked of me, and he asks so nicely! I am so very proud of what we did, I couldn’t have had a better first experience behind the camera. I’m fired up to do it again!
In your opinion, how much of acting is a learned skill, and how much is instinct and natural talent?
I think that Acting is surely a combination of being prepared technically, by studying, and then letting everything go in the moment. Living a rich life, doing things you are passionate about, experiencing love and pain are all things that layer us as human beings and as artists. Once you trust the life that is inside you, and the fact that the way you experience things is unique to you, then you can fully let yourself go to the places you need to go for your characters, share your perspective and do YOUR art. I feel like “natural” talent has something to do with actors who are just truly open to sharing who they authentically are. I think that is what people respond to. When I stopped asking what others wanted me to do, and I started doing what I felt was right with the roles I was playing, that is when things clicked, and when I truly felt like I had something to contribute. I think that lightbulb moment is sometimes hard to teach? Maybe it comes after the one millionth “no?” Experience is truly the best teacher.
Are there any actors or actresses who you would particularly love to work with one day?
Goodness, there are so many actors I admire and am just awestruck by. Women like Julianne Moore and Vera Farmiga are so inspiring and I just marvel at their work. I am absolutely dumbfounded by Aden Young, his work on Rectify is jawdropping. In fact, everyone on that show and everything about that show is a master class in filmmaking. To me, it’s perfect.
What’s the best film you’ve seen recently?
I think I just answered what the best TV show I’ve seen lately is :). But the best film? The last film that shook me to the core was The Revenant, because I literally was having a heart attack for the entire film. The sheer impossibility of everything from the story to the filmmaking was incredible. I recently watched a couple of indie films that totally rocked my world. Jane Wants a Boyfriend was just SO beautiful and The Invitation was electrifying, horrifying, and amazing. I could go on and on.
If you could offer one piece of advice to your 18-year-old self, what would it be?
I would tell myself, “Don’t say what everyone wants you to say, you have a voice, use it Girl!” It was hard for me to not be a “pleaser.” Ultimately, you end up disappointing everyone if you aren’t living your truth.
What are you working on next?
My next project is extremely exciting! I am working on a short film, which will be part of a feature anthology called Shallow Water, directed by the insanely talented Sandy Collora. It is a creature/horror/action film, and I am in beast mode right now, training and prepping for what will be a seriously wild ride! I’m going to be pushed to my limit, and that’s my favorite place.