Actress Alexis Louder: "Experience Joy As A First Reaction"

Yitzi Weiner @ Authority Magazine
Photo byAuthority Magazine

If there is a way to get people behind the concept of your first reaction being joy in any circumstance. I know some people, even when good things happen, within five seconds, they’re thinking of where it can go wrong or how to remedy if this wasn’t the right thing, or whatever . But  if we force ourselves to experience joy as our first reaction in most things, then when those tough and dark times come and we feel incapable of feeling joy, we’ll have that muscle there that has taught us to feel joy.

I had the pleasure to talk to Alexis Louder. Alexis is an actress who is best known for 2021’s The Tomorrow War and Copshop, where Cary Darling of the Houston Chronicle and Michael O’Sullivan of the Washington Post singled out Louder’s performance in Copshop as “show-stealing” and “compelling”

Alexis can soon be seen alongside LaKeith Stanfield in The Changeling, Apple TV+’s upcoming drama series based on Victor LaValle’s bestselling book of the same name. The Changeling, from Annapurna and Apple Studios, is a fairytale for grown-ups. A horror story, a parenthood fable, and a dangerous odyssey through a New York City you didn’t know existed.

Other film credits include Black Panther, The Tomorrow War, and The Watchmen. Alexis will next be seen in the Universal film Violent Night coming out on December 2nd starring opposite David Harbour as Linda, Jason’s estranged wife. The latter is forced to spend the holidays at the house so that the couple’s daughter can have a lovely Christmas.

Alexis, thank you so much for joining us. Our readers would love to get to know a bit about your background. Can you share with us your origin story and how you grew up?

My origin story. I was raised in Charlotte, North Carolina with my mom and four siblings, and I was always taught that I could do anything I put my mind to. My mom always thought that I would be a doctor because I can do a lot of different things with my hands, like fixing things and doing hair and things like that. She was like, your hands are so gifted; you could be a doctor. I was on that path in high school, to major in Biology in university. When I went to my guidance counselor, she sat me down and said, “You don’t have any electives; you need to do your electives”. And I was like, “that doesn’t sound elective”. So the first one I chose was drama, I thought it would be easy. I started to fall in love with everything I was reading, and I had a monologue performance — my very first time being on stage. It was just for my class of maybe ten people, and I was shaking like a leaf. I was stuttering a bit, but I loved how it felt so much that when I got off the stage, I knew I had to get good at this so that people would ask me to do it again. It was a monologue from Fences, of all the monologues. I was new to the theater and I didn’t even know at the time all that I would have to offer, so I was like, oh, this one, I’ll do that. I got on the stage and realized all that goes into it, what I was missing, what I wanted to convey, and all that.

Then I decided that I would be an actor/doctor, I could do both, but at some point, I concluded that I didn’t want to be a doctor anymore. I decided to study theater at UNC Charlotte. I looked into a lot of conservatories I wanted. I was very ambitious. I even applied to NYU. after just discovering acting. I even got an audition, and I went to the audition shaking like a leaf again, and just not good. So they made the right choice, not letting me in. But at UNC Charlotte, I learned a lot, and they really cultivated and brought out a lot that was in me, and I grew so much there, learning about behind the scenes of theater as well as on stage, and on camera. it all affects what you do. My experience at UNC Charlotte was pretty amazing. When I graduated, I did some plays in Charlotte, but I was also working a full-time job for the city where I had benefits and all the things that an adult should have. I realized that I just needed to be able to do more art. I was trying to do theater after work and it wasn’t fulfilling me, nor working in any fashion. So then I started to travel back and forth from Charlotte to Atlanta, trying to get involved in their theater down there because I couldn’t afford New York and Los Angeles, and I found it very tight-knit. Nobody knew me, and I hadn’t built any community yet. And so I started to do background work. I was like, oh, I’m getting more opportunities in the tv and film arena, which I did not know you could skip over. I love theater. It’s near and dear to my heart still, I can’t wait to do another play, but I always thought that you had to become a famous broadway actor before you could do movies. I am still determining where I got that idea from, but we all have preconceived notions of how this industry works when we’re not in it. And then, once you’re in it, your eyes are open to so many different things. I ended up moving to Atlanta to pursue acting in film and tv. Then I did some bookings and things like that. But then I got this great opportunity to do a play called Deep Greenwood. It was for one weekend. I had two or three performances. I told the story of Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Massacre, and I had no idea about that. That’s how I learned about it. And then the craziest thing happened, I got an audition and callback for Watchman where I would be portraying a similar character, involved in the Tulsa massacre. So it was a full circle moment with my theater and film background, just blossoming together. Yeah, that’s my origin story.

You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. This may be hard to boil down, but can you share one or two of the most exciting or humorous stories since you began your entertainment career?

Oh, man. This story comes to mind because I was talking about this with a friend. When I was on N. C. I. S. New Orleans, and I was playing a corpse, and they cover you from head to toe in these layers of paint that give you the right color of the dead. And I got my makeup done, probably at nine in the morning or something like that. It took them a few hours to do it. And then I waited for maybe six hours to work, and I got bored quickly. But I will find ways to entertain myself. So I started planting myself around the studio as a dead body. I got one picture where I laid myself under a work truck and had a grand old time.

Another good story that I did not find funny at the moment, but while I was working on a violent night, we were up in Winnipeg, and it was cold. It’s like 20 below on average. And there’s this restaurant next to my apartment building. And when I got off work, I was like, all I want is a burger. I’m going to drop my stuff off and then go next door to get my burger. Well, I go downstairs, and I come up with a bright idea. I’m going to go the back way because if I go out the back, that’s a shorter walk outside. I’ll walk down the hallway inside to the other side of my building and then when I walk out, I’ll be right there next to the restaurant. Well, I get out there and realize that the door leads to the courtyard, and that courtyard is blocked off by a tall fence that I did not have the means to unlock. So I’m like, Oh dang — and in the courtyard, they’re not shoveling the snow because no one’s going out there, it’s 20 below, no one needs to hang out in the courtyard — the snow is up to my thighs, and I’m walking through like, oh God, let me go back to the door. I get to the door, it does not have a door knob on it, and it locks automatically. So then I went across the thigh high snow to another door, and I couldn’t get that door open either. And I stood there thinking I’m about to die — I was about to freeze to death. I can’t feel my fingers. I’m trying to dance to keep my body heat up. And then I see these guys upstairs in the building behind me, and I’m waving them down like help, help. And then they point to the left. I’m like, oh my God, I hope they’re not playing a joke. I walk over to the left side of their building — through the thigh high snow — and there was another gate that was utterly open. After like 30 minutes. I go inside their building. I had to take the elevator all the way down to the garage, walk across the garage (luckily that was heated), back to my building, take the elevator up and exit the front way — I was supposed to go — to get to the restaurant — because I still wanted my burger. All that for a shortcut. Now I can laugh at it. And the burger was delicious!

It’s been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our most outstanding teachers. Do you have a story of a mistake that you made when you first started? A humorous mistake and the lesson that you learned from it.

Many of the mistakes we make in scenes turn out to be more beautiful than what was written or what was supposed to happen. You see it all the time on those Instagram posts where they have from script to screen examples, those would be considered mistakes, but they bring so much more life to what we do. So we could take that into our everyday lives as well. It was probably supposed to happen if you accidentally gave a homeless person $20 instead of a five. I’ve made many mistakes, and once I learn from them, I’m like, oh, that’s not a mistake anymore.

We can only achieve success with some help along the way. Is there a particular person you’re grateful for that helped you achieve the success you currently enjoy? Please share a story about that.

I have the support of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And my mother who raised my siblings and I, by herself and supported us in every endeavor we wanted. When I switched from wanting to be a doctor to being an actor, she was on board and game. I appreciate her being there for me, especially during the pandemic. We lived together, so she was able to support me financially during that time. But even outside of that, she’s my biggest cheerleader. Whenever I’m doing something, she wants to be involved, she wants to be helpful in any way, and she wants to get the word out that, “my baby is in this movie.” When I started producing my work, she was like, “Oh, I hope you get to do this again because you did such a good job”. She’s very supportive of my endeavors, and I appreciate that for sure. I know not many people in this industry have that support system, so I’m grateful for mine.

You’ve been blessed with success in a career that can be challenging. As you know, one of the challenges of being in the entertainment industry is the constant prospect of rejection and disappointment. Do you have advice for those who want to follow a similar path for how to deal with the mental health challenges of being in an industry where there is constant rejection and disappointment?

I changed my perspective so that it’s not seen as rejection but more like it could be a blessing. It could be just putting you on your path. I also avoid taking the decisions people make for their projects personally. It’s as if you have a painter making a painting, and we’re all different colors. They’re going to choose — as you have lime green, you have hunter green, you have wintergreen, you have all these different shades of green and only the painter can decide what green goes best in the work of art they’re trying to make. it doesn’t make you any less green. It just makes you not the right fit for what’s being made. And so I like to think of it in those terms. Whenever I don’t get a job and I wasn’t the right one, I hope that whoever is in the position ignites the role and brings extraordinary life to the project. I’ve never felt out of place or like I was trying so hard to make something work. All of my roles have just felt like they fit, and that’s how I want to feel in any position I’m in, so that I can flow with what I do. My mind is not split in a bunch of different directions trying to make something work that maybe I shouldn’t have in the first place, because I’m forcing a yes in my direction.

That’s a great answer. Beautiful. So, let’s move on; let’s talk about your work. You have so much impressive work from Watchmen, The Terminal List, and The Tomorrow War. Can you share with our readers some of the exciting projects you’re working on now, or will be working on shortly?

I just finished working on The Changeling which will be on Apple TV next spring. It’s based on the novel by Victor LaValle. I’m really looking forward to that one, and then I have Violent Night out now. It’s one of those Christmas films that is dynamic and has all the elements that you want in a Christmas movie, but also all the elements you want in an action film. You laugh, it’s heartwarming, and there are some moments where you’re like, “Oh! Snap!” I think the premise is brilliant, it’s so unexpected, taking familiar things but twisting them in unexpected ways. I love the journey that we take with Santa and with my family as well.

Amazing. So, let’s talk a bit about Watchmen. Watchmen has been among the most popular, maybe the most, over the past years. So, what did you think captured people’s attention about the series?

Within just the first five minutes, it ignited something inside of people because no one realized that the Tulsa massacre happened in the States, and not many knew about it until then. And we were all forced to sit and deal with it because there were no distractions at that time. And so I think that was one aspect of it, and I think Regina King just brought so much beauty to a solid black female lead. And while being a “savior”, she was a woman. So I connected with Regina’s portrayal. That was the part that stuck with me. But also Damon Lindelof is good at writing and creating a world. And I know that he’s inspired by the graphic novel and got a lot from there. But, still, the world that he created and the pieces that he connected to make the whole season. It was pretty dynamic and daring. I haven’t seen all of tv in all creation, but I don’t feel like a lot of shows have done that or at least I haven’t witnessed it myself.

That’s a beautiful answer. I can keep going all day but I want to be respectful of your time. So let’s wrap this up. This is the signature question that we ask at all of our interviews. You’ve been blessed with so much success. Looking back, are there five things you wish somebody told you when you first started acting, and why?

1. Your value is not in your work; you determine your value. Find value in your diligence, perseverance, and love for what you do.

2. There’s a lot of waiting, waiting for answers, waiting to work, waiting for equipment. A lot of waiting.

3. Make time for yourself. Time for your craft, but also make time to relax. There are times when an actor can go months or even years without working and in that time we are trying to find work. And so some people may see that as you’re always on vacation. And that pressure to not enjoy yourself when you’re not working is very real. So that’s the third thing: to make time for self-care and rest.

4. Ask questions about your call sheet. If you need to learn what something means, don’t be afraid to ask or seem like a novice because that’s where all your information is for the day. You don’t want to get to set and not know what you’re doing because even if you have an idea of what you’re doing, but you don’t know the order of it or how things are going to happen, you will be very confused all day. So feel free to ask your A.D. Which is the assistant director or a P. A. to explain whatever you need help understanding.

5. Your no is very powerful; you can say no at any level of your career, you have to know what your boundaries are and respect them, and you have to be mindful of your mental and emotional health. As actors we’re expected to forgo our boundaries because our line of work is telling people’s stories as honestly as possible. But you know, you don’t walk into the bank and tell a banker to do something they’re uncomfortable with and then expect them to do it. Even taking the time to think about something before answering, you deserve that as a human being. You can question and consider something instead of just saying yes automatically.

That’s perfect. So this is our final question. Alexis, you’re a person of enormous influence; many people admire you and look up to you. If you could inspire a movement or spread an idea that will bring the most good to the most people; what would that be? You never know what your idea can inspire.

I don’t know if it’s a movement, but if there is a way to get people behind the concept of your first reaction being joy in any circumstance, because — many bad things happen. And so if, in the good — because I know some people, even when good things happen, within five seconds, they’re thinking of where it can go wrong or how to remedy if this wasn’t the right thing, or whatever — if we force ourselves to experience joy as our first reaction in most things, then when those tough and dark times come and we feel incapable of feeling joy, we’ll have that muscle there that has taught us to feel joy.

Excellent. How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

I’m @alexislouder on all platforms, and Azaziah Productions is my production company on youtube, where you can see some shorts that I have done, and stay tuned for future productions of mine.

Well, Alexis, thank you so much for this highly profound, thoughtful, and inspirational interview; I’ve done hundreds of interviews, but this stands out, and you do have to go.

Thank you so much. I wish you only continued blessings and success. I will watch your star continue to shoot up like a rocket.

Thank you, Yitzi.

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Yitzi Weiner is a journalist, author, and the founder Authority Magazine. He is also the CEO of Authority Magazine's Thought Leader Incubator, which guides leaders to become prolific content creators. Yitzi is also the author of five books. In 2017, he created the popular, “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” series that highlights the empowering lessons learned from the experiences of high-profile entrepreneurs and public figures. This series has inspired a mini-movement among writers, with scores of writers worldwide profiling inspiring people to share their positive, empowering, and actionable stories. A trained Rabbi, Yitzi is also a dynamic educator, teacher and orator. He currently lives in Maryland with his wife and children.

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