LYNDON SMITH: STEPPING UP

LYNDON SMITH: STEPPING UP

featured in BELLO mag issue #163.

Written by Brent Lambert

If you look up the term ‘rising star’ in the dictionary you will find a double-page spread featuring the one and only Lyndon Smith. Her acting career is filled with an impressive list of appearances in series such as Lethal Weapon, Outcast, and Colony, as well as features including Secret In Their Eyes where she co-starred alongside Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman. Now in her latest movie, Step Sisters, which just began streaming on Netflix, Lyndon’s stepping up a few more rungs toward the top of the Hollywood ladder.

Your new movie Step Sisters is now streaming on Netflix. Talk about your character Danielle and how you prepared for the role?

Danielle is the Queen Bee Tyrant of the Sigma Beta Beta sorority. She’s egotistical, cut-throat, and rules with an iron fist. But when her chapter’s charter is in danger of being revoked, she begrudgingly has to work alongside Jamilah in order to rehabilitate the image of the sorority by competing in a charity step show. And along the way, the audience gets to see how a wider cultural awareness and the sisterhood that emerges among the girls really changes her. My preparation for the film was actually super limited. I was the last person to be cast, and all of the other girls were already in Atlanta learning the routines. I literally got the call (while I was in the gym no less) of like, “Heeeey, you booked this job and your flight leaves in six hours,” and then it was all about playing catch up. I landed and went straight to work with our choreographers who were, bless their hearts, SO patient with us. Let me also add that none of us were really dancers. It wasn’t even part of the auditioning process. So the first week was essentially boot camp. We stepped about six hours a day, licked our wounds at night, and were back at it the next morning.

The film gives us a glimpse at sorority life in America. What would you describe as the biggest take-home message of the film?

At first glance, the movie looks like a fun, silly, popcorn flick about college life and stepping, with a tone in the vein of Bring It On or Pitch Perfect. And it has a lot of that, sure. But it is also extremely self-aware. The stepping and the collegiate humor are vessels for some pretty deep themes about cultural exchange, recognizing individual prejudices, and the strength in sisterhood. I’m drawn to movies that use humor as a device for a greater message. It sort of candy coats a pill that maybe people aren’t ready to swallow. You’re extending a message without preaching. It makes the roots of the story more accessible.

What were your thoughts on sorority life before you started work on Step Sisters, and what are your thoughts on it now?

I was never involved in the Greek system during college, and frankly I kind of rolled my eyes at it. I didn’t have many strong female relationships growing up. I went to a rather bougie private middle school and I assumed sororities were basically a replica of that experience — a breeding ground for narcissism and unhealthy competition with other girls and would ultimately end in self-loathing. But one of the things I learned during this movie was how, historically speaking, sororities were built to provide community and sisterhood, and to create a safe space for those involved. Now, how they’ve evolved or devolved is a case-by-case basis. Would I go back to my college Freshman year and join one? Probably not. But I do have a greater appreciation for the history of the organizations. Also, now that I’m older and I have my ride-or-die girl gang, I recognize how much those bonds have enriched my life. I’m supportive of any organization that has sisterhood at its core and has the ability to promote girls championing other girls.

Supportive sisterhood is front and centre right now with the #MeToo movement. Do you feel this movement has already effected permanent positive change, or will that change only come with constant #MeToo pressure applied every single day for decades to come?

It’s a little bit of both. Hollywood has changed forever. Between the waves of allegations that united us, the shared sorrow of the #MeToo movment, the momentum created by Times Up…there has been a seismic ripple in our industry. It’s a historic moment, and I do believe that it has and will continue to birth permanent change. But then at the same time, I also have to take a step back and recognize the bubble that I live in, being both in the industry and also just living in Los Angeles in general. The past election was proof enough of this bubble. #MeToo is not a conversation that is happening everywhere. There are parts of the country that aren’t having these conversations. And I think that is the difficult part of the mission. How can we be agents of change outside of our bubble? And that is where applying the pressure, as you say, and not letting the cause be just a hashtag that fizzles out and no longer “trends” comes into play. This has to go beyond a trend.

You co-starred alongside Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts in the film Secret In Their Eyes. What were some things you learned during that experience working with such huge icons?

The funny thing about working with “icons” is that I often find they are the most down-to-earth and genuinely kind people to work with. They aren’t posturing or trying to prove their status. That is always a lovely reminder. Just be kind. And always learn people’s names. It’s such an easy thing to do, and it goes a long way. Especially in an industry that more often than not feels like a giant revolving door. Calling someone by their name is an example of respect that does not go unnoticed.

I noticed on your Instagram that you recently became a homeowner. What was that experience like, and what advice would you give to any prospective buyers out there?

Oh wow. Well, look, it’s super rewarding to finally be a homeowner. I’ve dreamed of it my whole life, and it is certainly a milestone. But real talk, it’s also a daily source of my anxiety. My husband and I bought a fixer-upper because we believed we were Chip and Joanna Gaines. Spoiler: we aren’t. Or maybe we could be with the budget of a major network behind us. But again, not our situation. The renovation was rocky, to say the least. But, and I do mean this honestly, I look around our home at least once a day and I’m truly proud of what we are creating and the memories we are making here. It’s a special feeling. My advice to prospective buyers would be to just remember that it should be a joyful process. It won’t be at times. Many times, really. (Side note, we lost out on like six homes before an offer was accepted. It feels like crap). But just keep doing your thing and try to remember the joy.

As you look back on 2017 and look forward to this new year ahead, what was the most important lesson you learned from last year that you want to apply to your life in 2018?

To remember that goals can’t always be achieved in a year. I hate Januarys. Always have. And I think I realized this year why I hate Januarys so much. Because January is when we are supposed to be setting our intentions for the upcoming year. But ultimately, you just end up reflecting on what you didn’t accomplish the year before. I have a tendency to beat myself up over that, and going into 2018 I’ve made a conscious effort to not put that type of pressure on myself.

Imagine you won the Powerball lottery of $500 million, and suddenly you never had to work another day of your life. What do you think you would devote the rest of your life to?

I’d still work. Am I doing it wrong? I just really love my job! But I would have a house on Kauai.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. What is your definition of true romance?

True love is allowing someone to take the first bite of your food until the day you die. I don’t remember where I heard that, but I can’t think of anything more romantic.

Photography TJ Manou

Stylist Franzy Staedter – Assisted by Anna Hattis

MakeUp Ashley Humphreys

Hair Mishelle Parry

About The Author

Aleksandar Tomovic
Editor in Chief

French photographer (of Serbian Origins) lives and works in Los Angeles. Known for his celebrity fashion editorials and recognized around the world for his european esthetics and american efficiency.

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