published Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Teen has tunnel vision in acting pursuit

  • photo
    Lille Freeman, a senior at LaFayette High School, portrayed Milady in "The Three Musketeers." Freeman, who has extensive stage experience, has begun to branch out into film.
    Photo by Jake Daniels.
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ABOUT HER

School: Senior at LaFayette High School.

Siblings: Sister, Molly, 20.

Hobbies: Acting, playing flute and reading.

Favorite book: "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton.

Favorite role: Natalie in the independent film "Pisculi."

Dream role: Rose in "Titanic."

Seven years ago, Lille Freeman, 17, became convinced she was destined to be an actress, but her ambition has created the occasional logistical problem.

"She'll come to us and say, 'I have an audition tomorrow at 7 in Atlanta,' " said her mother, Charlotte Freeman. "Many of these things she finds on casting websites, [and] sometimes, I have to make the decision that I don't like something because it sounds questionable."

In the case of the Atlanta audition, which was for a public-service TV spot this summer, Freeman drove Lille two hours to find a casting call and became lost in Atlanta. An hour after they arrived, they were back on the road to their home in LaFayette, Ga. She didn't receive a callback.

Lille is undaunted by the rejection. Unsuccessful auditions are something most aspiring actors face, she said, but she prefers to treat them as opportunities for growth and stepping stones to other opportunities.

"It's very hard to get into this business," she said. "When I was in an acting class, they would give percentages of people who made it, and it's very little -- very depressing.

"[But] it's made me very determined because I would rather die trying to accomplish this dream than to do anything else," she said.

Lille traces her fixation with the stage back to a class play she acted in as a fourth-grader.

The play was based on "Star Trek" and lasted just 15 minutes, but Lille was terrified of spending any time in the spotlight. She was, as she described it, "very shy, like 'no friends' shy."

To prove to herself and her classmates that she was braver than anyone supposed, she tried her utmost to be energetic at a rehearsal. When her teacher praised her afterward, it was hugely motivating, she said.

"I was so proud at that moment," Lille said. "I was beaming with pride."

Shortly thereafter, Lille's father took her to a showing of "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith." After seeing Natalie Portman's performance, she said, she became hyper-focused on emulating her by becoming a film actress.

After her sixth-grade year, Lille's parents signed her up for a summer arts program at the Catoosa County Colonnade. Even though the program had activities across a range of performance styles -- including singing, mime and dance -- acting resonated with her the most.

In the last three years, Lille has had roles in several performances at LaFayette High School, including as the Mad Hatter in "Alice and Wonderland" and most recently as Milady de Winter in "The Three Musketeers."

Last year, Lille landed a part in a Stageworks Entertainment production of "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" at the Colonnade. Although it was a small role, her first part in a community theater show represented a turning point.

"I wasn't proud of myself so much as I was grateful," she said. "It was an answered prayer."

That role and her participation last fall in From the Stage to the Screen, a nine-month program to prepare stage actors for work in film, were steps to becoming a more serious actress, she said.

As part of the acting program, she was asked to research a topic affecting young people and then write, direct and star in a short film based on her findings. She chose anorexia for her film, "If I Should Die Before I Wake."

Since the end of the course earlier this year, Lille also was cast as the lead in "Pisculi II: Soror Mystica," an independent thriller film by Trannon Goble, a Dalton, Ga.-based writer and director.

Lille said the exaggerated emotions required in stage acting come naturally to her but are ultimately less rewarding than the subtlety required of film actors.

Despite the challenges inherent to working in film, however, Lille said she is more determined than ever to pursue an acting career.

That determination, more than any other quality she has, will see Lille through the tough times every actor faces, said Vince Stalling, who pursued an acting career with Crossroads Theatre, a Tony Award-winning company in New Jersey, before relocating to North Georgia.

"She's very wise for her age," he said. "A career in acting is possible for her, if she continues ... doing what she's doing right now by taking her time and not allowing situations or rejections to get in the way of her goal."

TALENT SHOW

Do you know a child age 17 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, email staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or call him at 423-757-6205.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...

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