Lauren Buglioli is starring as Margaret in Tyler Perry’s upcoming film ‘A Jazzman’s Blues’, which was released on Netflix on 23 September. You can also catch her in Netflix’s ‘Florida Man’ opposite Edgar Ramirez and Apple TV+ ‘Bad Monkey’ with Vince Vaughn, both scheduled to premiere later this year.

Lauren, you’re starring in Tyler Perry’s drama ‘A Jazzman’s Blues’, which follows an investigation into an unsolved murder, unveiling a story full of forbidden love, deceit and a secret. Tell us more about this film, its story and working with Tyler Perry.

Mr Perry wrote this story 27 years ago and waited for the right moment to bring it to life. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking love story. Please have tissues at hand ready. Working with Mr Perry was an absolute dream. The empire he has built is endlessly inspiring and that set was electric. The combination of the story, the passion of Mr Perry and his team and the talent of the ensemble of actors he assembled made this experience unforgettable.  

You started acting as a toddler, then moved to UK and became an accomplished equestrian, while also being succesful on stage and on screen. What attracted you to acting?

I  was born in Los Angeles and my mom had me start auditioning for commercials as a kid. She always told me if I wasn’t having fun, we’d stop going to auditions, but I loved it. She still reminds me to have fun to this day, which I’m so grateful for. I took a break from the industry to get a degree in early childhood education and special education and spent some time teaching, but ultimately I love this business and performing so much that I luckily found a way to act and work with children through coaching and teaching drama. I love storytelling, people fascinate me and I love that this work requires me to continue to grow as a human in order to grow as an artist. I’ve found there’s a lot of self-reflection and mindset work required in order to be happy and healthy within the industry and I actually really enjoy that process.

How has your career in acting shaped and developed from the moment you made a choice to pursue this career?

It’s been a journey. I think I had a lot of fear for a long time that made me reticent to go all in on acting. Moving through that fear and acknowledging when it still comes up is the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. I feel most alive when I’m pursuing the thing I love and I try to remind myself that “fear is just excitement without breath”. Having an unshakable belief that things are unfolding exactly how they are supposed to has been the biggest change and development for me personally. That is a practice, for sure.

Later this year, we’ll be also able to see you in Netflix’s series ‘Florida Man’ about a struggling ex-cop forced to return to his home state of Florida to find a Philly mobster’s runaway girlfriend. What can we expect from this series?

You can expect hilarity and Florida debauchery. I play a local Orlando newscaster, Kaitlin Fox, who gets wind of some nefarious behavior and wants to break and leverage a story to further her career. The writing is incredible, the cast is absolute fire and it was a gift to be a part of it. I don’t think I’ll ever recover, to be honest. It changed my life. I bought a bedazzled fox keychain from Cracker Barrel to celebrate, like a true nerd. When you dream of something happening your whole life and you’re given an opportunity like this, you truly don’t take it for granted. For any actors out there reading this, just keep going. Things come together in ways you could never imagine. 

Also premiering later this year, you’ll be starring in Apple TV+’ series ‘Bad Monkey’ alongside Vince Vaugh. How was it working on the set of this series and with this cast?

I had an amazing time working on ‘Bad Monkey’. The script and cast are phenomenal and to be on a Bill Lawrence production was a bucket list moment for sure. Being a part of that table read with so many actors I admire was a very surreal moment and the experience exceeded all my expectations. 

Lauren, you have a strong stance on body positivity, especially when it comes to women in Hollywood. Why is body positivity so important today?

Representation across the board is so important. I am excited to see more diversity in TV and film and hope the industry continues to prioritize being an inclusive place for all artists. There’s an old paradigm that a certain body type is preferable, and I am proud to be curvy and represent a body type I often see in the real world. I needed to see someone on TV and in films with thick thighs and a booty when I was younger. For anyone dealing with body image issues, I’m here to remind you that your physical appearance will always be the least interesting thing about you. That wasn’t the message I received as a kid, so excuse me while I shout it from the rooftops. 

We all know that young generations look up to celebrities, especially now in the era of social media, but why do you think women in Hollywood should do more on setting a positive example? And what do you think should be done by you/them?

I can’t speak to what I think anyone else should do. It’s such a deeply personal journey. I’m committed to acknowledging that healing is a process and that it’s okay to navigate all of this imperfectly. Diet culture permeates our society in a big way. I think prioritizing our mental and physical health is critical whether we are in the industry or not. Being open about working on myself is important to me personally. Some tools and resources that have served me immensely are: Tory Stroker Nutrition, the Paradox process, To Be Magnetic and Gabby Bernstein’s books. I love me some self development tools.

You also have a degree in early childhood education and are passionate about working with foster children and those with special needs. Why is this so close and dear to you?

I have a loved one with Down Syndrome who shaped my life and is the reason I have a degree in special education and spent time teaching. I absolutely loved teaching and while I no longer have my own classroom, I feel passionately about using any platform I have as an actor to support organizations making a difference in the lives of children. 

Two of the organizations you hold dear and devote your time to are ‘Gigi’s Playhouse’ and ‘Heart Gallery’. Can you tell us more about what these two organizations do and are all about?

I love ‘Gigi’s Playhouse’ and used to volunteer at their New York location when I lived in Manhattan full time. They provide services and programming for the families of children with Down Syndrome. Having a supportive community is so critical for families of children with special needs and ‘Gigi’s Playhouse’ does a beautiful job of creating a safe and supportive environment for families to celebrate their children. 
‘Heart Gallery Tampa’ is an organization I was introduced to while doing theatre in Tampa, Florida. They help children in foster care find their forever families by partnering with photographers who take beautiful portraits to showcase the personalities of these incredible kids. ‘Heart Gallery’ also raises funds to improve the quality of life of these children while they’re waiting to meet their forever families.  

Your career is quite busy at the moment. What can you share with us about some of your other upcoming projects?

I just wrapped ‘Cinnamon’ alongside Damon Wayons for Tubi, ‘Under the Influence’ for BET and an episode of season 5 of ‘FBI’. It takes a village and none of it would be possible without my incredible team, teachers and my friends and family. Since the road was rocky, all this has exceeded my wildest dreams and I’m just taking it all in. Honestly, I’m not convinced this isn’t all some very vivid dream. Do not pinch me, I’d like to keep riding this wave, please.

interview by JANA LETONJA

photography BEN COPE