Wheale lands dream role in upcoming Ang Lee film
Dreams came true for one Cedartown native and now Brookhavenbased actress Laura Lundy Wheale when she got a call informing her she was director Ang Lee’s first choice for a part in his upcoming film.
“It was not a call I was expecting,” Wheale said. “I was in Savannah at the time walking down the street and I think people thought I was crazy because I started just laughing. It was a surreal experience.”
That surreal feeling carried over as Wheale filmed on the set of Lee’s movie “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” where she played actress Kristen Stewart’s older sister, Patty Lynn.
“Not only was it my first major studio film, but also my first time meeting true A- list celebrities and an A-list director,” Wheale said. “I was just trying to hold it all in and slow down as much as I could.
Wheale recalls one experience where Lee had her doing a single line over and over again while the camera kept rolling.
“I started getting frustrated because I thought I was not doing what he wanted me to do,” she said. “Finally he told them to cut and came to me, gave me a big hug and told me I did a good job. He could see I was getting flustered, but what it really was is that he needed the emotion underneath that line to be delivered right. I did not realize that at the time, but looking back I can see, ‘Oh my gosh, that is what you were doing!’”
Wheale says she first got the “acting bug” after taking classes at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre when she was eleven-years-old. That led her to major in acting for her undergraduate degree and seek additional training in LA at the Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute.
About three years ago, Wheale said she hired an agent and began auditioning for more film roles.
Acting is not yet a fulltime career for Wheale, who continues to play the role of a mass tort litigator at a local law firm.
She said balancing the two jobs can be trying.
“I am very fortunate to work at Childers, Schlueter & Smith because they have been so flexible for me when it comes to auditioning or shooting in different locations,” she said. “Between them working with me or me going in to shoot on nights or weekends and working remotely when I travel — I just make it happen.”
Wheale has lived in Brookhaven now for three years with her husband and their two dogs. When moving to Atlanta from the much smaller Cedartown, Georgia, she said Brookhaven appealed to her with its small-town feel.
“I am used to the perks of a small town, where you know everyone and can call anyone up,” she said. “I have come to enjoy that aspect of Brookhaven.”
While Wheale continues to practice law by day, that isn’t stopping her from pursuing more projects.
“It is so great to have the film industry here with so many opportunities in-front of and behind the camera,” she said. “I think it is really showing how much talent we have right here in Georgia.”
So far in her career, Wheale says she has played roles of characters that are caregivers. She said that flows naturally for her as the oldest of four siblings. She said it would be fun to break that mold and play a villain sometime, catching people off guard.
Currently, the actress is hosting a documentary-style series that is filming around parts of Alabama . The program, which will air next year, will introduce viewers to people, restaurants and adventures around the state
“As someone who has appeared on stage with Laura and directed her in plays, I’m very impressed with her as an actress and as a person [...] and I am real- ly not surprised that Laura is finding success,” said family friend Chuck Morris, who acted alongside Wheale in her very first stage role and several others. “Laura is not just talented, she is very determined and very professional, never has to be told something twice, and accepts direction very well and is easy to work with.”
When not busy with work, Wheale said you might find her at the dog park, rock climbing or playing tennis — the sport that won her a full scholarship through college.
You can see Wheale as Patty Lynn in “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” when it releases in November on Veteran’s Day.
Laura Lundy Wheale is a native of Cedartown and was working at Parker and Lundy before taking on opportunities in the film world.