How Actress Jenny Laroche Thrives in Hollywood
With her skills as an actress, dancer, singer, Jenny Laroche has all the tools to be a huge star in Hollywood. Born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jenny studied dance at the University of Buffalo. She was on NBC’s popular musical drama Smash. Currently, she is performing in the musical Fly. Once that wraps up, she will be shooting the movie Broadway 4D.
You’ve been dancing since you were three years old. Did you take the initiative and ask your parents for dance lessons, or is that something they put you up to? My mom used to dance, so I think my parents knew they wanted to put me in lessons early. They enriched my life with culture and music by putting me in piano and gymnastics lessons at a young age. When did you first realize that you were talented? When I started going to a competitive dance studio. The kids were so passionate about the art and I learned so many different styles that inspired me and I couldn’t wait to become as talented as what I saw! I won a first place prize for my solo and I thought, wow, maybe I already am talented!
What’s your favorite musical? My favorite musical growing up was always Chicago, I think because it was the first musical I could see myself doing. I love Bob Fosse choreography, there is so much power in his simplicity, his casts are colorful and vibrant, and his movement tells a story like nothing you’ve ever seen.
How do you manage not to overexert yourself? After all, you’ve been in situations where you had to sing, dance and act for a role. I pace myself for sure. As a performer you learn that telling a story through movement is similar to speaking a story. Not all words are shouted or over enthused, but are genuine and have a natural progression. You have to have somewhere to go, which is what I apply to my performance quality.
What was it like growing up Haitian? Growing up Haitian gave me such a proud foundation. I come from a huge family, so I grew up with twenty other Haitian cousins who I could relate to, and our parents would take us to church together, do family dinners, you name it. If it weren’t for my family I think it would have been harder for me to understand why I felt and looked so different from the people I went to school with. You were born in Fort Lauderdale. How did you get the courage to leave the comfort of your parents’ home and pursue your dreams? I had the choice of going to University of Central Florida, closer to home and with all of my friends, or the University of Buffalo, which was on the other side of the country. To me, it was the decision between pursuing the career I wanted for myself or not. You’re never stuck where you start out, so I knew if I got home sick I could always transfer out, but I would have regretted it if I didn’t at least try. It all worked out because I loved the new environment I was in and I made leaps in bonds as an artist and expanded my creativity.
Any tips on how others can do the same? My advice: Always think about what you would regret more, you won’t lie to yourself and you will answer whatever tough decision you are having by asking yourself this.
Sue was the name of the character you played on the NBC musical drama Smash. How did you get the role? I auditioned for a dance scene and to my surprise they asked me to come in a read lines. I thought they had fully cast for the show, but then the offered me the role of Sue. So not only did I book the dance scene I auditioned for I debuted as a reoccurring role. It was thrilling and perfect!
Is it difficult learning new choreography? I’m a fast learner when it comes to movement, but I will say it is always a process adjusting to different choreographic styles. Your choices and approach have to be of what the choreographer demonstrates. Were your parents okay with your majoring in dance in college? They were phenomenal! They had their concerns I’m sure, but they were really great at letting me experience my own journey in my own way. I’ve always been really independent so I think my parents knew either way I was going to take care of myself and do what’s best for me. I truly would not have been as successful as I am today without their endless love and support.
When was the last time you went to Haiti? Last time I was in Haiti was eight years ago, before the earthquake. The next time I go, I hope to put in motion the non-profit performing arts enrichment program for kids that I have been creating. This has been a passion project of mine for years and I hope to open it as soon as I can, so keep an eye out!
What’s the world of show business really like? I’ve seen so much in this industry, good and bad. It’s very exciting and beautiful turning space into art. And yet, I’ve been in casting situations where it’s 80% about appearance, and 20% skill, as the “all-American” cast has to be achieved. When you are told you don’t fit this look and therefore aren’t hired to do the job you are capable of doing, it can feel very demeaning and belittling. This process is always icky, but in this society you have to endure it to build the career you want. You take the good with the bad in this devastatingly, magnificent industry.
On TV, you come across as being so confident. You have so much poise. Were you always so confident? I definitely was not! I always loved to dance but growing up I was very shy in the dance studio. I wanted to stay in the back line and thought everyone else had something more to offer than I did. It took Pam Bolling, a dance professional, to open my eyes and be proud of whom I was and stop worrying about what others might have thought I was. This shift in thought changed everything. I stopped comparing myself to an idea of what I thought was perfection and just enjoyed the uniqueness of what only I had to offer. What would you say is your greatest source of happiness? So many things make me happy. Right now, I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I teach students in my spare time and watch them grow and learn from my mistakes and I continue to evolve as an artist and a performer. I have a wonderful and supportive boyfriend and my family continues to expand and contribute great things in the community. I need balance to keep me happy. Right now, my life is my greatest source of intriguing happiness!
Without a doubt, you’re quite an accomplished thespian. Anything you’d like to pass on to others who aspire to get into acting? Getting into this industry, you will constantly be asked to step outside of your comfort zone. So from the start know your limits, but also acquire as many skill sets as possible so that you are comfortable with different styles and forms of art.
You train other dancers. What does it take to be a dancer? It takes passion to be a great performer and it takes determination to succeed in the industry. One of my favorite quotes I like to say is, “Dancing is to reach for a word that doesn’t exist.” If a dancer masters this, they’ve mastered the craft.
What dreams do you hope to achieve over the next few years? Aside from performing on Broadway, my biggest goal has always been to play a leading lady on the big screen. I want to do more film work and expose my skill set so that young, Haitian-American, brown-skinned girls, everywhere have someone, who looks like them, to look up to and inspire them to believe that no dream is ever to big to aim for!