She’s won two Best Featured Actress Scenies and another pair of Scenies for her choreography. (Oh, and she’s scored two Best Choreography Ovation Award nominations as well.) She’s the Artistic Director of Boom Kat Dance Theatre. She’s guest starred on such TV shows as NBC’s Whitney and is currently appearing at A Noise Within in Come Back, Little Sheba. She’s also both producer and star of the webseries Complete Works, about to make its debut on Hulu no less. And she’s less than five years out of USC.
She’s Lili Fuller, a multiple-threat whose work I’ve been raving about since I first saw her in The Wild Party at USC back in 2009 (“Equally scene-stealing is adorable co-choreographer Fuller, a sizzling pixie with a Betty Boop soprano in the role of Mae”) and a few months later in Brigadoon (“Stealing every scene she’s in as saucy Meg is petite firecracker Lili Fuller.”)
Having just choreographed USC’s spring musical Grand Hotel (“Whiz choreographer Lili Fuller gives us an imaginative, eclectic series of dance sequences”), Lili is currently costarring in William Inge’s Come Back Little Sheba (“The luminous Lili Fuller [is] Marie, a blend of sweet and saucy that proves … irresistible”) and about to celebrate the April 23 release of Complete Works, a 5-episode half-hour comedy series set in the world of a collegiate Shakespeare competition (debuting on Hulu and Hulu Plus on Shakespeare’s 450th birthday no less).
With so many irons in the fire, it’s a wonder (and an honor) that Lili found time for this interview! May I present to you … Lili Fuller!
Lili, tell us about Complete Works.
Complete Works was such a labor of love. Joe Sofranko, Adam North and myself had the idea for the show three years ago, and it really stemmed from our shared passion for theater and Shakespeare. We knew we wanted to make something that we could all be proud of. Every step of the way, we fought to make it the best series we could, which was really hard because we produced it ourselves, which meant that we had no money. We never sacrificed quality, though, even if it took a long time or we had to work at it.
With cyberspace filled with more webseries than anyone could possibly keep track of, what sets Complete Works apart from the rest?
First of all, the script of Complete Works was written like a film, but broken up into episodes, so it has the story and arcs of a feature which allows you to really latch onto the characters. You want to go on the full ride. The series is also shot on the RED, which makes every shot just so darn gorgeous to look at. It’s also pretty funny, if I do say so myself. Adam, Joe, and I are such theater geeks, and our community is full of crazy, hilarious people, so we wanted to celebrate that. We’re diehard fans of both Mean Girls and Waiting for Guffman, so those two movies became touchstones for us as we were making the show.
Who is your target audience for Complete Works?
We’re obviously targeting the theater community and Shakespeare fans, because they will hopefully like what the show’s about. But I think Complete Works also reaches younger comedy fans, teens and twenties. It’s not a sitcom, but the humor and the heart of the show really make it translate to audiences that aren’t just theater folk.
What’s your game plan for getting Complete Works noticed?
Because our show is online, we are doing a big social media campaign, but we are also trying to get into some printed publications as well.
I play Pauline Williams, one of the finalists of the American Shakespeare Competition. She’s a straight shooter from New York City. I just loved playing her, because she’s pretty different from me. Her tone is very dry and sarcastic. It was a challenge, but I loved getting to find that side of myself.
And what about behind the scenes?
Behind the scenes, I was an executive producer and also the costume designer. I wore a lot of hats on set, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was running around like a crazy person, but I feel like that’s how I always am, so let’s hope no one noticed.
How did you go about lining up the on screen talent for Complete Works?
Adam and Joe wrote a few roles with specific actors in mind, like Ben Sidell and Lizzie Fabie. We also had several rounds of auditions where we found the other actors. The cast is so unbelievably talented in this series. We could not have been luckier. They really got the tone and brought these characters to life.
How important was it for you to get Complete Works on Hulu, which seems like a particularly visible platform for a webseries?
We certainly didn’t go into this planning on getting to Hulu. Hulu was our dream platform for this show because it’s where so many people go to watch great television, movies, and web series online. They’re so selective in the shows they pick because they have a high bar for quality, so we are so happy that they liked Complete Works and wanted to include it in their slate!
As an actor, you’ve got an important stage gig at A Noise Within, where you appeared last year in The Grapes Of Wrath. How would you describe your character Marie?
On the surface, she’s a bundle of promiscuous energy, but deep down, she’s wrestling with all sorts of life choices. She’s on the brink of committing to marriage and having to decide what the rest of her life’s going to look like. It’s been wonderful getting to explore this 1950s girl.
What is it about this 1950s drama that can make it still resonate with today’s audiences, and more specifically, with people your age?
I think Marie’s struggles are totally relatable to today. Sure, women are WAY more progressive now than in the ‘50s, thank gosh, but the symbols of marriage, and status and all that are always relevant.
You’re in Hollywood, the land of film and TV and yet you continue doing theater. What brings you back to performing live in a town where so much of acting is “for the camera”?
I love all three mediums, and I want to continue to do them all for the rest of my life. I like exercising the different muscles. Doing live theater is just such a rush and so instantly fulfilling, whereas, although it can take time to make something on film, it will last forever, which is just so wonderful. It’s awesome to know that I can show Complete Works to my grandkids, you know? I feel like I am continually learning about acting the more I do, so I just want to keep working and growing and creating.
It’s been such a pleasure for me to follow your career since I first “discovered” you both as a student performer and choreographer at USC. Since graduating in 2009, you’ve returned every year to choreograph the big-stage spring musical. How did you first get asked to choreograph?
I called John right after I graduated and asked to sit down with him. I told him I choreographed and I wanted to work on Into The Woods, which was the spring musical at the time. As a senior, I had taken his class and been a lead in Brigadoon which he directed. For some reason, John decided to take on this young recent grad.
What’s it like working with students only a few years younger than you are and who are in the same place you were just a few years back?
I love working with the students at USC. They are so full of energy and the thirst to learn and work hard. They always inspire me and they keep me positive. In the real world, it’s so easy to become jaded, but when I look into those kids’eyes, it’s like “Puh-lease, we get to do theater and create things with our friends. Life could not be better!” I also love getting to see the progression of some of the students over four years. It’s really cool to see them grow and get to work with them on multiple shows.
How do they react to having you as their mentor?
I think … well, I hope … they like having me as a mentor. I’m pretty ridiculous and sassy, which I know they like. I think it’s nice to have someone who has gone through what they’ve gone through quite recently that they can ask for advice and help from.
This year’s spring musical was the rarely revived Grand Hotel. What was it like working on Grand Hotel with director (and Tony winner) John Rubinstein?
I absolutely adore John. We have (pun intended) the grandest time together working on the USC musicals! I’ve been working with John for six years now and we have a great bond. We work very hard and push the students, but we also laugh a lot and have fun while doing it.
And what about Rubinstein’s (and your) vision for Grand Hotel?
Grand Hotel is such an interesting piece. It’s really beautiful, yet super dark at times. I think our version turned out pretty stunningly. The design for the show was visually really appealing. The cast was also dynamite —so much energy and excitement in the group this year, which really helped bring the story to life on that big Bing stage!
You’re also the Artistic Director and co-founder of Boom Kat Dance Theatre, and have two Ovation Award Best Choreography nominations under your belt while fresh out of USC! Can you talk just a bit about Boom Kat?
Boom Kat holds such a special place in my heart. I started it with my dearest friends at USC, and we learned so much about storytelling and collaborating. I reference the things I learned with Boom Kat all the time.
Anything we can look forward to soon?
Some of our company members have moved to Norhern California and New York, so things have been laying low for a bit. The last show we did was two years ago, but I really do hope we do another one soon. I have an idea for a piece I’ve been wanting to do for five years, and I’m pretty sure it will happen at some point…hopefully I can still dance by then!
What’s made you pick L.A./Hollywood as your current base rather than head off to New York as have so many of your fellow Trojan theater grads?
You know, I grew up in L.A. and so I had this idea in my mind that as soon as I could, I’d fly off to NYC and do theater. But then, I ended up choosing to go to USC and upon graduation, I had put down such roots here so it seemed silly for me to move. Plus, I really do love L.A. You make so many friends and connections going to college in this city, and with Boom Kat and all the film and TV work, I chose to stay here. I’m really grateful for the Trojan family and for all the amazing people I’ve continued to work with from USC.
Do you expect to be working in New York someday?
I do hope one day something will take me to New York. I’d love to experience living in the city and being surrounded by such incredible theater. I will probably freeze the minute I get off the plane, but it’s worth a shot!
Lili, it’s been such a pleasure following your career over the past half-dozen year. I can’t wait to see what’s next!
Steven you are the best! Thanks for being so supportive all these years.
A Noise Within photos by Craig Schwartz
Lili’s headshot by Brian Jordan Alvarez