Actor and Yale Graduate, Brooke Lyons, plays a forensic specialist in NBC’s “Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector” inspired by Jeffery Deaver’s best-selling book. The series follows a retired forensic criminologist as he teams up with an ambitious young detective to help capture some of the most dangerous criminals in America. Generally living in Los Angeles, Brooke is currently in New Jersey working on the show, but I had the opportunity to get somewhat acquainted with her over the phone. She expressed excitement over working in New Jersey as she’s originally from that part of the country and has family and friends with whom to spend time when there are breaks in filming.
I started right off the bat asking her about the hobby - “gazing deeply into your eyes” - listed on her website, www.brookelyons.com.
(Laughing) “I can’t see you, Barbara. We’re on the phone, but I would like to do that if we were sitting face-to-face. I’m a Scorpio and Scorpios are notoriously very intense. All of my friends joked, “You’re so intense, you’re going to scare people.”” She added, “I don’t know how people feel about astrology, but I’ve certainly lived in Los Angeles long enough for that to become something I care a lot about. It’s something I find endlessly entertaining.”
Something I find endlessly entertaining are secret societies, and Brooke was a member of Yale’s Manuscript Society, so of course I had to ask her about that.
“I think there are some movies about them. It’s nothing like that. Skull and Bones is probably the most famous secret society at Yale, and I would say that they are the most secretive. The Manuscript Society began sort of as a literary society, and they were notoriously very progressive. I can say that.”
Any weird, secret rituals?
“No weird rituals that you would imagine.”
Is that what they tell you to say?
(Laughing) “No blood rites or anything like that. It is cloaked in secrecy and essentially what it is is it’s a meeting of very different people given the pursuits that you’re in. Whether it’s drama or sports or science or whatever, you sort of find your people. What’s cool about the society and the way it evolved, is that you interact with all different people and become really close to people in your class that you might not have met otherwise. It’s a real eye-opener, and I was so happy to be a part of it.”
Once a ballet dancer, Brooke had developed scoliosis requiring spinal surgery to correct it. The surgery meant she had to give up her dream of dance to pursue something else. I asked her about having to give up on a dream and how she redirected her passion into something new.
“It was really disappointing when it happened. I knew a couple years before I had back surgery that I would have to have it. But, I was a very serious dancer. It was what I wanted to do. I wanted to do to be a ballet dancer. But, as life does, it twists and turns, and the physical reality is after having spine surgery, I needed to wait a year for my spine to fuse. I couldn’t do any physical activity. It just was not an option, which is great because then putting what felt like such a limitation on me made me think more creatively about what else can I do. I’m crawling out of my skin. I need a creative outlet. I can’t dance. What now? And that is when I signed up to audition for my first play (“Rumors” by Neil Simon), and the rest is history.”
What attracts you to a role or character and is there any role you wouldn’t want to tackle?
“What attracts me to a role or a character is smart writing. If I am feverishly turning the pages, interested in what is happening both in the plot and in the character’s life, I’m immediately attracted to it. I also tend to like things that are a challenge. Things that feel outside of my comfort zone are always exciting to me. I’m interested in stretching and learning and reaching. I think that’s how you stay creatively alive. I wouldn’t say that there’s anything off-limits. I would know it if I came, but I don’t think anything. I’ve done a lot of different things. I feel like I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of variety thus far.”
What’s your favorite aspect of working in each (television and film)?
“I think television allows you to get to know these characters and their dynamics over the course of a longer period of time, which lends itself to a real familiarity with their intricacies and their histories, not unlike getting to know people over the course of seasons and years. The more time you have with them, the more onion layers you peel back and little surprises you find, and I just think that’s so exciting creatively.
“[In] film, the pace is a little bit slower so you have the time to do some research. In television the character tends be a little bit closer to you because of the repetition. You’re showing up every day and doing it for long periods of time, whereas in film you can create someone who is perhaps quite far from you and inhabit them a short period of time and that’s also very cool.”
How did you prepare for your role as Kate, and did you learn much about forensic science?
“So, initially for the role of Kate…In television, it all happens so fast, by that I mean even the process of writing, selling, casting, filming the pilot, getting it picked up to series, filming the series. It happens fast a lot of the time. You didn’t necessarily have the time you’d have in film to delve into research. You’re sort of doing it as you go. What was fun about Kate is that at the outset I focused on our similarities. From there, once I got the role and got to know Kate a little better, I took a deep dive into forensics also, just any kind of crime, programming, books. “Homicide” by David Simon is sort of iconic book in that world. I had watched many fictional representations of crime shows and drama, but what I did in the summer proceeding filming was to get a little bit more into the nonfiction side so I could understand the mechanics of it.”
Would you share a story about a particularly great or unusual day on set? What happened that made that day stand out?
“Episode 4 that’s coming out and what was exciting for me as an actor and for my character, Kate, was we got to go outside. I know that sounds crazy, but the scientists spend a lot of our time on set at machines and doing the work. And in this, a murder at a university’s forensic research facility starts the team into this sort of drama that plays out in Kate’s old stomping ground. Because of course she trained in a forensic research facility so this is her comfort zone, she gets to go out. That was exciting, just by virtue of the fact that when you take any individual and change their location and change their context, you see new emotions involved and colors, and so it was really fun to explore what that was like for her.
“I’m having a blast on this show. I truly love the material and the stories that we get to tell every day and also the people. Honestly coming to work every day is a pleasure. Our cast is amazing. Our crew is amazing. I can’t say enough about them. It’s such a blessing when you know. Sometimes you’re waking up at 4 AM in the dark in the middle of winter to go to work, and you know that it’s a good situation when you jump out of bed excited.”
Is there a difference between crews in LA and crews in New York?
“I haven’t noticed a huge difference between New York and LA except for where people are from, what they’re into, and their accents. It’s like there’s an LA version and there’s a New York version. The most dramatic difference that I’ve seen was when I was shooting Magnum PI in Hawaii. Hawaii crews are really different from anything I’ve seen, a lot more laid-back. “
In an interview, you once said that acting was about getting at the truth of humanity. What insights into humanity have you uncovered through the roles that you played?
“I don’t know. I think that’s largely up to the viewer, and by that I mean I have my take on the material. My intention, I always think about it, and I put a lot of work into building it so I could tell a complex and nuanced story. But part of what draws me to this work and the magic of it, I think, is that it leaves a space in between. You have my intention as the artist, but then you have whatever the viewer is receiving on the other end, and that’s very personal to them. You know, I think we’re pretty much drawn to things that resonate with us, so I’m always struck by talking to people what is most truthful or resonant to them.”
I heard you were into clean beauty and holistic living. Would you share what that means to you?
“For sure. It actually started when I was pregnant with my son, and you do all the research that people do, and we just became educated for the first time about what is in a lot of the products that we needed, whether detergents or soaps or cleaning products and how in other countries a number of ingredients that are not admissible are perfectly fine here in America. Why? So, I guess you need to draw a parallel to detoxifying your diet, cutting out sugar, cutting out dairy whatever you wanted. I started using clean beauty products and health products when I was pregnant, and it just continued from there because I thought, “Well, I’m doing this for my baby I should also do this for myself.””
What would be something people would be surprised to learn about you?
“I don’t know if anything would be that surprising. I’m a very transparent person, which is odd for a Scorpio. Oh wait, there is something. I’m a pop chick. I know the lyrics to like every pop song. My friends make fun of me because they’re like “You’re this serious person who enjoys literature.” But also, I would be there next to you at a Britney Spears concert. I genuinely, without any irony, I just love pop music.”
Do you sing?
“I’m not a trained singer, but yes, I do sing from time to time. I once did an MTV movie musical called “The American Mall” and we all sang in that. That was pretty fun.”
How do you shake off a character?
“With time and intention. Sometimes they seep into you in a way that you don’t even recognize that you’re carrying because you’ve spent so much time moving like this person, talking like this person. thinking like this person that you come home, and you’re sort of like, “Oh I think I still have the residue of this person all over me.” And I think that it’s just being gentle with yourself, allowing yourself the time to take that mask off or say goodbye to this person. I think a lot about acting is the transition in and out.”
Actors don’t tend to have the luxury of routine. How do you find balance when your schedule is always changing?
“My family honestly. I have a 2 1/2-year-old son, and my husband and my son and I stick together. My husband and I are both in the entertainment industry, and we sort of established this new normal for ourselves where our lives don’t look the way that they did when we were children. We’re quite fluid. My son at aged 2 1/2 has lived two different places in Los Angeles. He’s lived in Vancouver. He’s lived in New York. He’s quite the jet-set kid. But I do have to say that with the nature of this work, it’s quite a comfort to have them at home anchoring me to some sort of rhythm and reality. It also has taught me to leave the work at work which is a challenge because I like to let things consume me. I like to really go deep with the work, but again, being a parent, having a family, it allows for those checks and balances.”
How do you cope with stress? Are there any techniques you find particularly effective?
“Breath work. That sounds a little woo woo, but you could go to a specialist or you could do it yourself, you could look at YouTube videos online. I have found in my life though, it’s so simple in the times of the greatest stress throughout our lives, I just sit quietly and remind myself to breathe and connect to my breath. I can calm my own nervous system and get back to a perfect place. That’s my go to. Yeah. I really also think it’s important to get physical, sweat once a day, get enough sleep, drink enough water, and call your friends. Talk to the people you love.”