Brooke Lyons: A One-way Ticket to Hollywood, Please!
There is no question about it, Brooke Lyons knows how to make the best out of whatever comes her way. Actually, it’s the 39-year-old’s fighting spirit that brought her where she is today in Hollywood. You might recognize her from Two Broke Girls, Life Sentence, The Affair or most recently, Magnum P.I. She has been in the entertainment industry since 2004, and has mostly focused on television throughout her career. Currently, Brooke is filming the NBC drama, Lincoln, scheduled for release in 2020, and her previous project, Paradise City, is in post-production. Brooke is busy -- after all, there is no shortage of shows being created. “We’re in the Golden Age of TV,” says Brooke.
Early on, Brooke didn’t know that her passion for the arts and storytelling would lead her to acting. “Growing up in Connecticut, I’m not even sure being an actress or being an artist was possible,” says Brooke. “It was probably because I didn’t know a grown-up making a living from the arts.” It was not until after college that she thought, Maybe I can do this as a job. “I have always been infatuated with storytelling. As a child, I liked to watch and rewatch movies.” She liked how movies, through storytelling, could transport her to another time, another realm. “I started ballet at a very young age --even those stories called to me, like The Nutcracker.”
Brooke wanted to be a dancer, and studied ballet at the Joffrey Ballet School, The New England Ballet School, and Boston Ballet. However, when she was diagnosed with scoliosis, she was forced to reconsider her aspirations of becoming a professional ballerina. “At the time, it was a huge disappointment,” she shares. “It was really what I wanted to do.” No teen ever anticipates having to deal with a setback like this, however, Brooke, then 14 years old, made the most of it and discovered that the best medicine sometimes is laughter. “It’s the peak of when my sense of humor developed —out of pure necessity,” she chuckles.
“I’m diagnosed with scoliosis, I had a back brace and when you are in the 9th grade, and the boy you like is sitting next to you in math class, and you drop a pencil, but you physically can’t pick it up because you are wearing a back brace straight out of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion; it’s funny. There is no way to be cool or suave, you just have to laugh,” she says with a laugh. “Those experiences shape you. It’s part of what makes me who I am, and I’m grateful for that.”
After high school, Brooke enrolled at Yale, where she studied English literature. There, she fell in love with the power of theater and television and learned the anatomy of storytelling. “It gave me the whole foundation for what I do,” says Brooke. While Brooke was a sophomore at Yale, she had to have surgery to correct her spine. “I couldn’t do anything, but I missed performing. Post-surgery, I was crawling out of my skin with creative energy and I didn’t know what to do with it, so I decided to audition for a play. I got it and I fell madly in love.”
It was after this play that she thought, Maybe I could make a living out of this. “I bought a one-way ticket to L.A. [California] --where I had never been,” she laughs. “I showed up after graduation. Honestly, it was terrifying. I didn’t know anyone; I didn’t know anything. You look back at your life, and if I would have known then, what I know now, I would have never done it. There is something nice about being naïve enough just to take that leap, take that chance.”
Although it was hard in the beginning, Brooke stuck with it, and stayed in Los Angeles, and now has a thriving acting career to show for it. “I stayed. A lot of people leave. Some may call that perseverance or resilience, I think I’m just incredibly stubborn.” Currently, Brooke is playing Abby Miller on Magnum P.I. Abby is Magnum’s girlfriend and a criminal defense attorney. “It’s fun, because when you meet a character in television, you get one episode at a time, so you only have that one episode to piece together this idea of her. At the time, I did a little research into criminal defense attorneys, and I used a lot of my imagination to know what elements of her personality bring her to life. If the script says she is outdoorsy and down-to-earth, I’m thinking, Let’s trace it back. What was her childhood like? What drives her to be one way versus the other?” she explains.
In Showtime’s The Affair, she plays Eden Ellery. “What I love about these characters in The Affair is that these are complex women who are written to be smart, independent, and morally ambiguous. They are not just there to prop up the man. Eden, she is my favorite of all time. I really relished the opportunity to embody Eden through different character’s perspectives —the lead characters, they see Eden through different lenses.” Brooke explains that the show is done through two different perspectives, and because of this, she found herself adapting her performance each time, so it could be channeled through different people’s eyes. “That has been so much fun,” says Brooke. “In life, too, we say, ‘I have an identity.’ We think of us being a certain way, but often we don’t consider that every person perceives us differently.”
Over the last fifteen years, Brooke has taken on many different roles and has learned so much from playing all these characters. There is one thing that she wishes she knew when she first started out in Hollywood: to be herself. “There is only one you —do you and do it well. That took me a long time to come to. I think in Hollywood, as in life, it’s uncomfortable to try to fit in a box. If you give yourself permission to be authentically you, everything becomes clear.”