ABOVE PHOTO: Dana Gourrier (Photo: Jaguar PS / shutterstock)
Interview with Kam Williams
New Orleans native Dana Gourrier has created quite a remarkable name for herself, joining forces with some of the industry’s elite directors and actors including: Quentin Tarantino, Oprah Winfrey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Jessica Lange. Since the age of 12 her true love has been acting, singing and dancing.
She received her BFA in Performance Art from University of Louisiana at Lafayette and immediately headed to the Big Apple in higher pursuits. She continued her studies in method acting while settling into life; residing in Spanish Harlem, waiting tables, gigging, doing background vocals, and even teaching theater at a community center in Brooklyn.
In 2010, Gourrier completed her MFA in acting from the reputable California Institute of the Arts where she starred in an extensive list of theatrical productions both Classical and Contemporary. Upon graduation, she moved back home to break into the Hollywood South on HBO’s “Treme,” a drama set in New Orleans months after the hurricane.
Among Dana’s 2016 film releases are Same Kind of Different as Me alongside Greg Kinnear and Renee Zellweger with a spring 2016 release, The Runner alongside Nicholas Cage, Midnight Special beside Kirsten Dunst and Adam Driver and Kidnap starring Halle Berry.
Gourrier previously played memorable support characters in Lee Daniel’s The Butler and in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Her strong yet humble work ethic stems from always being told that she could do anything and be anything. The support and encouragement of her family has helped shape her into the woman she is today.
Here, Gourrier discusses her latest outing as Minnie alongside Samuel Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurt Russell in Quentin Tarantino’s Western The Hateful Eight.
Kam Williams: Hi Dana, thanks for the interview.
Dana Gourrier: Thanks, Kam.
KW: You worked with Quentin Tarantino before on Django Unchained. What interested you in collaborating with him again for The Hateful Eight?
DG: After working with him on Django, I would have jumped at any opportunity to work with him again. There is so much to learn on a QT set and from the man in general. And more importantly, when Quentin Tarantino calls you up and says he’s “written a part for you” in his next film, you show up! [Laughs]
KW: What’s Tarantino like as a director? From interviewing him, he’s always struck me as brilliant, but a little rough around the edges. Like a sort of blue-collar genius.
DG: He is a genius. Period. The amount of information he retains, specifically about film and filmmaking, is simply uncanny. This is not an exaggeration. He was asked once, “Did you go to film school?” His response was, “No, I went to films.” As it relates to the director/actor relationship, I can describe it as this: he is generous and patient, but you need to show up ready for anything, willing to go to any lengths, and beyond prepared on the day. It feels like you have total freedom, but in the mind of the character that HE created. He has a vision and, as an actor, I personally, have a strong desire to help him execute that vision, to get it right.
KW: You were also in The Butler which was directed by Lee Daniels, who has a very sweet personality and I would guess a very different approach to directing. True?.
DG: Lee is an awesome person. I have only ever had kind experiences with him. He is highly intelligent and creative in his approach. He is another director that, early on, gave me a shot in my career. I will always be grateful for that. In my experience on The Butler, his style is rooted in authenticity. Lee is about things being real, from hair and make-up to the emotional life of the scene. Lee is fantastic.
KW: Quentin assembled quite a cast for The Hateful Eight which included Samuel L. Jackson, Channing Tatum, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern and Michael Madsen, to name a few.
DG: Where do I begin?! Everyone was soooooo wonderful! Truly. Sam and I developed an almost mentor/mentee relationship on Django. He always coached me and more or less took me under his wing. I love that guy! He is a dynamic individual. Kurt and JJL were always so sweet and supportive. Tim Roth is just brilliant. He is actually the person that taught me how to roll Minnie’s Red Apple Tobacco Cigarettes. Michael and I would often end up in the transport vans together in the morning. The stories this man has lived are incredible. And Channing and I decided that we were cousins somehow because of our New Orleanian/Southern connection. I loooooove him! Couldn’t have done it without him. Demián Bichir and I would have these deep chats. He said to me once that as a kid in Mexico City he used to ride this bus with his mother and siblings. This particular bus was usually packed but his mother would always say, “Get on! There is room for us.” I’ll never forget one day we were in this deep discussion about being minorities in this industry and we were just discussing life in general. Demián said to me, “Dana! You are immensely talented. Get on the bus! There is room for you!” It was such a great moment. And the legend that is Bruce Dern? My goodness! Every single day he had new insights, new love and new wisdom to impart. He was also, quite hilarious. Truly, every single person in our cast was wonderful to work with. What an experience!
KW: How did you prepare to play, Minnie, the proprietor of a frontier haberdashery?
DG: QT wrote her for me, so there were concepts about her already set in place. I read and re-read the script about 50 times for clues, context and all information I could find. I’m a nerd, so the detective/table work, is one of my favorite parts of the process. I love all the aspects of preparing for a character, but Minnie was particularly fun. I must have rolled about 60 to 100 cigarettes a day leading up to shooting. I just really wanted to get it right.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
DG: I’m from NOLA, so being a better than average cook is pretty much ingrained in me. My family and I all come from a Creole culture specific to New Orleans, so there are some pretty great dishes and recipes that I’ve learned over the years. I think my favorite dish to cook that I make is my pan-seared Parmesan crusted salmon. I usually sauté it in a white wine, cream butter sauce and serve it with a zucchini and squash medley.
KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
DG: Being fearless.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
DG: I see a faithful, beautiful, bold, intelligent woman.
KW: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
DG: There are many crazy things that I have done, but some in the top 10 are moving to New York the year after 9/11 to pursue this dream and turning down Harvard University once I learned I was accepted into their graduate program. They both have proven to be the right decisions for my life.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
DG: For about 87 more wishes. [Laughs] But if I only got one, it would be for joy, consistent and contagious joy.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
DG: Hmm… I would say, “Will you marry me?” But once upon a time, someone did ask and I couldn’t bring myself to say “yes.” I loved him, fiercely. But it wasn’t right and I knew it in my spirit. So, I do want to be asked again by my someone someday, my person, my soulmate, whoever he is. And my answer would be “yes,” and then I pray we would make beautiful babies together.
KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan asks: What’s your dream locale in Los Angeles to live?
DG: I don’t know? I’m new to town, so I’m still learning, but I am quite happy with where I am currently.
KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you’d like to star in?
DG: Pride and Prejudice, and anything with Pam Grier. [Laughs]
KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?
DG: I’d say I have a favorite movie villain and that is certainly Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid.
KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
DG: Persistence. Being relentless in the pursuit of their dreams.
KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
DG: The usual suspects: cash, cards, an I.D. and lip gloss , but also my SAG card and a prayer card my grandmother gave me.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Dana, and best of luck with all your endeavors.
DG: Thanks so much, Kam.
To see a trailer for The Hateful Eight, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnRbXn4-Yis
To order The Hateful Eight on Blu-ray, visit: