The last time The Baltimore Sun caught up with Ellicott City native Sara Lindsey in 2013, she had just finished wrapping up roles alongside leading A-listers. She was rescued by Tom Cruise in "Jack Reacher". She played a single mom in "Promised Land", which featured and was co-produced by actor Matt Damon.
Now, Lindsey, 26, has added another to her list. She's starring alongside Will Smith in "Concussion," which premiered on Christmas.
Lindsey, who majored in acting at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, has come a long way since her days in drama club and a high school production of "Grease" at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia. And she's enjoying the journey.
“It has been mind-blowing,” said Lindsey, who first sent in an audition tape before getting a callback from "Concussion" director Peter Landesman. “Working with these actors who are so established and experienced has taught me so much and has given me the confidence going forward with my work.”
Based on a true story, "Concussion" depicts forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, played by Smith, and his quest to unveil his research on brain damage football players commonly endure during games, despite the National Football League’s reported wishes to cover it up.
Lindsey plays Omalu's assistant, Gracie, in her largest studio film to date. Lindsey said playing Gracie allowed her to experience what it’s like to work with a visionary.
“I really looked up to [Omalu] in the story. Surrounding people looked down on his practices, but he was a revolutionary artist of sorts,” said Lindsey, who said she never envisioned she’d play someone who performs autopsies, of all things.
While attempting to dig into the darker side of her role, Lindsey found that many of the technicians both she and Smith spoke to tried their best not to dwell on the difficult parts of their professions.
Lindsey was inspired by the woman on whom Gracie was based. Her full name has not been disclosed, but Lindsey said she told her that she made it a point to do her hair and makeup every day. It brought a lightness to the role, Lindsey said, but she still wanted to show how focused and professional Gracie was.
“My biggest takeaway from the role, and I think for Will, too, was when seeing the autopsies being done, you realize that our bodies are just the shells of who we are. They are just containers for our humanness,” Lindsey said. “I think that’s a big idea, but it was pretty apparent when I saw it.”
Though Lindsey’s family is spread out across the country — the world, even (one of her brothers is an archaeologist in Australia) — she felt their enthusiasm and excitement regarding her role all the way in Los Angeles.
“My three older brothers sang the 'Fresh Prince' ['of Bel Air,' Smith's first TV role] theme song pretty much every time I talked to them,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey's parents are also over the moon, she said. Her mother hosted a special premiere of "Concussion" while Lindsey was visiting Maryland, inviting old friends. A group of about 50 people showed up, Lindsey said, including her middle school music teacher.
Now that "Concussion" has premiered, it’s back to work for Lindsey. Her next goal? Landing leading roles.
About a year and a half ago, Lindsey filmed her first feature film, the thriller "Blue Jay," which she wrote with her husband, director Mike Ciulla. The movie begins when a couple embarks on a hiking trip in Mount Whitney, but takes a spine-chilling turn after the two meet a strange group of men in the mountains. Lindsey's character Ashley and her survival skills are put to the test.
Lindsey has been no stranger to writing. She helped develop the script for the independent film "5 Pilgrims" and said she has a few scripts and ideas hidden away, but acting in the thriller was a huge learning experience.
"It's really fun. It's also really stressful,” she said. “You're just constantly scared. The camera picks up if you're acting so you just have to be perpetually scared the whole time."
But Lindsey sees her heroine role in "Blue Jay" as a stepping stone toward the roles she wants to play.
“It gives me the confidence, that I can say, ‘No, I belong in these scenes. I’m capable,” Lindsey said.
With "Blue Jay" completed, Lindsey and her husband Ciulla are looking for distribution for the film and expect it to be available through online and OnDemand platforms within the next few months, Lindsey said.
The comedy is centered around two friends who use workout app ClassPass and their lives in L.A. The series is set to release later this month, and can be followed on the show's official Instagram account @mylifeworkedout.
Lindsey is also set to star as a lead in the thriller "Outboard," a film that follows a couple on a fishing trip gone wrong in the Louisiana bayou. Filming is scheduled in Louisiana this March and the release date is pending. And while she is busy making waves in Hollywood, there are some things that still make her homesick.
“Aside from my family, the biggest thing I miss about Maryland is that people go out to bars to dance and have a good time. People in L.A. sometimes go out for different reasons. I definitely miss that spirit of Baltimore,” said Lindsey, who has lived in L.A. for the past four-and-a-half years.
And when she's home, Lindsey said she makes it a point to partake in the popular and unmatched Maryland pastime — eating crab.
Is it safe to say she'll always be a Maryland girl?
“Yeah, for sure,” Lindsey said. “Can’t crack crabs like that and not be a Maryland girl at heart.”