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10/08/2014 02:27 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Good Lie Actress Sarah Baker Talks Acting, Movies, and Working with Reese Witherspoon

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Answers by Sarah Baker, Actress, The Good Lie

What is it like to work with Reese Witherspoon?

It was amazing. She is exactly who you'd want her to be -- kind, smart, professional, honest, unpretentious, kind, fun, funny, and of course, incredibly talented. I actually did my very first real acting job with Reese in Sweet Home Alabama. I had one line -- I played a waitress at a bar and said: "Was that an olive, a twist, or a what and what?" If you don't remember that little piece of brilliance, it's because my one line got cut. Welcome to Hollywood! I was green as green could be, so I'm glad I got the chance to work with Reese again, this time with a bit more experience under my belt.

The scene where we're getting drunk was on my first day, and somehow we settled into it very quickly. Philippe encouraged us to improvise, so we kind of made it our own, and there was an easiness to it that felt very natural. Reese has a way of being such an incredible actress that you understand when you act with her, why she's a huge movie star and Oscar winner. And yet, she has this magical way of being so present with you in a scene that you feel it's just the two of you, on equal footing, creating a moment together. It's remarkable.

What is it like being a part of an ensemble cast in a film or series?

It is my favorite thing. I'm never happier than when I'm part of an ensemble. The rhythm of working in a group and the dynamic of each individual relationship within that group coming together is such a special thing. I admire people who can step out on their own and work alone -- that takes a lot of guts. But I'd rather have the camaraderie on and off camera of working as a part of a group.

What was the audition process like for actors in major film festival indie films?

Well, in the case of The Good Lie, because it was so important to the filmmakers to use Sudanese actors, they did an international search with Mindy Marin, our tireless casting director. They found Arnold Ocengin London, Emmanuel Jal in Toronto, Ger Duany in NYC, and Kuoth Wiel in Minnesota. For me, it was a typical audition situation, though I got to meet with Philippe Falardeau very early in the process. I think I went in three times, and then heard that I got the part, but oh yeah, the table read is... tomorrow... in Atlanta! I was in New Mexico on vacation, so I had to hop on a plane, fly to Atlanta for about 36 hours, fly back to New Mexico, and then drive back home to LA from there. It was an adventure!

What are the pros and cons between acting in a television series vs. a movie?

They're both great! Make no mistake! I would say the biggest difference is that a movie is a shorter, more encapsulated experience, and a TV job is like having a regular day job where you get to do what you love. TV can be more nerve-racking because you never know when it's going to end and sometimes you work your last day without knowing it until much later. So, that's tough.

With movies, you get to be in a bubble while you're creating it, and it's not until it comes out that you see whether people like it or not. The other big difference is that TV moves much more quickly, so you have fewer takes, less time between scenes, and a fairly unrelenting schedule. Unless you're doing a very low-budget movie, you're generally covering less material in a day, so there's more room for discussion, more takes, and the pace is just generally slower.

And the last big difference is that if you're doing a movie, you're probably staying in a hotel somewhere in another state away from your friends and family, which is both awful and really cool. I spent four months in New Orleans shooting The Campaign, and now it is one of my favorite places on earth! When else, as a grown up, do you get to live in another city for an extended period of time? But if you're shooting a TV series, you're probably in LA, which in my case means that I get to rest my head on my own pillow at night.

What advice do successful actors have for up-and-coming, and often struggling, actors?

Well, the absolute truth is that all actors are struggling on their relative planes. I've learned that never ends. No matter how successful you are, there is probably SOME project that you'd really like to be a part of, that you're not. Some people might think of that as negative, but I find it oddly comforting - we're all in the same struggle! That being said, I think the best thing to do is keep your eyes on your own paper. Everyone's path is different, so try not to compare yourself to anyone else. Ultimately, I think if you have persistence and the ability to keep your brain in a healthy place while you're waiting for the next thing to come along, you'll succeed.

Also, don't be a jerk. No one likes a jerk.

Sarah Baker can currently be seen in The Good Lie. Previously, in The Campaign, she played Zach Galifianakis' wife Mitzi Huggins alongside Will Ferrell. Recently, she appeared in Tammy opposite Melissa McCarthy. On TV, she most recently appeared on the Emmy Award-winning Louie as Vanessa, a role that earned her a 2014 Television Critics' Choice Award nomination. Other TV credits include: Go On, The Office, Modern Family, The Crazy Ones, and more. Next up, she will be seen on Mike & Molly, Bob's Burgers, in Barry Levinson's Rock the Kasbah and in the Lorne Michaels-produced Brothers in Law.

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