Lori Petty

Lori Petty

After this feisty, highly offbeat actress from Chattanooga, Tennessee, broke into TV in the 1980s, she immediately set herself apart from the norm with a prime role as new owner Bud Cort’s female friend in the bizarre mini-movie Bates Motel (1987). This rather inauspicious beginning would also set Lori Petty off on a career as a kinetic fighter and a misfit, types for which she would be best known.

Lori was born on October 14, 1963, and spent her childhood traveling the US with her father, a Pentecostal minister. Her keen talents first lent themselves toward being a graphic artist in Omaha, Nebraska, but an impulsive desire to act quickly took precedence and soon she was off to New York, where she took acting classes and pounded the pavement for jobs.

Going nowhere fast, she eventually headed for Los Angeles and finally found an “in”. Following a number of mediocre TV roles, she won a bit of attention on the short-lived series Booker (1989) as a lippy secretary, then hit pay dirt in secondary roles as an outrageous Cyndi Lauper wannabe in Cadillac Man (1990) and as Patrick Swayze’s ex-girlfriend/waitress who hooks up with Keanu Reeves in Point Break (1991).

It looked like mainstream stardom might happen for the tomboy actress, especially after getting cast as Geena Davis’ bratty baseball-playing sister in the highly successful A League of Their Own (1992). However, while Lori proved to be an intriguing, kooky sort, she also proved more difficult to cast. Such disparate roles as a kind-hearted animal trainer in Free Willy (1993) and the sole female recruit in Pauly Shore’s inane comedy In the Army Now (1994) only proved the point.

She seemed bent towards playing scrappy, hard-edged figures alongside the big action guys but started off on the wrong foot when she was replaced by Sandra Bullock in Sylvester Stallone’s Demolition Man (1993) due to “artistic differences”. She did play a lone female cop in the thriller The Glass Shield (1994), then found her true calling as the bizarre cartoon heroine Tank Girl (1995), which was billed as “a post-apocalyptic comedy.” Playing along the same hard lines, Lori portrayed an FBI agent who teams up with a Tokyo policewoman Y√Ľki Amami in the crime thriller Countdown (1996); played a butch lesbian in the social comedy Relax… It’s Just Sex (1998); and an aggressive, tough-talking stripper at odds with the Mafia in the potboiler The Arrangement (1999). She ended the decade on TV as Max, a motel clerk, in the crime drama fantasy series Brimstone (1998).

Into the millennium, the crop-haired, tough-as-nails actress continued to take it to the limit. Following roles in the action films Firetrap (2001) and Route 666 (2001), Lori co-starred alongside the similarly tough-styled Gina Gershon in Prey for Rock & Roll (2003) as members of a punk rock band. She later starred in the creature vs. human horror opus Cryptid (2006); had a small part (First Murderer) in a contemporary Hollywood updating of Shakespeare’s Richard III (2007); a deputy in the cross-country sports movie Chasing 3000 (2010); a doctor in the horror thriller Dead Awake (2016); a starring role as a lady Marine in Fear, Love, and Agoraphobia (2018); and a campy role in the low-budget horror flick A Deadly Legend (2020).

On TV, Lori would be seen as a guest in such shows as “The Beast,” “NYPD Blue,” “CSI: NY,” “Masters of Horror,” “House,” “Prison Break,” “Hawaii Five-0,” and, more notably, in the recurring and amusing role of loony, paranoiac Lolly in the women’s prison series Orange Is the New Black (2013). On the other side of the camera, the still-single Lori wrote and directed the film The Poker House (2008) starring Jennifer Lawrence, a re-dramatization of Lori’s teenage years in Iowa. The film earned awards at the Los Angeles Film Festival

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *