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KAREN YOUNG: Age-Defying Actress
by Nancy Simon

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Portrait of an Actress Coming into Her Own

Portrait of an Actress Coming into Her Own
Like fine wine, sometimes with age comes added body and sophistication.

Bi-lingual, intimate-nude scenes and a new-found carefree attitude are all unexpected components of actress Karen Young's naïve and frazzled character of Southern Georgian belle, Brenda in the foreign indie film HEADING SOUTH.

These traits are surprising because the majority of people associate Young with FBI agent, Robyn Sanseverino, whom she plays on HBOs "The Sopranos"—you know the one who ensnared Adriana and is trying to take down Tony and the gang.

Albeit Young is in her upper 40s, her career appears to be steadily picking up steam. In HEADING SOUTH (VERS LE SUD), a French film with English subtitles, Young plays Brenda, the American who intrudes upon the other women's holiday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Fresh and vulnerable, Young nearly steals away the film from legendary British-French actress Charlotte Rampling.

"I had to have this part," explained Young in a recent interview with Stylus Magazine of her interest in the film and working with the highly respected director, Laurent Cantet.

"Occasionally you say—I have to have this part. It alters, potentially, your career, but also you as a person. And it did alter me as an actress. It was just so transforming on so many levels," she stated.


In addition to HEADING SOUTH, Young can also be seen in FACTOTUM playing the supporting character of Grace along side Matt Dillon, Lily Tomlin, and Marisa Tomei.
HEADING SOUTH: Young on the Beach in Haiti

HEADING SOUTH: Young on the Beach in Haiti
The story of author Charles Bukowski's alter ago, Henry Chinaski (Dillon), FACTOTUN takes the audience on a dizzying, dismal tour of his alcohol-sullied lifestyle and eclectic grouping of barfly friends and addict acquaintances.

In both films, Young has the opportunity to portray somewhat lost characters.

As Brenda in HEADING SOUTH, Young comes to Haiti in the 70s for a vacation. It is only toward the end of the film that we learn Brenda no longer has a husband or a home to return to in Savannah, Georgia. Rather, she has returned to the resort area to revisit an affair she had three years ago with a young native boy.

Within FACTOTUM, while Young's character of Grace is also askew, she is off-kilter in a different addictive, vice-dependent manner.

A familiar face, Young has had a continual string of notable roles in such mainstream films as: DAYLIGHT (1996) with Sylvester Stallone; CRIMINAL LAW (1988) with Gary Oldman and Kevin Bacon; and JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987) with Michael Caine and Mario Van Peebles. Though some (JAWS: THE REVENGE, et al) were listed among the year's worst, the forums still provided Young with big screen exposure opposite scores of respected leading men.

In her two present films, Young is now able to deviate from her former slew of television roles as buttoned up civil servants (investigators, officers) a long list which includes such series as: the aforementioned "Sopranos", "Law & Order", "Law & Order: Special
Young's Recognizable Role as Sopranos' FBI Agent

Young's Recognizable Role as Sopranos' FBI Agent
Victims' Unit", and "Third Watch", in addition to, such made-for-television films as: "Drug Wars: The Cocaine Cartel" and the "Ten Million Dollar Getaway."

The eldest of six children, born in New Jersey, Young attended Rutgers University, her state university, and then opted to move to New York City to pursue a career in acting. Remaining in NYC ever since, Young achieved one her first successes in the original theatrical production of "A Lie in the Mind" written and directed by Sam Shepard.

Although Young made her first film in 1981, she says that until being cast in HEADING SOUTH she had never had the opportunity to play a transformative, leading role.

"Though I had always been a leading lady and not the best friend type, I had been in smaller films that did not really receive a lot of attention or artistic acclaim. They did not alter who I was as a performer. So to get the opportunity to be a lead in this particular film was very welcome. I'm in my 40s—not a great time for an actress. It's hard to get any job, let alone a lead in a feature film. And going to Haiti was just unbelievable," relayed Young of the good fortune she felt with respect to involved in the production of HEADING SOUTH.

Apparently if what they say is true, that the 40s are the new 20s, then Young still has a decade or so to go for the 50s must be the new 30s and the 60s the new 40s....


Karen Young on MatchFlick


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Every other Friday

A capsulized profile on an emerging talent, i.e., actor/director in the film world and a snippet as to why he or she is destined to soon become a household name.


Other Columns
Other columns by Nancy Simon:

EMILE HIRSCH: Young Upstart

SIENNA MILLER:B-day Girl\ Factory Girl

DJIMON HOUNSOU: A Diamond in the Rough

ABBIE CORNISH: Who's That Girl?

DARREN ARONOFSKY: Daring to go further

All Columns


Nancy Simon
A Chicago-based freelance writer and film enthusiast, Nancy has an insatiable curiousity and knack for picking out talented, promising individuals.


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If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Nancy Simon by clicking here.


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