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By Anna Lothson
Oak Park resident Janet Ulrich Brooks took her onstage acting skills and brought them to the big screen, nabbing a major role in the movie "I Heart Shakey," a feature film shot in the Chicago area.
The film, which premiered in Chicago last week, tells the story of a widower, his 9-year-old daughter, and their loveable mutt, Shakey. They're forced to part ways with their furry companion when their building manager, played evil delight by Ulrich Brooks, doesn't warm to the idea of pets. The family-friendly story illustrates the importance of keeping a family together, but for Ulrich Brooks, it allowed her to showcase her villain skills.
An award-winning stage actress, and much less villainous in real life, she enjoyed seeing children connect with the characters in the film. She's also not used to playing the "bad guy."
One girl at the premier, she said, was afraid to ask for her autograph until the girl's mother assured her that Ulrich Brooks was merely playing a character and wasn't actually mean.
"It was really exciting for me to see that the kids bought into it," she said. "They really enjoyed what they were watching."
Ulrich Brooks said she spent much time mastering her character's disposition and overall look to bring alive a "sharp" and "edgy" woman who has had multiple facelifts and wears excessive amounts of makeup. She said the role was rewarding since she got to exercise plenty of personality. The cast, she noted, and the "spirit" behind the film made the role even richer.
"I feel honored that I was in this cast," the Oak Parker said. "I look forward to doing more with this group. I love being an actor in Chicago."
The film, which spotlights a variety of other rising actors and comedians, is available On Demand and will be released in theaters nationally on June 29.