By night, Lauren Alvarez works as a shelf edge specialist at HEB, a Texas-based supermarket chain. By day, she pursues her dream of acting.
A couple of years out of high school, Lauren decided to apply to HEB after hearing positive feedback about the company. Lauren began her HEB career as a cashier. Eventually, she moved her way up into a lead position. Eventually, a desire to switch departments led Lauren to work in the shelf edge department, where she has worked for the past eight or nine years of her 17-year career with HEB. Lauren’s responsibilities include updating coupons, updating product prices on shelves, categorizing products, arranging and rearranging shelves and displays and updating product signs throughout the store.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused supply-chain issues throughout the HEB chain, which has affected Lauren’s work by generating more of a need for reorganizing merchandise throughout the store.
“A lot of companies are trying to figure out what to do with products,” Lauren says. “Now that the pandemic seems to be dying down, companies are doing complete overhauls on a lot of their stuff. Many companies are really trying to refresh their brand.”
Lauren has appreciated the flexible schedule offered by HEB as she pursues her aspirations to become an actress.
“I can’t do it without [HEB],” Lauren says. “That’s one of the reasons I’ve been with the company for so long. They provide me with so much flexibility. They try to support my acting and don’t have to.”
Lauren began acting as a child. Initially, it provided a way to escape from difficult times amid her parents’ divorce, but it quickly grew into a passion that brought Lauren much joy. She loves many aspects of acting, including being in costume and rushing to change hair and makeup.
“It’s not always the Hollywood glam, but it’s a lot of fun for me,” Lauren says.
One of Lauren’s greatest joys in acting is the opportunity to deep dive into the different roles she plays.
“I love breaking down the characters [and] learning their habits and background,” Lauren says. “Not only do I get to become a different person, but the process of breaking down characters causes me to discover a lot about that character and myself. You start to see things differently as you spend time studying different characters.”
Lauren’s first movie role was right out of high school as a regular background character in “Idiocracy.”
“I was in the movie theater scene,” Lauren says. “I got to sit behind Luke Wilson during the court scene and I was part of the audience during the demolition derby.”
Afterward, Lauren had the opportunity to be a regular background character in a couple of episodes of “Friday Night Lights,” where she acted as a student and a member of a large crowd during a parade scene.
In 2006, Lauren traveled to New York City to attend a month-long acting program through the New York Film Academy. A few years later, she ventured to Dallas and acquired an associate’s degree in acting through KD Conservatory. Each semester, Lauren participated in a different production for class. These experiences taught Lauren how to break down her roles further.
Opportunities presented to Lauren after graduation included a public service announcement for runaways and a Rent-A-Center catalog photoshoot for its Mexico customer base.
One of Lauren’s favorite roles was playing a featured background actor in a few episodes of season five of “Fear the Walking Dead.” During this role, she was a survivor who participated in a caravan for multiple episodes. The part involved a lot of physical actions that Lauren had to master.
“That was a lot of fun,” Lauren says. “Really long hours, but a lot of fun. The first time I was on set, I was there from 9 a.m. to about 1 a.m., and I didn’t even care because I loved it so much.
“This role was a step up for me because you can actually see me. People at HEB see it and wonder why I don’t run that fast at work. I tell them there’s no reason for me to run that fast at work — there aren’t any zombies.”
Being a part of “Fear the Walking Dead” was fun and challenging work.
“It was a good learning experience — not just the acting, but also being on a professional set and in a professional environment and working with the cast and crew,” Lauren says. “It’s not like it’s difficult, but you have to hit your mark at a certain time in a certain spot and then do it again and do it again and do it again.”
The COVID-19 pandemic hit during the making of season six, so Lauren only participated in one episode before the set shutdown. However, she was called back for season seven to be a stand-in.
In May, Lauren received an offer to be involved in a series called “The Chosen,” in which she participates in a carnival scene for season three.
Although Lauren has not played a prominent cast member yet, she does not take her experiences for granted.
“I feel very privileged to be part of any set because not a lot of people get to do what we do,” Lauren says.
One of the biggest challenges Lauren has had to overcome in her acting career occurred in acting school while playing a scene as Roberta in “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.” Lauren had to break down this character, which took a bit of a toll on her.
“The character I played was really messed up, and it was a really dark place to get into,” Lauren says. “Going in that dark place for that dark character was like going into a dark place within myself and trying to distinguish her behaviors, expectations and cynicism and try not to have it rub off on me. Yes, you want to stay in character, but you also have to learn to break that reality and know that’s just your character and not you.”
Lauren would like the chance to play Roberta in “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” again, but in a full-length performance next time. Lauren also hopes to have more opportunities to be part of “Fear the Walking Dead” and “The Chosen,” along with other TV shows filming in her home state of Texas. Specifically, Lauren wants to be part of a spin-off series from “Yellowstone” and play in new episodes of the TV show “Walker.”
“I would love to do Broadway,” Lauren says. “Live theater is a whole different experience. There’s no cut, no retake. It’s all taken in one shot. That’s always fun — an adrenaline rush, as you can imagine — because you’re in front of a live audience.”
In the meantime, Lauren toys with the idea of becoming a manager at HEB but worries it may interfere with her acting career.
For other women working full-time who want to pursue a career in acting, Lauren’s advice is never to give up because you never know what will happen.
“Like Estelle Getty from ‘The Golden Girls,’ she didn’t get her fame until later in life,” Lauren says. “So you can’t set a goal saying you’re going to be rich and famous by the time you’re 30 because that might not happen.”
To Lauren, “she can be both” means that women can maintain full-time jobs without giving up on dreams.
“‘She can be both’ means I’m not just a partner at HEB,” Lauren says. “People think it’s silly when they hear I also act, but it’s a real job. I’m also a sister and a daughter. If I were explaining it to a customer, I would say we’re all human, we’re all storytellers and we all have different sides. Women can be so much more than we’re given credit, and we shouldn’t be afraid to be more.”