Upon stepping onto the CBS Studio Center soundstage of “Doubt,” Lauren Blumenfeld says she felt at home. Not because filming the forthcoming legal drama, which premieres in February, required her to return to her native Los Angeles, but rather because its elaborate sets and lighting were comforting reminders of a performance space in which the actress has so often lived: the theater.
“Theater is incredible. The only issue is making it accessible, because tickets are so expensive,” says Blumenfeld, who rose to stage fame with her acclaimed performance in the Tony-nominated The Assembled Parties, in 2013. “So that is something I like about television; it’s more accessible. There is a larger platform to affect people and change.”
Mixing mediums is hardly a new trend among actors. Other stars that have used the stage to catapult their careers include Lea Michele (whose breakout performance in Spring Awakening landed her a starring role in “Glee”) and Cristin Miloti (who scored the titular role in “How I Met Your Mother” following her performance in Once). But Blumenfeld’s turn comes at, as she puts it, “and interesting moment,” when “television is really shining.” It’s clear Blumenfeld is fully embracing her next chapter on the small screen: In addition to appearing in “Doubt” (alongside Katherine Heigl and Dulé Hill), the actress displays her comedic chops in Pop TV’s “Nightcap.”
“I always find the things I like best have a really strong combination of the two,” Blumenfeld says, speaking to the apparent contrast in genre between her two series. When it comes to connecting with the characters she plays, the actress says that working in both comedy and drama is a major draw, noting how “humor can be so sad, and the drama is actually kind of hilarious.” Watching Blumenfeld portray Lucy, the “sweetly unfireable” assistant to Sadie Ellis (Heigl) on “Doubt,” or Penny, the eager assistant on “Nightcap”’s fictional late-night show, you can see how the actress relishes in turning the stereotypes of each program’s genre on its head in her performances.
The different tones of Blumenfeld’s series are not the only duality they presented. Shooting “Doubt” required the 32 year-old actress to temporarily trade her recent home of New York for her childhood one, resulting in a new bi-coastal lifestyle that she says has given her a renewed sense of how place plays into human behavior.
“I’m personally so affected by my surroundings—probably too much—and it’s kind of odd that I’ve lasted so long in New York. Even though I love it, there are moments that are really intense. So I do factor in where characters are from, and whether they are fighting against where they are from or have embraced it. I think we all have weird relationships to that.”
Despite the challenges the city may throw her way, Blumenfeld, who has lived in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood for nearly a decade, now considers herself more a New Yorker than an Angelino. Of her adopted home, she says, “I love the character, charm and history of the neighborhood—old Italian bakeries on Court Street, a bustling Middle Eastern scene on Atlantic Avenue and historical brownstones along the tiny side streets. Though rent keeps increasing, which is terrifying, many artists and writers still live in the neighborhood, making it an exciting artistic and literary hub.” Below, her guide to the best places—from bars to restaurants to shops—its 40 blocks have to offer.
Cup of Joe: Cobble Hill is the land of adorable coffee shops. One of my best friends lives a few blocks [from me], and we often start our mornings at Café Pedlar, on Court Street. I also love the coffee and treats at the Smith Canteen. Since my apartment is tiny, I often work at neighborhood cafes like Bien Cuit (the most delicious freshly baked baguettes!). And anyone in the neighborhood has to go D’Amico Coffee Roasters. It’s been owned and operated by the same family since 1948.
Power Lunch: Court Street Grocers has delicious sandwiches and iced coffee; I like the Vegitalian Combo, no mayo. Though it may sound basic, I love the Health Salad at Café Luluc. You can offset the “health” by ordering their great shoestring French fries. That’s usually my move.
Cocktail Hour: There are great bars everywhere in Cobble Hill. For classic cocktails in a speakeasy setting, go to Brooklyn Social. I love their Fellini (prosecco, lychee nectar and mint). Fun fact: the bar was a men’s club in the ‘60s and the décor reflects its past. For larger gatherings, I’m a big fan of Lavender Lake, right on the Gowanus Canal. While not the cleanest body of water, there’s something strangely romantic about the spot. My favorite neighborhood dive is definitely Boat Bar.
Retail Therapy: I love books and independent bookstores, and I’m lucky to live by a great one: BookCourt. Most of the furniture in my apartment is from a great store on Court Street called Yesterday’s News. It has an affordable, eclectic mix of pre-‘70s furniture, antiques and vintage clothing, and the owners are lovely; they remember your name and the things you like. If you’re looking for a unique gift, you must visit Swallow, on Smith Street. It’s magical and filled with beautiful things.
Field Trip: I like riding my bike to Red Hook and Brooklyn Bridge Park for a little peace and quiet by the water. For live performance and theatre, I highly recommend the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and St. Ann’s Warehouse—both very close by.
Date Night: My favorite restaurant in the area is Zaytoons. It’s neither fancy nor expensive, and the Middle Eastern food is so good! I love their freshly baked pita bread, hummus and babaganoush. Not to mention they make the best lentil soup I’ve ever tasted. Stop at Smith and Vine, just across the street, to buy a bottle of wine to share at dinner. And if you’re feeling fancier, definitely dine at Rucola.
Don’t Miss: I absolutely adore a tiny street in the neighborhood called Verandah Place. It borders the sweet Cobble Hill Park. Something about this spot makes me feel like I’m in Europe in a different time. It can be overrun with strollers, so I like walking there at night. It’s safe and lovely, and in the summertime, the park is alight with fireflies.
Hidden Gem: For the best Baklava you’ve ever tasted, visit the Oriental Pastry & Grocery, on Atlantic Avenue. It’s the real deal. You’re welcome.
Photo Credit: Benjo Arwas