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(Reprinted from Thornhill Times, July 1995)

By Sean B. Pasternak

Right off the bat, it becomes very easy to distinguish between Lani Billard and Busy, the character she plays on the television series Ready Or Not.Whereas Busy is trying to find her identity on Ready Or Not, Billard, the 16-year-old Thornhill resident, is very comfortable with her success on the show and where her rising career is headed.

"(Being on Ready Or Not) means a lot of sacrifices, both socially and emotionally,"says Billard. "But it's worth it in a way because it's what I want to do. I wouldn't not want to be doing this, and it's really an extraordinary situation."

The extraordinary situation began for Billard some four years ago, when Ready Or Not began auditioning for the roles of its main characters, Busy and Amanda (played by Laura Bertram). Billard had recently finished working on the TV Ontario series F.R.O.G. after a successful two-season stint when she was asked to try out for Busy. Ironically, Billard and Bertram were chosen to audition together the very first time, and the camaraderie between the two was born almost instantly.

"When I went in with Laura, the person who auditioned us said we had really good chemistry," she says. "She asked us 'are you two friends? ', and we had only met the day of the audition. That was pretty cool."

Indeed, the chemistry between Busy and Amanda is one of the reasons that Ready Or Not has received critical acclaim the world over. The series, called by some a cross between Degrassi Junior High and a female version of The Wonder Years, deals with the controversial issues of growing up in a fun yet straightforward manner. Ready Or Not is currently one of the most popular preteen dramas on television, and not just across Canada either.

"The show is aired in Ireland, Finland, Brazil ... even some countries you've probably never heard of," Billard says.

Billard has just completed grade 11 at Unionville School for the Arts, although she has a tutor when the show is in production. She says that both the tutor and school have been sensitive to her schedule.

"My teachers are really good about it," she says. "If I'm having trouble getting assignments in on time, they'll usually give me a bit of leeway. And whenever I have a day off the set, I try to get to school, too, just to see what's going on."

When she's not busy playing Busy (the show is currently on hiatus for the summer), Billard spends her time pursuing everyday teen activities such as going to movies, hanging out downtown, seeing a movie or heading up to Canada's Wonderland.

What lies ahead for this promising young actress? "Well, I'd like to get into making feature films, and I'd like to get into singing as well," she says. In addition, Billard is considering attending NYU in the future to study radio and television so that she can discover more about what goes on behind-the-scenes in broadcasting.

"Even right now, they (Ready Or Not) let us give our input to, like, where our characters are headed and where we'd like to see them go," Billard says. "We're seeing Busy go from a tomboy character to more of the girl in her."

For now, though, she's comfortable with her current success and enjoying the recognition that comes with being seen across the country and the world.

"Everywhere I go, people recognize me from the show," she says. "It's good because I know people are watching, but sometimes it's like, 'enough'.

But I really understand because I'd be doing the exact same thing if the situation was reversed."

Ready Or Not can be seen Friday nights on the CanWest Global Network.

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