On the set of the Quentin Tarantino Western “Django Unchained,” New Orleans native Dana Gourrier plays Cora, an enslaved woman, alongside seasoned actors such as Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson.
With such a star-studded cast, many silver screen first-timers would have been intimidated or nervous, but Gourrier took it in stride — for the most part. “I didn’t lose my words or my confidence with anyone — not with Quentin, not with Jamie, not with Sam,” she said. “The only person that I lost it and I got starstruck with was Leo.
Gourrier had a much different relationship with Jackson, who became a mentor to her. “Samuel L. Jackson campaigned for me for the entire film,” she said. “There was a special chemistry between us. He took me under his wing in a way that was really kind. He didn’t have to do that.” Growing up in New Orleans, Gourrier always knew she was meant to become an entertainer. She took dancing, singing and acting classes, and she’s earned two degrees in performing arts. Her determination to be better has seen her through her share of challenges in life. “I didn’t look like the average 7- or 8-year-old. I was always a little thicker, but it didn’t stop me,” Gourrier recalled. “I was never really a strong dancer, but I could move and I was willing to learn, and that is what I think is more than half the battle.”
Gourrier graduated from Ursuline Academy in 1997, then enrolled in the University of New Orleans, where she tried to do what she thought was expected of her. She still had a passion to perform, but moved away from the performing arts and into psychology, a more traditional career choice. She eventually realized she had to be faithful to her true self. “I ended up dropping out because I was at my lowest at UNO,” Gourrier said. “I was just miserable. “You don’t do what people want to make you do. You have to do what you feel and know you are supposed to be doing,” she said.
Gourrier returned to the Big Easy with the goal to continue performing, setting her sights on joining the cast of the hit HBO series “Tremé.” It was a plan that came to fruition quicker than she could have ever imagined.Within two to three months, I landed the role of Detective LeRoy,” she said.
Gourrier also can be seen in the upcoming films “Broken City” with Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe, and “The Butler,” starring Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Lenny Kravitz, and Cuba Gooding Jr.