Bartlett challenges perceptions, pushes clients

Women's Impact Report 2011: Lorrie Bartlett

“It’s fun to be the first, but I just know I won’t be the last,” says Lorrie Bartlett, who made history in March when she was tapped to co-head ICM’s talent department, becoming the first black agent to hold such a high-ranking post at a major Hollywood agency.

Bartlett’s ascent mirrors that of her longtime client Zoe Saldana, who is also breaking down racial barriers as one of Hollywood’s most in-demand female stars. Saldana nabbed a role typically reserved for the Matt Damons, Jason Stathams and Angelina Jolies of the world as the above-the-title action star of “Columbiana,” where the actress “got to do everything that women of color don’t get to do all that often,” Bartlett quips.

“What has worked for (Zoe) and for us is the idea that we have to be color-blind even if the business isn’t,” says the former Gersh agent who joined ICM three years ago. “You have to go after everything.”

In fact, Bartlett pushes all her clients to challenge any preconceived notions about what roles they should be pursuing. Bartlett and agent Chuck James urged Megan Fox to take the unlikely but savvy turn of transitioning from vixen to comedian. As a result, the actress nabbed a starring role opposite Paul Rudd in Judd Apatow’s next laffer and will also appear in Sacha Baron Cohen’s “The Dictator.”

Or take client Kelly Macdonald, who tamed her thick Scottish accent in order to play an Irish immigrant widow in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” a juicy role that earned her an Emmy nomination.

Bartlett, who runs the talent department with Dar Rollins and Adam Schweitzer, insists even ICM needs to keep itself open to change in the same way that thesps need to stretch their limits.

“Our job as leaders is how do we take this (ICM) brand and identify ourselves in the business now,” notes the L.A. native, who describes her agenting style as thoughtful and precise with strategic tenacity. “We need to respect the past, but recognize the business is always evolving and it behooves us to help create the future.”

Title:Co-head of talent, ICM
Role model: Michelle Obama. “She’s intelligent, powerful, chic and cool under pressure. “
Career mantra: “Never say never.”
Leisure pursuits: “I love music and have a very eclectic palate,” says Bartlett, whose playlist ranges from Dolly Parton to Jay-Z.
Philanthropic passions: Doctors Without Borders, Women’s Care Cottage