SIOUX CITY | If fans of “Orange is the New Black” think they’ve discovered a new star in Lori Petty, they aren’t aware of her storied film past.
First hitting screens in the late 1980s, Petty had a string of 1990 films that kept her in the front of audiences’ minds.
Little did they know she started acting in Sioux City, where she graduated from North High School. While in school, Petty also wrote a column for her mother’s free-circulation newspaper, Women’s Image. She tried her hand at modeling, as well, and considered a career in graphic design.
Modeling brought her attention from casting directors. “Booker,” a spinoff of “21 Jump Street,” gave her a regular television presence.
In 1990, Petty had a co-starring role in Robin Williams’ “Cadillac Man.” For its Sioux City premiere, she returned to town, reunited with friends and enjoyed the attention that comes from film work.
Quickly, she followed that with roles in “Point Break” (with Keanu Reeves), “A League of Their Own” (with Tom Hanks and Madonna) and “Free Willy.”
Known for playing quirky, counter-culture characters, Petty seemed right for the starring role in “Tank Girl,” a science fiction action comedy based on a comic book series. The film opened in 1995 to much fanfare but drew poor reviews and quickly tanked.
To satisfy her need for an artistic outlet, she also painted and designed clothing. She also wrote and directed an independent drama loosely based on her own life. Called “The Poker House,” it drew praise from critics and helped launch the careers of Jennifer Lawrence and Chloe Grace Moretz.
While Petty hasn’t begun a follow-up film, she has agreed to a co-starring role in “Orange is the New Black.” She appeared in the second season premiere and drew raves. She was asked to return for the third season and agreed.
Now, she says, she’s happy to have a new artistic home. While family no longer lives in Sioux City, the 51-year-old says she’d love to return for a visit.