Bronx Actress Brings the War Home Over There
An Interview with star Lizette Carrion
Written by Jon Minners
The Interview was Originally Conducted for the Bronx Times Reporter
Bronxite Lizette Carrion majored in government and politics at St. John’s University, but in a strange twist of events, it was her brother Adolfo who became the borough president. However, Lizette found a home in the world of acting and has struck it big with the hit cable television show Over There. Moving away from her hometown in New York to film in Los Angeles in the first scripted series about the real life war halfway around the world, Carrion prepares herself for what could be an exciting ride in the world of entertainment.
Created by famed producer Steven Bochco and Chris Gerolmo, Over There centers on the members of a U.S. Army Unit sent to Iraq for their first tour of duty and explores the effects of war on soldiers on the front lines and their families back home. This is not a political look on the war. No stance has been taken by the crew or the actors as it pertains to the war. Instead, the series focus on the physical, emotional and cultural challenges the soldiers, like Carrion’s character Doublewide, face on a daily basis.
Carrion’s character is described as a robust, happily married new mother. Doublewide must leave her family behind when she is shipped out to Iraq, turning out to be an excellent no-nonsense and resourceful officer with a rich humor and humanity that makes her instantly likable to those around her even surrounded by the violence and uncertainty war has brought into her life. Her main motivation is her husband who finds himself in a predicament mostly shared by women and her child who knows very little about the sacrifice her mother is making for others. Each day is another battle to survive and reunite with the family she left behind.
In fact, reuniting with her family is exactly what’s really going on in Carrion’s mind right now as she spends time in Los Angeles shooting the FX series. Growing up in Baychester and attending P.S. 111 and I.S. 181 in Co-op City, the Bronx is the only real home she has known. In fact, when her family moved to Rockland County, Carrion did not want to leave. “They dragged me away kicking and screaming,” the Nuyorican recalled. “I didn’t want to leave the Bronx and when I had the chance, I moved back to Bruckner Boulevard and Castle Hill Avenue. The Bronx is home. You know, it’s the city, but it definitely has the feel of a town or community where neighbors know each other’s names. I love the Bronx. My whole family loves the Bronx. Look at what my brother is doing for the borough.”
Carrion loves the Bronx so much, it became a topic of one of her public speaking speeches entitled, “The Beautiful Bronx,” at St. John’s. But Hollywood came calling at a young age. “I always wanted to be an actor since I was little,” she said. “The first chance I had, I went all out. I didn’t know anybody, so I was out buying trade magazines like Backstage, and books dealing with subjects like how to get an agent. I was pounding the pavement, doing Public Service Announcements and whatever I could get an audition for.”
Carrion’s acting teacher led her into her first lead role in a play and that got the ball rolling with an extensive listing of theater credits such as Bed, Bawd and Beyond at the Gene Frankel Theatre; Flores and Alice Underground at La Mama, etc.; The Lesson, at the Union Square Theater; Fly Girls at the Nada Theatre; Native Son at the Henry St. Playhouse; and the Los Angeles production Mousy Brown at the Young Playwrights Festival and Blank Theatre. A showcase led her to a number of shows being shot in Los Angeles. “I really look forward to coming back,” she said of her New York roots.
But until then, Carrion is making a name for herself with guest roles in such shows as ER, Third Watch, Chicago Hope, The Practice, Judging Amy, Reba, The Division and Strong Medicine. Her latest starring role in Over There is actually her third stint with Bochco, having appeared on his earlier shows; NYPD Blue and Brooklyn South. “I always played these teenagers who were in trouble,” she recalled. “They were the very stereotypical Latino derelicts, so when I got the script for Over There, I was really excited to come in and read for him. It is a human story about a working mother who is Puerto Rican. She is married and loves her husband. She is a devoted mom and she just happens to be in an extreme circumstance. These roles do not come so easily for Latinas, so I am happy I had a chance to play such a part. There needs to be more roles like this.”
Still, Carrion is not looking to become a role model. “It is not my goal,” she said. “I just want to be the best human being I can be and if I encourage or inspire someone, that’s wonderful.”
Right now, Carrion is living her dream, continuing to shoot the 13 episodes of the show and hoping for another season; although in a series depicting a war, no one can be sure who will come back if the show does go on. “As far as my character goes, all I can tell you is that she faces some really big challenges in her marriage,” she said. “My husband on the show meets someone in a support group, but I cannot say anything more. You will need to see the show to see what else happens.”
Dealing in terms with the content of the program, the young actress does not discuss her own beliefs on the war and doesn’t feel the show tries to change people’s beliefs. “I think it is good television,” she said. “The writing is really good. We have a great crew, directors and actors. Everything came together and produced some quality television, as far as television can go, but it is still fiction. I don’t think we come anywhere near what goes on in the minds and hearts of the men and women fighting overseas. I hope it touches on some of the feelings, but we will never known, because we have never been there.”
But she does feel it presents a chance for families to discuss what is going on. “No matter what opinion you have about the war, the show does provide people with an opportunity to open up a dialogue about it,” she said pointing to how realistic the show feels due to it being on cable television. Of course, that will be hard for Bronxites to do, since FX is not shown on Cablevision at this time. “It feels good to represent the Bronx, but it is sad to know that no one here can see me,” she said. “They need to find ways to view the show, so everyone needs to tell Cablevision to bring FX to the Bronx.”
In terms of her future, Carrion will soon be seen in the feature film Shackles, alongside D.L. Hughley and Crazylove, a romantic feature with Bruno Campos, which is currently in post-production. However, Carrion has other interests, including politics, making sure to mention that everyone needs to vote in November, but right now, acting is definitely on her mind.
“My plans are to do more stuff in New York,” she said. “I love acting, but there are also a lot of other things I want to do with my life. I am a citizen of the planet, so wherever I need to be, I will be right there. Right now, God has made it possible for me to do what I love. I hope I am acting the rest of my life. If not, I hope to be doing something just as fulfilling. I’m open to surprises.”
Over There can be seen every Wednesday on FX at 10 p.m. Check out the review of the series at www.g-pop.net/OverThere.htm.