Lisa Vidal – Being Mary Jane
By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) What are the recent projects that you are working on?
A) I have just been busy on “Being Mary Jane.” We are on hiatus now. I just finished shooting in June. I’ve actually been working on a pilot show idea that I have bought the option rights to the book series. I want to turn that into a show. I’ve kind of been developing that. “Rosewood” was cancelled so I’m not working on that anymore. A film that I did that is a true life story that takes place in the late 1950’s-early 1960’s called Victor just came out on Netflix. I’m very excited about that.
Q) How was your character Kara on “Being Mary Jane” originally described to you?
A) Believe or not, my character on “Being Mary Jane” was written Caucasian. It wasn’t even written Latina, which is nice to even be considered for that. She was described as Mary Jane’s (Gabrielle Union) confident and kind of her conscious so to speak. Your wingman. The person who is always looking out for you. She’s a workaholic and ambitious. She sacrifices too much. She’s got big goals and will just tear who ever she needs to get down to get to where she wants to be. She is very ambitious.
Q) Was there anything you added to the role that wasn’t originally scripted for you?
A) I think yeah. I wanted Kara to have a soul. Nobody likes someone who is just one way all the time. I wanted to her to still be likeable. I wanted Kara to still resonate with the tough choices that we all have to make and that we find ourselves on the fence about. We might feel passionate about something, but we know something else is more right. I wanted to show that side of Kara and her humanity. That was the nice thing about this show – with both Kara and Mary Jane they really wanted to show these amazing women who are ambitious and in the work place and doing their thing, but they also have faults and are conflicted and make mistakes. They are not perfect; the way we all are. They really wanted to show the reality of that. So, they really gave me a lot of opportunity to do that especially with the family and the work stuff where she oversteps her boundaries at sometimes. They really gave me the liberty to play with that, which was kind of neat.
Q) What attracted you to portraying Kara?
A) Yes. Well, at first what attracted me was the role and the script. I read the pilot script and I knew Gabrielle was doing it and we are represented by the same management company. My manager sent me the script and said it was really good and I should read it. I did and I was like, “Wow! This really is good.” Then, I sat down with Mara Brock Akil (the writer/producer) and we had like a three hour lunch meeting and I just fell in love with her. And I was excited to work with Gabrielle and it just sort of all fell into place!
Q) What continues to challenge you about this character?
A) You know, the think that challenges me the most about Kara (which actually I even struggle with – I think we all do) is her inability to relax into her personal life and find love and not stress about it and not second guess herself and feel insecure about it. It’s as if she is undeserving in some way. She’s just been through so much hardship and has always been in charge and be at the top of her game that she doesn’t know how to relax. She’s always on!
Q) Definitely! So many women struggle with that.
A) Yes! [laughs] That’s what I love about this character – we get to tell the truth! And I know that truth all too well. I think that’s what challenges us the most in a lot of ways.
Q) What can you tease is in store for your arc this season?
A) Specifically having to do with Orlando (Nicholas Gonzalez) – her love interest and operating in his world and how uncomfortable she is with that. So, that I can tease. Then, we’re just going to see who Kara is at the core when it comes to her business and her workplace and her standards and her friendship with Mary Jane.
Q) Who haven’t you worked with on the series that you would like to share a scene with?
A) Raven! [laughs] Raven Goodwin. We’ve not gotten to work together and I just adore her. Also, honestly, I love all the actors. I love Richard Roundtree, Richard Brooks and Margaret Avery. I would love to have had more stuff with them. I didn’t really have a whole lot of stuff. That would have been nice. They are all really terrific actors.
Q) What have been some of your most memorable moments from filming “Being Mary Jane?”
A) Wow. I would say, the scene where Kara first breaks down about her marriage and her husband…Giving up custody of her kids. The scene where she and her husband have to live together and she just sees that it is just never going to go anywhere and he doesn’t want to take responsibility for himself or anything. Everything is on her. And I would say the scene with her and Mary Jane when Mary Jane hears the breakdown about being a bad mom and getting married. MJ agrees to make the cupcakes for her. I would say those are the most memorable scenes. Then, some of the work scenes like when she was put on the spot and suspension because she accused the other Latina reporter of some sexual inappropriateness at work.
Q) What have you personally taken away from your time on the show?
A) Oh my goodness! Absolutely. You can’t pay for chemistry. We all have really great chemistry on the show. We all work very well together. That, to me, is the secret potion to a hit show. Of course, the writing and all of that has to be right on. And there are so many storylines…I don’t even know where to begin! I think one of the main storylines is the depths of the issues of the black community and minorities and how there is still so much of a stigma and racism when you think, “Geez, haven’t we come so far?” Then, sometimes you feel like we haven’t. I love that our show sort of touched upon a lot of that kind of stuff. Also, a big take away for me too is the whole relationship thing and how women expect too much of themselves and we’re kind of forced into wearing many hats and that is not easy. What is nice is that we are very honest about that on our show. Are women and men looking for the right things in a relationship? They say they want a certain type of relationship and really that always stems from wanting to be loved. We dizzy ourselves with the other crap that might not be perfect in the relationship that we lose sight of the love. So, it usually goes bad from there.
Q) You tend to work a lot in the dramatic genre. What is it about this type of work or character that draws you in?
A) Yeah, I just love complicated characters. I love dealing with real life issues and portraying different versions of who we are, especially women and minority women. I’m drawn to strong women characters. Even if they are flawed, I still have a lot of respect of them because, as I mentioned, they are wearing so many hats. In society today, that’s what we do as women. I just have so much respect for how much we carry on our shoulders and what that looks like as mothers, wives, employees, CEOs, sisters and daughters. There is just a such complex world about a woman, especially a woman now that I’m not twenty-five anymore. What are the struggles in my age group now? Women are such wiser and fuller and more interesting. I love to portray that and tell that story, whatever the story is.
Q) You are a part of social media. Do you enjoy the instant fan feedback you get to episodes?
A) Oh my God! I love it! I love it because we know right away what they love and what they hate. [laughs] They are very clear about it. I find it fun to see how different people interact and how they feel about different situations and scenes. People’s different takes on it is kind of cool.
Q) Is there anything else you want to be sure to share with viewers about this season of “Being Mary Jane?”
A) I guess the hustle that women have to maintain to stay prevalent in the workplace – how it is so different when it is a boy’s club and when you are a woman in a big pond of male dominated business. I think that’s really important and how tricky things get when love and sex are involved and relationship drama and how women can support other women. I think that’s sort of like a line throughout this season for us.