‘Being’ Lisa Vidal: Actress Talks Life, Work & Growing Up in Whitestone

You definitely didn’t waste any time getting to work as an actress, joining the La Familia theater troupe at the age of 14. What was your experience like working with the likes of Raul Julia and Julia Roberts at that stage of your life?
Really, that experience, it was all about shedding any kind of inhibitions that you have as a person and that’s kind of what performing arts and La Familia and my training was really about. We had to learn to be private in public. And that was learning about setting any division aside. You had to learn to expose yourself and be comfortable in your own skin, because as an actor you can’t have any inhibitions.
What I mean is, you have to be free enough to be expressive and that was what the whole point of the training I had. At La Familia, I got to take acting classes with Raul Julia and that was amazing. It was a repertory theater with mostly minorities, and it was really kind of New York street style. The exposure I got, the experience we got, it was incredible and I learned so much.

Marc3Of all the experiences you’ve had in your career – from being the only person ever to shoot Crockett on Miami Vice to working on The Cosby Show to some of your more recent work such as the Star Trek film in 2009 – did you ever have an “a-ha moment” when you became absolutely sure that you were on the right path?
I would say that moment came when I had a deal with ABC. Well, first of all, I got cast in this two-hour spin-off pilot and it was me starring with Michael Chiklis (The Commish, The Shield). I was terrified because I would be carrying the whole pilot, but it was also at that moment that I decided, “I can do this,” that I was successful and I could do it and it was going to be great.
As scary as it was, it was like moving toward those things that we fear the most. You know what I mean? From that pilot, I got cast in a Steven Spielberg show for ABC called High Incident. He used to come in and direct some of the episodes, and it was just amazing. I mean starring on a series, I felt like I had crossed over. It was life changing for me – a turning point in my career and life as an actor.
Then Steven Spielberg sent me a fan letter and sent it to my house. He was singing my praises and saying, “I’m so happy I hired you, you’re such a great addition to the show” and “you’re so talented.” I just couldn’t believe that Steven Spielberg was writing me a fan letter. It was for real! I opened it up and I was like, this must be for someone else, this couldn’t be for me. It was so exhilarating. I’ve absolutely adored and admired him since I was a kid and to receive a letter like that, it really did something for my confidence and my self-esteem as an actor. It confirmed I was in the right place and doing the right thing.

With your marriage to Jay Cohen in 1990 and giving birth to three children over the next decade or so, how did you manage to maintain your career trajectory?
It was both exciting and really, really challenging because I’d always wanted to be a mom first. I’m a real family person; I wanted to have a family I wanted to be married, and that part of my life was very important to me but I was also very passionate about acting and fulfilling that part of my life. It kept just happening together, so that I wasn’t in a position where I had to drop out, so to speak.
I had a lot of work coming my way and I had a tremendous support group, my family – my parents, my sister, my grandmother, my husband – I mean, everyone was supportive; it was my village. Because I was succeeding, everyone was willing to be a part of helping that process. I was really one of the lucky ones. I was able to enjoy having my family and a lucrative career that just kind of kept growing and moving forward.
I mean, it’s not for the meek. It’s been hard. I’ve been nursing in the middle of the night and had to know my lines with a 6 a.m. call to be on set. But I was up for the challenge. It was hard work but I was doing everything I loved. I was being a mom and I had my kids, and I was being a part of something that I loved, and it was all good. When you’re doing the stuff you love, you find the energy, you find the passion, the motivation and the drive.

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Posted by on Jun 11 2015. Filed under Features, Main Story. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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