Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Interview: Actress and 9-11 Widow Iliana Guibert Talks about Life After 9-11 and Her Continuing Pledge to Live Each Day Fully

Iliana Guibert  is an inspiring woman, actress, writer, mother and 9-11 widow who one might says has made lemonade out of lemons. Embarking on a career in acting later in life, she is making her mark in the business with acting and writing, including being in documentaries on 9-11. A New York- based actress, who trained at NYU's Tisch, she has had roles on Blue Bloods, Quantico, Law and Order: SVU and many other series and films. She lives by the motto that "life is too short". Read more about her in this interview and catch her film Twice Upon a Time.

Update: To watch Twice Upon a Time visithttps://www.facebook.com/TwiceUponATime.TheMovie/

Tell me about why you wanted to become an actress.

I grew up watching the old black & white movies and the MGM musicals.  It fascinates me how they made me feel whether is was watching Jimmy Cagney, Bette Davis or Fred and Ginger dance - I wanted to invoke those same wonderful feelings on others. Make people laugh, cry, think, dream etc...

As you started later in life, what challenges
 and obstacles did you find? 

Yes, starting this career much later in life has had many challenges and obstacles.
For one, most everyone else in my age group has considerably more credits than I do.  
They know more people.  There's a bit of a learning curve but I'm a quick study.
Getting to the race late means I have to work harder in order to catch up which 
is fine as I'm loving every minute. 

Were you ever sexually harassed?

The fact that before answering this question I needed to look up the actual definition of sexual harassment should have told me everything. Yes, while in the corporate sector.  

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be an actress after another career?

Be strategic, be tenacious, always be learning and preparing, meet as many people
in the industry as you can from every facet of the business, set goals for yourself and be very specific about how you plan to reach them and have fun, let yourself enjoy it.  

What was your favorite role?

I've had several but I'll pick a most recent one, a play, String of Pearls, in which I was cast not in the role I auditioned for but another role, Beth who at the start of the play is a 74 year old woman who in flashbacks play herself at age 39. The more I rehearsed this role, the deeper I fell in love with this character.  There were so many colors to play.  A gem of a role for any actress to play.  Truly magical. 

9-11. Your Experience. The Phone Call.

My late husband, Thomas, worked as a commodities trader on what was then known as the NY Mercantile Exchange.  He was a crude oil and natural gas trader. He loved his job.  He was a the WTC on September 11th for an early morning meeting that ran over and caused him and his buddies to be  trapped in a conference room on the 92nd floor of the North Tower.  I consider myself one of the very lucky ones as he got through to me from his cell phone three minutes before the building collapsed and as horrible and painful as that short conversation was, I am blessed to have had it and for him to have been
able to get through to me.  We're also very lucky in that his body was found about 3 months later - there are so many families that to this day have nothing 
to bury or cremate.  

What Kind of Support Did You Receive After 9-11

The support we received was overwhelming - the world was mourning with us, the world was praying for us. It was like nothing I could have ever imagined. A few months after I heard about an art therapy group specifically formed for 9/11 kids. Nervous about 
how this event might effect my then 4 year old daughter, I signed her up.  While the moms waited outside the conference room for their little ones,the organizers realized the widows probably could use some help and our group was formed.  I am still in contact with 2 of the women in that group.

The best thing I think I did to cope was to allow myself to go through the grieving process.  Talking about it was very therapeutic for me and still is, keeping the memory of my husband alive for my daughter, talking about him, sharing stories about him, the list goes on.  

What Makes You Get Up in the Morning?

I've always been an extremely positive person.  I want to be the best person I can be, live 
life to the fullest, take pleasure in life, don't sweat the small stuff, glass half full mentality,
having forgiveness and understanding.  

How did 911 change your life? 

9/11 just reinforced all those things I just mentioned above.  

"Life is short and we don't know if this is but a rehearsal or the main show so give it all you have right now - live like it's the main show, like it's one performance only."

Tell Me About the 9-11 Documentaries You Were In

I was in two documentaries, The Falling Man and 911 Call From The Towers.  I can talk about my husband and that day, visit the memorial just about every year but I've not been able to watch these documentaries in their entirety - it's just too painful to watch myself tell the story and to watch the other families tell their stories.  I can only do it in bits.  

How is your daughter doing?

Our children are forever changed and will always be impacted by that day.  Our country has never experienced this type of civilian loss. It was new turf for all of us.  Like many other 9/11 kids, my daughter didn't start to fully understand and deal with her loss till much later.
As I mentioned before she had just turned 4 when we lost Thomas and what does a 4 year old understand about death, about murder?  But then that 4 year old turns 8 then 12 and 15 and their level of understanding is very different. It's like they're grieving for the first time.
She's in college now and is doing well.  She is a very well rounded young lady and has many of her dads best qualities.   

 Tell me about the Causes You Believe In

I'm involved with a few charities but I sit on the board of two that are very close to my heart.
Julia's Butterfly Foundation based in Bergen County New Jersey - devoted to helping the families of children who are chronically and terminally ill.  We help cover necessities - a family who's fallen behind on their rent or car payment due to high cost medical bills, we help cover those types of bills.

The other charity is Opening Act, based in NYC - bringing free year round after school theatre programs to NYC's most under served high schools - giving these students a place to find their voice, confidence, an opportunity to be a part of a positive, supportive community - skills they will use regardless of the field they choose to go into.

Your Latest Work

  I'm beyond thrilled to have 5 commercials running.  AARP, IKEA, Longhorn Steakhouse,
U.S. Postal Service, and Zostavax.  Earlier this year I was in an  episode of Law & Order: SVU airs in which I play a small part, Sandy Sullivan, a union rep for airline pilots.  It was my first time auditioning for Law & Order: SVU and I was beyond thrilled to have booked it.  

  My first short film as writer/producer, Twice Upon A Time  came out this year. New York Woman in Film & Television will be hosting a screening of it in NYC at Anthology Film Archives on Second Avenue.

 Speed and Spark airs season 2 of Docket 32357 where I play the mom to the two leads.

  I'm writing my first one person play thanks to a push from my mentor, 
Chazz Palminteri and I'm also writing my second short film.

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