Interview by Ashton Samson
Actor Iliana Guibert did a mid-life career pivot from successful furniture executive to successful actor, and now she can be seen in several TV shows, is starring in a summer production of Anna in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz in the Hamptons and is also co-host of a new online talk show for women. Ashton Samson sat down to talk to Iliana about how she got where she was, and just how much she is enjoying this new chapter in life.
City On a Hill and White House Plumbers
Mr. Samson: What kind of roles have you taken on most recently?
Ms. Guibert: Most recently I played a federal judge in a courtroom scene for a show on Showtime called City on a Hill, which is Kevin Bacon’s show. He plays a corrupt former FBI agent, so on one of the episodes, I’m the federal judge and that’s great because I was saying to myself you know, I’m at that age where I should be playing a judge and I’ve never auditioned for a judge before. (Editor's Note: See Iliana in Episode 3.)
I’ve had the opportunity of auditioning and playing attorneys, U.S. attorneys, newscasters, hospital administrators, nurses, caregivers, those types of roles. But I had never auditioned for a judge and all of a sudden, this opportunity came up and I got it and I was thrilled.
And it was just wonderful watching Kevin Bacon work up close like that, he’s really just magnificent and he was so kind and giving. That was one role that was recent and I just got to play on HBO’s five-part miniseries which is not out yet called White House Plumbers.
I get to play Clara Barker, who is the wife of Bernard Barker. Bernard Barker was involved in Watergate. That’s what the piece is about, it’s about Watergate, about the White House plumbers. And it’s funny, her character doesn’t have a single line, but there was an audition process and callbacks and everything. She has three scenes that she’s in even though she doesn’t speak, so that was interesting. I’ve never had a role like that - that was so prominent, but she has nothing that she says.
Anna in the Tropics
Mr. Samson: Tell me about Anna in the Tropics.
Ms. Guibert: Oh sure! Anna in the Tropics is written by Nilo Cruz, a magnificent Cuban playwright who is just incredible with language. This man is a genius and this is one of his many plays. This is a Pulitzer so that tells you a lot about the level of writing for it to win that type of award. And it’s being performed here at the Baystreet Theater in Sag Harbor, New York, which is in the Hamptons.
We are having the time of our lives because it is just such a magical production from the lighting, to the projections that are put on the stage, to the costuming, to the cast and the crew and the artistic administration that’s behind this show. It’s really a blessing to be here working on this piece and then on top of all of that, the nucleus of this show is the family.
So there are two daughters, a mother and father (I play the mother) and in the play, they are Cuban and it takes place in 1929 in Tampa, Florida in a tobacco factory. And it’s the mother and father who own this tobacco factory.
Anna in the Tropics Info:
On Playing a Cuban
What’s really beautiful is that this family in real life is of Cuban descent, which is so rare. It is so rare to be playing a Cuban and to be surrounded by other Cubans because that just doesn’t happen in our industry. We very rarely get to play Cubans and there’s very rarely a chance to have the whole cast be Cuban. We have other people in the cast who are not Cuban- three other people, three other gentleman. One is not Cuban, but he lived in Cuba for I think it was fourteen years. He plays the character of Palomo, who’s my son-in law, a wonderful actor, Gullermo Ivan. And then we have the gentleman who plays the lector. He’s not Cuban but he’s Latino.
So the whole cast is Latino, which is again, an incredible feat, because that is so rare that we get an opportunity to have that happen for us. So we’re blessed, we are on Cloud 9. I keep saying it, but we are, we are on Cloud 9.
Mr. Samson: That’s good. It reminds me of what Steven Spielberg just did for West Side Story, not with Cubans, but he had the characters portrayed by those of their proper ethnicity.
Ms. Guibert: Exactly. And you know, it’s funny because as actors we say well you know, I don’t have to be a serial killer to play a serial killer, I don’t have to be Cuban to play Cuban, but there is something really magical about being given that opportunity to play something that you know so well.
I may not have been born in Cuba - this woman in the play was - but I have that in my blood, I have it in my genes. I have it in my heart and soul and so do these other characters and actors. And it just comes to life. Someone was interviewing me recently for the show and one of the things I said to this interviewer was I am going to come out of this show being more Cuban than I already am because its just you are living in that world and you just come out feeling more Cuban than you ever were.
On Being Co-Host of The LIBBY Show: Lunch with the Ladies
Mr. Samson: I know that you are the co-host of The LIBBY Show, Lunch with the Ladies. Can you tell me a bit more about that show and what your responsibilities are as co-host?
Ms. Guibert: Yes, Suzanne Ordas Curry is the lead host. This was her brain child, her idea and she just wanted to have a couple of women with her to co-host. As co-hosts, we ask questions and sometimes we help produce an episode. I helped produce an episode that had to do with bereavement.
There are a couple of other episodes that I have in mind that I want to be the lead producer on. She still is the lead host, but being the cohost means that you kind of take the reins and you do the research as to who are you going to invite to be a guest on the show for that segment and what kind of questions you want to ask. You know, so you kind of take the reins a little bit when you become the producer of a specific segment.
Sometimes, we are teaching them about something and it’s not necessarily us doing the teaching because we aren’t the experts. But we have an expert come in. So it could be an expert who is talking about health, women’s health at a certain age, things that we should be looking out for and things that we should be getting tested for. For example, at a certain age you need to start taking this test and that test. So we would have an expert, a doctor come in, and that expert would share that with our audience.
We’re there to ask questions and to give our opinions and our feedback to explain that “when I went for that test, I was so nervous, but it was so easy and I’m so glad that I did it.” So it’s really about educating, as well as entertaining our audience-women of a certain age.
To Watch The LIBBY Show: Lunch with the Ladies
Future Topic: Challenges Women Face
Mr. Samson: You briefly touched on it, but what are some of the topics that you are thinking about covering on the Libby Show in the future?
Ms. Guibert: So I specifically was thinking of covering caregiving because I have an elderly mother and again, the ages that we are-the Libby group-those are things that are happening for us. One is being empty nesters, so talking about things like, what will you do now that you are an empty nester, how do you keep busy? You just lost your full-time job, which was caring for your kid who’s not home anymore, so what do you do? That could be an episode.
Another episode again is about caregiving, caregiving of your parents and some of the things that we need to keep in mind when doing that. Another one could be dating at a certain age. Maybe for me, I’m widowed, so that’s one thing, so now your widowed, or your divorced, so how do you start dating at this age?
Other episodes we do or will do could have nothing to do with self-care, they could just be for pure entertainment and we could have a soap star. We could have a star from a show we watched when we were growing up and now we are talking to this person who is now our age. We could talk about what that show was like for them because we grew up watching that show or it was a show from our youth, maybe not necessarily from when we were growing up but maybe from our thirties…things like that.
A Career Pivot into the World of Entertainment
Mr, Samson: . I read a bit about you on IMDB and noticed that you went to Tisch and the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute, but didn’t go straight into acting after that. Can you tell me a bit about your career path and what led you into acting?
Ms. Guibert: Sure! So after college, I took on this little job and the little job ended up becoming a monster job. It just kept sucking more and more of my time and it just kept making me busier and busier and they just kept promoting me over and over. Before I knew it, I was running the whole East Coast Sales Division for this high end office furniture manufacturer. So that’s why I call it my detour from the acting, because I never even got my feet wet.
I was right out of school, worked for this one company and then jumped into the world of high end office furniture manufacturing and I don’t have any regrets. I loved the job I had. I made great friends, people who I am still connected to today. I learned so much, I have great life experience from that job.
But about, I want to say eight years ago, with another company that I was working for (because I stepped down from that world and I was just doing sales now for a textile company) things weren’t going so well because of the economy and they were doing layoffs and I was one of the layoffs. And I thought, well, you know, this is a blessing in disguise and, as my daughter always says, you know, “Mom you can be given the worst lemons and you end up making the best lemonade,” so that’s what I decided. I decided that this was going to be the worst lemons, but the best lemonade. And so I said I’m going to do something else. I don’t know what yet but I’m going to do something else.
I started thinking well I’ve always had a love for the entertainment industry, so maybe I could do something there. And I always had this thing about acting, but I was painfully shy when I was younger and so I just decided I’m going to start exploring.
I’m going to start networking and Googling and researching and just figuring out how does this industry work, how does this business work, what can I do, is there a place for me? If there isn’t, then I’ll just go and manage somebody else’s team, you know, some other company’s team. I had a competitor who I was ready to go work for, but I thought let me explore this other option first and I have not looked back because I love what I do. I have been blessed with some really nice opportunities and I just feel like I am just getting warmed up. So that’s kind of the trajectory of how I ended up here.
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