Previewing GRACELAND with Jamie Gray Hyder

Graceland - Season 2Season 2 of GRACELAND has found Johnny undercover and maybe in over his head as he deals with the brother/sister team of Carlito (Erik Valdez) and Lucia (Jamie Gray Hyder).  As more details about their past and their current interests continue to come to light, I spent time chatting with Lucia herself about what it was that drew her to the role, what we can expect to see going forward, and ultimately, what her time on TRUE BLOOD meant to her.

I loved the show in the first season, and it seems like everything has double – excitement, tension.  Were you a fan of the show before joining? How did you get involved?
I had heard of the show and seen a few episodes here and there but I hadn’t watched it consistently.  I had heard good things, but more importantly, when i read Lucia, you can really get attached quickly.  After reading the audition materials, I thought, this is something I can relate to, something i can get into.  When you start having immediate connection to a character, that’s a really good sign.  I went in and I auditioned and I got a call the next day that I booked the role.

Connecting with the material has to help right off the bat, and then you get to work with a really great cast that has really gelled.
The ensemble of the series regulars – they’re just incredible.  They’ve brought on great guest stars this season.  Working with my brother, Erik, and the guest stars as the season progresses, I think that they did a great job casting as a whole.

I like that we slowly learn about the character as the season goes – how much about her do you know or did you know going in?  How much did you learn as you went?
I had a good idea sort of what makes her tick and her main challenges in life as I was going in.  The material they gave me was very comprehensive and i could see where the character was going.  So I think as you go, you definitely learn more, and tut’s exciting.  I like that I had the information at first so i could sink my teeth in, and then as things are revealed to you through the script as an actor, it’s amazing how excited you get or how attached to the different decisions that are made you get as you go along, based on what you know about your character and where you see it going; the development.  It’s as much fun for the actors, I think, as it is for the fans watching TV.

What can you tease about what we’ll see as the summer progresses?
I think you’re going to see a lot of the dynamic between Johnny and Carlito, and Johnny and Lucia, and Carlito and Lucia, all three of them, together [laughs], you’re going to see that triangle, we’re going to really get into that relationship this season.

Graceland - Season 2With Johnny being under with you guys, do you get a chance to interact with the other cast members, or really just Manny’s character?
As the season progresses, things start to come together a little bit.  You’ll see some other characters step into our world.  I think that Johnny and Carlito and I have enough to deal with on our own [laughs].  You do see it come together as the season progresses.

What’s it like being on location vs sound stages?
It’s really cool when you’re on location like that because it’s like summer camp.  We’re all staying in the same hotel, all of the guest stars.  The main cast has apartments in Miami and around the area.  This is one of the first shows I’ve been on where I hang out with the cast when we’re not working.  Erik and I have all of our meals together, usually.  We at least try to get dinner together.  We spend our free time together.  We’ll go down to Miami and we’ll hang out with the other cast members and directors, and other crew members.  It’s been a great family to be a part of.

I think that helps, too, because the chemistry is easy off set, making it seem even more natural onscreen. 
Yeah, I think that audiences can tell.  Audiences definitely have opinions about how well people work together.  Part of that is based on the role of the show; part of it is based on the chemistry as people and actors.  I feel so fortunate to work with Erik as my brother who I get along with like my real brother, and then Manny – he and I had great chemistry and a great relationship from the beginning.  I’m so lucky that we have a great time while we work.

Without giving too much away – is there a chance Lucia comes back in Season 3?
I don’t know what’s going to happen.  They’ve thrown around a few things.  We’ll see in a few weeks when we’re done filming.  There are so many possibilities, there really are.  It will definitely serve the show.  I don’t know what that means for us, but no matter what, the writers and producers and everybody will give the fans what they need.

What else do you have going on these days?
I’ve pretty much been in GRACELAND land for the last 5 months or so.  As far as other projects are concerned, I’m waiting to finish with this and see where it goes.  Having played Lucia this season has been a great opportunity for me as an actor to play a really cool real person who got a range of emotions and experiences that she goes through.  As an actor, I feel very fortunate for that.  I’m excited to see what’s next, but nothing on the docket yet!

Is there a role or type of role you’d want to target?  Any comedy?
I would love to do comedy – I grew up as an awkward kid who did nothing but make people laugh.  I would love to get into comedy. I’ve recently talked about putting together a stand up routine and taking a stab at an open mike night.  Because, I’m cast in dramatic roles – I have to show them that I can be funny so that they think I can be funny.

I can imagine it would be difficult to be pigeon-holed, almost, into the drama or comedy sides.
Yeah, you’re always going to get pigeon-holed.  You almost have to do what you have to do now so you can do what you want to do later.  Look at Matthew McConaughey who made a living playing these “good old boys” roles, and things like that that he’s great for and you saw him playing things that didn’t seem too far outside himself and these last few years, he’s just gotten to really go for it and play these amazing character roles and have these amazing stories. For something to develop like that, you can only hope that you do a few things that you’re proud of and that you’re happy to be a part of, and you want a couple challenges and hope to have that happen later on.

Do you have favorite shows you’re watching?
I just finished ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK.  I love that – they do a great job on that show these last couple of seasons.  I’m really excited for the new TRUE DETECTIVE when they decide to give us that, which I don’t think will be for a while unfortunately.  But, I recently started THE WEST WING, which I never had seen before, so I’m starting from the beginning and I’m almost through the first season and I just think that the writing and the acting is so brilliant; such a well done show.

I did the same thing a few years ago; I don’t remember why I didn’t watch it when it actually aired, but then I marathoned it and was so mad that I missed it!
I was surprised.  You can’t have a bad show for seven seasons and I started to watch and it was like, man, this is what I’ve been missing!

Looking back on TRUE BLOOD – what’s your take away as we seen the show coming to the end?
I loved my experience on TRUE BLOOD.  That was my biggest role that I had at the time, and I was worried about coming onto a show that had been around for so long.  Everybody was so warm and welcoming and my experience on the show itself was awesome.  Having a recognizable show like TRUE BLOOD and having a reputable network like HBO; having their approval and having that on my resume has absolutely made it easier for people to trust me so I’m very grateful for that experience.

GRACELAND airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c on USA.