EXCLUSIVE: 'Animal Kingdom' Star Carolina Guerra Talks About Her Transition to Hollywood

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Carolina Guerra may be a force to be reckoned with in her home country of Colombia, but she is also slowly making her mark in the American market. 

From modeling to hosting, the Colombian actress and activist made her crossover seem effortless, proving that she can tackle any project that comes her way. Currently, you can spot the brunette beauty as "Lucy" on TNT's American drama series, Animal Kingdom. We caught up with Carolina to talk about her transition to Hollywood, the impact of her social media and much more.

PLUS: Why Colombia Is Irresistible: 6 Must-Have Experiences!

What was your journey like transitioning to Hollywood?

I first came to LA two years ago. I went to LA all excited, everything was good to me, I came straight from Colombia and I got two pilots. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world, everybody was like ‘that never happens!’ Then three days before we had to start shooting the pilots, my visa expired. So I couldn't do anything, it was the most frustrating thing in the world. Then the second year I came for pilot season, I had to leave because I booked something else in Colombia. The third time, which was last year, I decided that I couldn't leave and that I needed to stay in the US. Many people come for pilot season, stay for a couple months and then go back to their country. It’s hard to leave your comfort zone when you have offers from where you’re from. So it’s hard to make the decision, but last year I made the decision in my head, I was like I need to stay here. Once I made the decision I got an audition for Animal Kingdom and it was a rough one because I was going through some complicated situations on a personal level. That day I was particularly affected by it. I remember crying, I was late because there was traffic due to an accident. It was just the worst, it wasn’t ideal. When I came in I went blank in the middle of the scene, it was just a disaster and when I walked out I called my agent and I was like “I just had the worst audition of my life.” Turns out that they loved it and two weeks later I started doing this project. So you know it’s been a weird process for me but I couldn't be happier. I know how lucky I am to be working right now with John Wells, with Ellen Barkin, you know this is an amazing start for me. So it’s been a weird process, but it’s been a great one as well.

For those who haven’t watched the show can you give a little insight into your character, Lucy?

Okay, so Lucy we see her in the first season and we don't know much about her, we just know that she’s a woman from Tijuana, she’s a single mom and she has a brother that has weird businesses. Then, in the second season, we start seeing a lot more of her and she’s very interesting. She’s a very multi-layered character, she’s a very strong woman—I love that about her she’s super strong and independent, but she doesn't give away that much. She always has something up her sleeve and she always has the upper hand in every situation, which I love. This character is amazing to play, there are very few women in the show and she definitely has the strength to be a counterpart [to the men]. She always has this mystery about her, we never know what she’s working on and we never know what she’s really thinking, so I really like Lucy.

So how does Lucy differ from other roles you have played, and how did you change your approach when embodying this character?

Oh, she’s so-so different. I always try to play different roles, I’m very careful and that’s one thing I always have present in my head throughout my career, trying as much as I can to pick roles that are challenging for me in a way. That’s the beauty of acting, you have the chance to be someone different every single time. I’ve played a nun, a doctor, I’ve played a man, I’ve played a priestess, and so this is something that is different. It has this element that is very new for me, not the character itself, but the whole situation. This project is one that I do entirely in English. So not just the character per se but everything about the dynamics of working on Animal Kingdom is absolutely different for me. This is the first time I’ve played a mom—a single mom—and is something that I don't know personally, so it’s been challenging in many ways, but it has been a very generous character to me.

Prior to acting, you were involved in beauty pageants, were there any skills from doing pageants that you used when pursuing your acting career?

No, I wouldn't say that necessarily. That whole thing was so funny and it all happened so fast, anyone who knows me personally would be very surprised that I would be involved in something like that. My personality, I wasn't the type of girl at all that would dream of these types of things. I come from a country that has been historically obsessed with this [beauty pageants], every girl want’s to be involved in it and I was one of the few that didn't. It just happened very fast and it had to do with a friend of my parents that worked in that and he always wanted to participate so I just ended up doing it. It was the first year that people would vote for the beauty queen they wanted and there was something about me and about that year.  I had a nose piercing and I would show up in converse and there was something about that that worked in my benefit. So it just ended up happening and it was pretty funny, but I didn't go all the way, I didn't compete for Miss. Colombia.  So it all happened really fast. One of the things that did work for me, not necessarily beauty pageants, but the thing that modeling did for me during the first period of my life was that it made me really comfortable with the cameras. Being exposed to scrutiny, to all the people, to cameras, that all helped.

 

Speaking of modeling, what was your experience like hosting Colombia’s Next Top Model?

Yeah, that was pretty amazing. I was living in Colombia at the time and they invited me. My mom’s a fashion designer so I was always very close to the fashion industry growing up in Colombia. They invited me to do it and it was something super fun, it was a short project but it was an amazing way to come back to my country. The show is now on the third season and unfortunately I couldn't do the rest because I had other projects, but it was a beautiful project. I enjoyed it a lot. I’ve done a little hosting, but it always had to do with something that I liked. I’ve done things for music for MTV, when I was 17-years-old, I was still in school and that was my first job.  I’ve done a couple of hosting gigs but they were all music and this one time I did fashion because my mom and because of my early years modeling. So “Colombia’s Next Top Model” was super fun and amazing and I have a lot of great memories from it.

Out of everything you’ve done what has been your favorite experience? Why?

Well, I’m grateful for everything and out of everything I’ve done I understand what it has done for me and the lessons it has taught me. It would be really unfair to say one is better than the other, but I can tell you what things have been most special for me and they all have to do with music. I had a band and that has been super nurturing to me and definitely acting too. I always knew that acting was going to be my thing and that’s what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. I have love for everything and I appreciate the importance of every single thing I’ve done and what it has done for me in my life, but obviously acting and music 100 percent. 

What advice do you have for young Latinas who aspire to be either an actress or a musician or just in this industry in general?

Well, I think the most important thing is that you have to be so into it, so passionate about it, because it’s not the easiest thing to do or go after. You got to be willing to risk, you have to be willing to go out of your comfort zone, you have to be brave, you have to be bold and you only can get to that place when you are really convinced in your soul that you’re in love with something. So the first thing, without any questions, is that you have to be passionate about it and then the rest starts happening. Obviously discipline too, discipline and passion to me are the perfect marriage to go after, not just acting, but anything. I can talk about what I’ve done and I think that those two are the key, just be passionate and then be disciplined.

You have a great social media following, what role do you think that plays into your success? Or does it?

That question has a lot of angles but I think it has become such a major thing. I think it’s more a question of how big of a role do you want to let it play in your life and what do you want to be when you have influence over different groups? I am myself [on social media] I like to be me and not to pose and I let people get close to who I am. I try to be honest as possible. In Colombia, I am very close to politics so I try to be very responsible and try to invite people to be curious to inform themselves and I like to think that’s the way social media has affected my life and how I like to affect others.

 

 

Me estoy sacando un ojo tratando de hacer una selección justa de lo que vi hoy! Sabemos hasta el cansancio lo tensa que está la situación en Estados Unidos y en el mundo entero con la nueva presidencia, pero más allá de esto y lo siguiente lo digo a nivel personal, mi principal motivación a marchar hoy fue por otro tema. Si bien esta marcha se "cocinó" en un ambiente político y en consecuencia de él, también pone en la mesa un debate importantísimo y que no solo concierne al territorio norteamericano. Abre una conversación tan necesaria como urgente y es la del valor de la mujer, de como nos vemos entre nosotras, de como nos ven A nosotras, qué permitimos, que exigimos? También sobre la igualdad de derechos y entre otros temas algo que considero sagrado: la soberanía sobre nuestro cuerpo. Todo un ejercicio social que repito es URGENTE! En fin, me quedaría días escribiendo de esto pero no los quiero aburrir... Arriba algunos mensajes #mybodymychoice #womensmarch

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Are there any new exciting projects you’re working on or anything in your future that you’re excited about that you would like to share with our readers?

I’m doing so many cool things on a personal level that I would love to share. I’m working on an amazing project in Colombia to protect animals, a law project, from violence and from illegal trade. For the last couple months, I’ve been working on that and I haven’t talked much about it so I can finally come out with it. It's a beautiful project and I’m working really hard on it and I am going to be able to talk more about it in the next few days, but I’m working on that with a very good friend of mine and the government. I’m pretty excited about that. I’m also going to do a movie in the next couple months in Canada so I’m excited about that, and we’re going to see what happens with “Animal Kingdom” next.