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Iyari Limon - About her career - Afterellen.com Interview Part 1
mardi 11 avril 2006, par Webmaster
26-year-old Iyari Limon, best known for her role as lesbian slayer Kennedy in the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has just joined the growing number of out lesbian and bisexual actresses (read our new profile of Iyari here). In this exclusive interview with AfterEllen.com, Limon talks about her upcoming Spanish-language film, attending culinary school, how she met her girlfriend, and how playing gay on Buffy impacted her own coming out process.
AfterEllen.com : Regarding your acting career, I read a posting on your website from November (2005) in which you told fans that you had ended your relationship with your agent and manager, effectively quitting the business and instead focusing on theatrical work. Did any particular event spur you on, and do you still feel that way ? Iyari Limon : Growing a lot as an individual and becoming more spiritual, I had this epiphany. I was at this hot springs, and I had this huge audition the next day. It was for a series regular and it was a great, great role. And every time I’d look at the sides I would get this bad feeling. I started to see smoky energy coming out from the sides. I felt that everything connected to that audition was not who I wanted to be and not the game I wanted to play. It just felt like it was such a façade and so political and so not about what we all strive for.
It wasn’t about the art or the acting. And I just thought, you know, that’s not who I want to be, I can’t. And that was the day I decided. And I started having these memories of when and why I decided to do acting when I was a little girl. It all started becoming very clear. I have to be honest with myself and admit that I wanted the attention and I wanted the fame. But then you start to learn what it really is and you grow this love, appreciation and respect for the art and it goes beyond the ego part.
At this point, I thought I don’t want my ego to get in the way. I had great representation, I had great auditions and everything going for me, so why would I give up, right ? But I thought maybe this is a turning point where I have to ask do I want to be a part of this game or do I want to follow-I don’t know, maybe a different direction that something is telling me to go to.
So I thought, what am I going to tell my agent ? And it was like a voice telling me, ‘Don’t worry the words will come to you.’ So the next day I hopped in my car and went over there, and I said I’m done. And they were in shock, they were saying, ‘Can’t you just go to this one audition ?’ And I said, ‘I can. I can go to this one audition, but I don’t want to.’ And I said thank you, and they were so sweet and asked ‘What are you going to do now ?’ and I said, ‘I have no idea.’
Then I went to my manager’s and I took him out to lunch and I did the same thing. And once I told him that I had already gotten rid of my agent, then it sunk it to him that it was real. Because as an actor you go through ups and downs, and people take breaks and what not. But when he saw that I’d left my agent, he knew this was a done deal.
And then I felt great, I felt like this huge thing lifted off me. And I felt free that day. I rode in my jeep, singing songs, my hair in the wind-I was so happy. I felt like I had detached from something that was always so hard for me to do, to network and play the Hollywood game. And I wasn’t good at it. I was invited to the parties and I couldn’t go to them. I started this creator of this huge show and we went to this huge television network dinner and I called my manager and I said, ‘I don’t want to go. I want to go to my yoga class.’ And she said, ‘Are you kidding me ? You have to go to this !’
So I was just never good at it and think that was one of the reasons why the last couple of years I just really didn’t work like I should have, because I really didn’t work that.. I didn’t go to the parties, I didn’t try to network and meet people.
AE : It sounds like you made a very intuitive decision, and you really stuck with it. IL : Yeah, I did. And then you know what’s interesting ? I started getting offered all of these independent films ! (laughs) And I got offered this one horror film and I turned it down and I felt really good about turning it down because I felt like—the Buffy fans are the most loyal fans, I just love them, and I thought it’s like I have a responsibility now. And I know whatever I do, whatever I choose to work on, they’re going to be following it and they’re going to be watching it.
If I can’t leave my fans and friends with something that inspires them or some kind of positive message, then I can’t do it. So I said no because though it would have been fun, there wasn’t one thing in there that was meaningful in some way. So I didn’t do it and it felt good.
AE : So did you continue to act ? IL : Yes. I wanted to do theatre. My friends call me “The Manifestor” because I manifest everything that I want. And so my friend was calling me and telling me, “This director friend of mine is calling me and wanting me to do this one act play and I don’t want to do it but I recommend it for you.” Within half an hour I was at the theatre auditioning for him. The role was older-for a woman in her 30s and I thought, “I can’t pull this off.” But he told me he’d rather have someone young who could act than someone who looked the part but couldn’t act And he needed to cast it that day.
So we started rehearsing the next day in someone’s kitchen and before you know it I’m onstage in this one-act play. It was a challenge for me, playing an older woman having a mid-life crisis, and basically breaking down on stage. But I loved it, it was a challenge and I did it and I got up every weekend and it felt really good.
AE : Do you think you’ll do more theatrical work ? IL : I don’t know. Because shortly after that I decided that I was going to go back to college and I was going to go to Columbia University but that didn’t happen. Things happen for a reason. I remember I asked Joss (Whedon) for a recommendation and his assistant told me “no” because he’s very, very particular. He’s only done one, and he gets really into it, with a lot of detail. And I respect that but that it kind of slowed me down to apply to Columbia. I lagged, and in that lagging I realized that I love food.
My favorite thing about traveling is eating the food. I looked into culinary school in Pasadena, the Cordon Bleu, and being there and learning about it, I thought This is what I want. I have to be chef. I just don’t know anything that I have more passion for.
The acting thing, the whole business, drained me. I hated auditioning, and I didn’t have that passion that I’d had for it at one point. So suddenly I found something else that I had this passion for and I was so excited about. So before you know it, I’m enrolling in culinary school.
Then I saw this thing online, pick your own celebrity chef, and I thought that’s what I’m going to do-a celebrity chef ! Mind you, I wanted to be a chef before I wanted to be a celebrity chef, so it wasn’t like I was going to try to tie in acting with cooking, I was just going to try to be a chef. I didn’t know where it would take me.
So I was going to go to culinary school and it was going to start in April. But in January I decided to go to college and complete my AA degree. I’ve been two units away from getting my Associate’s degree, and the two units I needed were in Introduction to Theatre ! It’s just so funny.
So I planned to finish my AA and then go to Mexico, and then go to Caribbean to take this course I wanted to take, and then I’ll start culinary school.
AE : But somehow you got sucked back into acting ? IL : Taking this theatre class...mind you, I thought I was done with acting forever. Being in this class, I started to learn the history of theatre, playwrights, and I thought, ‘this just doesn’t leave me alone, I can’t NOT do this. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t so much an ego thing, it was just in me. I need an outlet, I need to do theatre and be creative somehow.
So I went to Mexico and then when I came back I met this guy who was doing an independent film. He had met my mom, he knew who I was, he was doing this independent film the thought I was perfect for. I go in to meet the guy-the girl has to be chubby, and I thought should I even waste my time ? It’s really clear that this girl needs to be fat, and if they’re not willing to see me like that then I’m not going to waste my time.
But I went in. And the day before I went to Mexico they called me and offered me the role.
And I’m short, so every 5 pounds is a size on me, but I told them I’d be willing to gain 15 pounds. So suddenly my culinary school is starting, and the film and thought ‘I don’t want to do the film, I really want to go to school !’ So it turns out I am doing it.
AE : So this film really spoke to you ? IL : I wanted to do a film in Spanish, that had been on my mind. I had said, ‘The next film I do I want it to be in Spanish-I don’t know how or when.’ So this film is in Spanish and it’s so cute, it’s a cute story. The character works as a clown. She stands outside of a car dealership passing out balloons trying to get people to come in. You have her relationship with her best friend, with her brother who just got out of jail who’s trying to get his life back, she has a niece she adores, there’s a guy who she has a crush on who works at the dealership. He basically uses her at the beginning, but by the end he falls in love with who she is because she’s just so loveable and fun and she has these dreams of traveling the world but she’s barely making it here.
It’s really heartwarming. It’s about how you plan things in high school but things never turn out the way you plan for them to but it’s okay, in the end she follows her dreams.
So I’m gaining weight for it now and we start in June for a few weeks near San Diego. So that’s exciting. You try to leave it and it just keeps coming back to you, so you know something is your duty there.
And the film is great so I’ll get to start working again on something I love. The people are involved out of pure love. We’re all doing it for practically nothing and putting our hearts into it.
AE : It sounds very different than how you were feeling when you wanted to leave acting. IL:Yes, yes, yes. Definitely.
AE : What’s the film called ? IL : It’s called Maquillaje, which in Spanish means “make-up.”
AE : Do you have any idea of when it might be released ? IL : I don’t know. I’m assuming early next year because these guys are really on it. Their doing it all themselves and I just love that. I love watching people say, ‘Forget the business. I’m not going to wait around for them to call me or for them to finance the film. I’m just going to get what I have, raise what I can and do this because it’s who I am and I’m going to put it out there whichever way I can put it out there !’ So it all seems pretty organized, which is pretty rare in Hollywood.
AE : I read that you were up for the part of Carmen on The L Word. IL : I was. And they kept me on hold for two weeks !
AE : I love Sarah Shahi on the show, but I could totally see you in that role. Have you kept up with her storyline this season ? IL : I kept up with it, but I didn’t see the last three episodes because I’ve been traveling-I went to Mexico, the Caribbean, I just got back from London. And then my TiVo went out on me !
AE : What did you think of what they did with the character ? IL : Honestly, it came out differently than how I thought it would.
In the very beginning, they didn’t even want to audition me because they thought---these are the words they used to my agent : “Iyari is too beautiful. We need androgynous, not pretty like that.”
Because the actual breakdown of the character, I remember it, said, ‘She’s androgynous, DJ by night, PA by day, with a boyish look to her.’
So I don’t even think they knew that I was on Buffy and they just saw pictures of me and my resume. But they didn’t know my character on Buffy, they didn’t know she was gay, I think. Which is great because they brought me in for the right reasons. They just knew, “She’s worked and she’s too beautiful.”
So my manager sent them a picture of me with my hair short-they didn’t know I had cut my hair. So they said “OK, fine. We’ll see her.”
So I went in, they loved me, they brought me back, they brought me to the producers, and then before you know it they’re calling and wanting to test me. So I go in to the test and we had to work with the director and with Kate Moennig, one on one. Which was great, she was great to work with. You know what’s funny ? I had to audition the scene, you know where she says, ‘I have an idea. Let’s play a game.’ Do you remember that ?
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