Guest Post by Talkadelphia’s Gino Barrica
For eight years, Judy Reyes played Nurse Carla Espinosa on Scrubs. Now, two years after she left the show, Reyes is making the film festival rounds in support of her new movie Gun Hill Road. We caught up with the actress and asked her about her new role and her time on the quirky medical sitcom.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Judy. Tell us about your new film!
Gun Hill Road is in essence a family drama. Esai Morales plays a man who’s coming out of prison after 3 years and coming back to his old stomping grounds of the Bronx, Gun Hill Road to be specific. He’s committed to reclaiming and regaining his place in the family with his wife and his son only to find out that everything is completely different.
His wife is estranged, has changed and is struggling to stay loyal to him and to their relationship. His son is estranged as well, and not only that, but is struggling with a sexual identity crisis that is threatening to tear the family apart. The mom is trying to play the peacemaker between father and son while trying to maintain her own relationship with them. And who knows what has gone down while he was away, so even that is being threatened by his resurgence into the family.
I play the mom, Angela. It’s a very powerful story about a family trying to stay together through all of this struggle.
You actually are from the Bronx. How much did having that experience affect your performance in the movie?
You know, I grew up on a street that intersected Gun Hill Road called Bainbridge Ave from the age of 13 to the age of 25 or 26. After that I kind of moved back and forth as a struggling actress. So I’m very familiar with living in the Bronx and knowing what it’s like to come back to a place and wanting it to feel like home. It feels like a comfort blanket and yet it’s a place that completely changes. A place that gets you through and a place that lets you down.
To go back there as a native New Yorker and as a native Bronxite, and to shoot there was a fantastic way to dive into the character and really connect to that part of a grown woman struggling to keep her family together, stay connected to her child and rebound with a life partner that she’s hopelessly outgrowing.
The movie has some really complex characters. Did you feel like you had to be the anchor in the movie that the typical audience member would be able to relate to?
I think so. I think a lot of moms can relate to it. The person that stays at home while the father’s away. Maybe military moms or moms who actually have partners in prison. Stay strong and actually be women – be virile, alive, sexual female beings. Queens, goddesses all at once. To try to embody that and just hold on and keep it together just so their children don’t fall apart.
I’m one of four daughters and I have a very powerful woman as a mom who was that shining example. She struggled very hard, maybe to her detriment sometimes, just so her children could see her strength in the midst of struggle. Growing up, working class in the Bronx, it was a true gift to be able to tap into that and I pray that the audience can respond to it as well.
There’s a buzz that this movie is a bit like Precious and Harmony’s performance is a lot like Gabourey Sidibe’s performance in Precious. What do you think about that?
I’m too involved in it to make those comparisons and I see them as two completely different entities. But I can see, in terms of its impact, how the comparison can be made.
How about Esai Morales. People may not realize just how much he’s done. First off, he was in one of my favorite movies growing up, La Bamba. Today’s geeks…
…may know him as Joseph Adama in Caprica. How was it working with Esai?
Esai and I kind of clicked almost immediately. You talk about geeks, we’re acting geeks so we would slip into the characters that we played right away. We bickered like husband and wife and challenged each other like husband and wife. We were affectionate and flirty, and we played around a lot and improvised a lot of our scenes.
I think that’s what built the relationship that we had because it was an honor to actually know that I would be playing his wife. I too was a huge fan of his, not only from La Bamba, but from Bad Boys before that. I’m actually dating myself. So we had a good time.
You’ve been on some huge TV shows, The Sopranos and Oz just to name a couple. But, people probably know you best as Nurse Carla Espinosa on Scrubs. It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since you wore her scrubs…
…because it’s on all the time!
Ha. Yeah, because it’s on all the time. Tell me about how you remember your time on the show.
I thank the geeks because they kept me working and they kept us on TV. Yeah, it feels like just yesterday and yet it feels like such a long time. It was such a magical experience. And I can’t believe that, not only that it’s been two years since it’s been gone, but that it was on for eight years because it went by so fast. And it was the kind of show, when you dream of being an actor on TV, that you would want to be on. So I thank God every day that it’s on so many people’s top 10 lists including my own.
I’m hoping you can help me tie this back into Philadelphia. Any Philadelphia experiences or stories you want to share?
I wish I could, but I’m a Jets fan. (laughing)