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Stephanie Arcila Interview: Penny Dreadful: City of Angels

Stephanie Arcila
Stephanie Arcila (Screenshot from Penny Dreadful: City of Angels)

Stephanie Arcila took a different turn for her acting career.

She had transported herself into the late 1930s of the new Showtime’s Penny Dreadful: City of Angels. In this new series, two police officers investigate grisly murders that shook Los Angeles in 1938. The epic story unfolds into political corruption and race riots, which are all being set up by a devious spirit.

Arcila plays Bernadette Romero, a Mexican immigrant who defends her values in the mixed culture of Los Angeles.

LRM Online spoke with Arcila over the phone before the premiere of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels on Showtime.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels airs on Showtime on Sundays. Check your local listings.

Read the full interview below.

Stephanie Arcila: Hi. How are you?

Gig Patta: I’m doing fine. I’m trying to survive.

Stephanie Arcila: How are you feeling?

Gig Patta: Just recovering. I have a little bit of lingering effects, but I’m under the recovered category. I’m resting a little bit and talking to the media once in a while. I’m on the other side now interviewing you rather than getting interviewed.

Stephanie Arcila: [Laughs] Veronica always laughed at me for asking so many questions too.

Gig Patta: Not a problem. Everyone who talks to me asking me tons and tons of questions. It’s a sign of the times. [Laughs]

Stephanie Arcila: We’re going through a pandemic, so it’s odd to ask people how they are. We’re all in this together.

Gig Patta: That is true. How are you doing during this pandemic? I know it’s challenging for the actors.

Stephanie Arcila: We were fortunate to have finished shooting before all of this happened. We finished on the fourth [of last month]. We even had a wrap party on the seventh and then the eighth. I went with my friends to Joshua Tree for a meditation retreat and came back and on the 15th when they announced that they were shutting everything down. Since the 16th, we were quarantined for the rest of March.

It was a process. I’m used to going all the time, not stopping, working, and staying busy. The first week was a little tough for me, but then I managed to sit down to see how I was feeling and figure out what I can do to help myself mentally.

I started realizing I had so many things I had to do that I’ve always wanted to do, which never had the time to do. There are plenty of books and do a bunch of my friends workout. I’m taking three online classes, spending time with my dog, and cleaning the house every single corner. I’m a clean freak, so I’ve always wanted to do that. [Laughs] Staying busy, taking it easy, and giving myself those moments of rest as well without feeling guilty.

Gig Patta: Sounds so fortunate. Are you stuck in Miami or Los Angeles?

Stephanie Arcila: I’m in Los Angeles. I was supposed to be in a different country on April 4th to start working on another project. That has been postponed until further notice. I had plans already, but it’s okay. It’s for the better for everyone to stay safe and healthy.

Gig Patta: Does that frustrate you that you couldn’t do your next project?

Stephanie Arcila: No. For the last two and a half or three years, I worked on myself trusting, having patience, and understanding that things are not always in my control. It was accepting and the releasing of things–not about the attachment of things. I’ve worked on that for about three years now. I have a peace about it on what’s meant to be for me. What’s going to happen is going to happen. The way things pan out is the way they are supposed to. Things just flow in the way they’re supposed to.

Gig Patta: That’s excellent. I know your career has taken off in the last few years itself. When you heard that you got the part on Penny Dreadful–what was your reaction? What was the process of getting that part? Did you audition for the role?

Stephanie Arcila: Oh, my goodness. Even that was perfect the way everything panned out. I remembered when I got the audition, and I was extremely excited because I saw that Danny Zobatto was in the project. We’ve worked together in the past. It was going to be amazing if we get to work together again with friends. I’m so incredibly proud of him because I’ve watched his processes as well. I was excited to work on Penny Dreadful, possibly.

Then I never heard back from them. So I started taking a theater workshop. It was a five-week intensive workshop. Every single day, I would be either studying or at rehearsal or in class. During the course, there was no time to work on anything else. The class was literally full time. The class immersed in that era as well. All the plays that we read were from the 1920s and onward.

Five days later, after I finished the course, I got the call. I was at another audition doing a chemistry read with another actor that was on this other show. After I finished my chemistry read, I got into my car. As soon as I turned on my car, I got a call from my agent and manager saying that I booked Penny Dreadful. Thank goodness I was sitting in my car because I was so excited. I started crying. My crying was a very quiet cry. [Laughs] I was silent for a very long time on the phone. My agent was like, “Is she crying?” My manager responded, “Yes, she is.”

They were super excited for me. They know that I get very emotional about these things. As artists and actors, we’ve worked so hard to get so many no’s before we get yes’s. Even after we get yes’s, we go through seasons when we get no’s again–a ton of nos. I had gone through that season, also though I was getting close to things. When I got the call, it was more exciting and overwhelming to know that I get to be a part of this incredible project with people that I’ve already worked with.

Gig Patta: It sounds like you’re excited about Penny Dreadful: City of Angels. What makes this Penny Dreadful so unique? Give us a little bit of a background to this very new TV show.

Stephanie Arcila: For me, what’s so perfect about it was that I was already immersed in that era from my theater classes. I was jumping from the 1920s and onto a show that takes place in 1938 and being able to stay in Los Angeles, where I reside now. This is my home now. I was being able to stay here and sharing that experience with my friends and everyone.

The best part about it is that we get to educate people on the history of Los Angeles. I didn’t know many things that happened back then. I had to do my research because I’m born and raised in Miami. Miami’s a lot younger than Los Angeles, while Los Angeles has an extensive history.

People get to know what the Zoot Suit Riots were–on what it meant for Latinos, for blacks, and Asians. They’ll see how these highways started development over specific cities and neighborhoods. It was explicitly targeting all of us by creating projects in ghettos. It’s going to turn into an educational show as well as being entertained. There’s a mix with the magical realism and the spiritual side of it.

I think it’s phenomenal. I haven’t seen a show like this, so I’m excited. It’s a dream to be able to work with actors that you’re going to grow with because of these incredibly talented actors.

Gig Patta: No kidding. Tell us more about the character, Bernadette Romero. I’m assuming she’s a Mexican character, right?

Stephanie Arcila: I adored Bernadette. Bernadette was born in Mexico, but she came to LA at a very young age. She lived a double life. I think she’s brilliant. She does everything from the heart, and she holds a lot of pain inside of her, which inevitably translates into a rage. It’s completely unapologetic for it in the way that she defends what she loves.

The most important and beautiful side of her is that, as much as maybe people may agree or not agree in the way she does things, at the end of the day, she’s human. She’s doing it with the best intentions and from her heart in defending what she values more the most and love the most. Another appealing aspect of it is that a lot of the Latino community can relate to it in the sense of how passionate and driven she is. They’re very passionate and driven in defending what they value the most.

Gig Patta: The first Penny Dreadful went into a lot of the fantasy folklore. You kind of Tweeted a spoiler about Magda, which is a demon, I believe. Could you talk more about that?

Stephanie Arcila: Well, they’ve talked about it online and in other interviews. She’s a spirit that travels into other different dimensions, and roles. You get to see a little bit of it in the trailers.

Gig Patta: Do we have to watch the first Penny Dreadful to understand? This show is a new Penny Dreadful.

Stephanie Arcila: No, you do not. It is a phenomenal show. So great to watch. It’s an entirely different story. It’s a spin-off. The first one is set in 1932 in London, and this one is 1938 in Los Angeles.

Gig Patta: I did a little bit of research. I came across your photo from the TV series itself with your hairdo and in the suit. Could you talk about that style and how great it was to immerse yourself in 1938?

Stephanie Arcila: Oh, my goodness. I loved the Bernadette look. Val [Jackson] was the whole designer for my hair, which was incredible. With Theraesa River’s help, it was a process at the beginning of two hours in the hair and makeup room. It was so worth it because it helps transform you. So my hair is in this huge, pompadour style, which for me it gives Bernadette a whole different edge and power. It gives her more heights. [Laughs] The makeup is a very different look because even the style they do with the lipstick back in the day–made my lips smaller with it drawing on the lipstick.

The looks were completely different, but it was a homage to the style back in 1938. When it comes to the lipstick, the eye shadow, the contouring, it was more makeup that made you look a little paler and to make the eyes and lips bright. It’s crazy to think that the women used to do these hairstyles every day with such ease. I could do it for the premiere for the show on Sunday. I wanted to try and do Bernadette’s hair on my own. We’ll see how that goes. [Laughs].

The whole look, even the wardrobe, they did an incredible with that too. The wardrobe completely transformed you. It helps us, as actors. The minute we put that coat on, put our makeup and hair on it, ultimately enables you to transform. You even start walking differently. Everything about you is different.

Gig Patta: Well, I wish you good luck with that. I have one last question for yourself. You grew up in the industry. In the past few years since, you did Jenny Rivera: Mariposa de Barrio, and getting a lot more projects. How does it feel to work so hard for all these years, and it’s now starting to pick up?

Stephanie Arcila: After Mariposa de Barrio, I didn’t work for almost two years. For me, it was perfect because it was an ideal amount of time that I needed to grow maturity-wise and grow in my craft. It helped me to be where I am right now, in Penny Dreadful. I love what I do. I love what I do. I’ve never imagined myself immersing myself in different areas of the industry. At the core, this is what I love–creating and being able to transmit that to people. We’re giving art. We’re giving love for making people feel through our art. There’s no easy it is to describe it because it’s describing love, right?

I’m in love with my art with my career. It brings me an extreme amount of joy. Since we worked so hard for it, and it is a hard industry to break into, it’s even more satisfying when something does happen, and more overwhelming. It’s a constant growth throughout our lives. We never stop learning. We never stop growing within this career.

We are imitating life, and to imitate life–you have to live. I’m incredibly grateful overall. That’s all I can say about it. Just gratitude. To be able to work with people that are grateful as well and extremely talented. The more they get excited, you get even more excited. And you create magic, which is what we did with this show.

Gig Patta: Excellent. Well, thank you very much, Stephanie. I wish you well and in your future career, and hopefully, it opens more doors after all this is all finished.

Stephanie Arcila: Thank you so much. Have a beautiful day. Stay safe and healthy.

ALSO READ: Robert the Bruce: Interview with Director Richard Gray On Telling A Story Not Many People Really Know

Source: LRM Online, Showtime

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