Elizabeth Grullón is a fresh face in the industry who is currently making headway on the brand new Freeform series Party of Five as Dominican activist Theresa Sullivan aka Sully.
I got the chance to talk to her about how she got started in acting originally, her audition process for Party of Five, what it means to her to be a part of such an important show that people are really identifying with and more. Keep reading to see what she had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you got into acting originally.
I wanted to be an actor ever since I was around 7 or 8 years old watching The Oprah Winfrey Show every day with my mom. Oprah would have big actors on the show talking about the humanitarian projects they were involved in, the new movie they just finished, the new person they were in love with etc. and my little 8 year old brain was like, “Wow! I can help people and be this big, energetic magnet? Sign me up!” Years later, when it was time to go to high school, I followed in the footsteps of a family friend, actress Valery Ortiz, and signed up for a magnet school across town that had a well known theater program. I guess you could say the rest is history.
Was there a specific person or experience that you would credit with helping you decide that acting is what you wanted to do for a living?
I remember having a conversation with my mom when I was a senior in high school. It was a brief thing; we were driving somewhere. I had many different interests and loved school so I said to her, “Mom, maybe I should go to college to become a doctor or a lawyer because those are more stable careers and having a career as an actor seems really hard.” I’ll never forget her response. In her thick, New York Dominican accent, she looks at me and calmly says, “You know what’s hard, honey? Doing a job everyday that you hate. That’s hard.” Amazing, my mom. Also, the late Ken Washington really fought for me and believed in me which made me feel like it wasn’t just a fantasy.
You’ve had a lot of different types of roles over the course of your career so far. Is there a specific role or type of character you haven’t gotten the chance to play yet but are hoping to cross off your “bucket list”?
Of course! I feel like I’m just getting started. I would love to play an astronaut and have to do all of the extensive training involved with that. I would also love to play a single mom of a young child who’s really struggling to keep it all together because so many women live that reality and I think they are heroic as all hell. Also, anything with Brad Pitt, obviously.
Switching gears, let’s talk about your current role on Party of Five. What was your audition process like for the show?
That’s actually a funny story. It was my first time going in to that casting office and they were still casting a pretty wide net for the role. I think they were still figuring out exactly who Sully would become. I remember I could hear everyone else audition through the wall; classic LA audition story. And of course everyone else seemed to be getting notes and laughing with the casting associate. Finally it was my turn, I did the scenes and got no notes. So I’m thinking, “Oh no. this is so not clicking” and I just kind of scurried out of there. Weeks go by, and I’ve completely forgotten about it, as you do, and then I get an email saying, “they’d like you to come in for a chemistry read with Emily Tosta.” I go in and meet Emily and she’s so incredibly warm and welcoming. Then a stroke of fate – the director of the episode is stuck in traffic on his way back from location. So Emily and I end up waiting together for over an hour! We chat, get to know each other, laugh, run the scenes a million times. She is the most generous person you could ever hope to work with. Looking back on it I think that hour of bonding time is part of what led to me landing the job. God put traffic in the director’s way, ha! The Universe had my back.
Were you a fan of the original Party of Five before you got the role, or at least familiar with the show?
My big sister, Kathy, and I were obsessed with the original series. I don’t remember it much anymore because I was so young, but I would still plop down next to her and care so much for those characters.
On the show, you play Theresa. I know a lot of actors bring a bit of themselves to the characters they play, but in what ways do you think you’re similar to Theresa and in what ways do you think you’re different from Theresa?
I’d like to think I am similar to Theresa in that I care about people and that I try to do the right thing. But honestly, I think Theresa is much braver and more selfless than I am. I want to be more like her when I grow up.
We just met Theresa in this week’s episode and it seems like she’s going to serve as a role model of sorts for Lucia when it comes to activism. What can you tease about what’s coming up in regards to that storyline?
I can’t say much and as you know, I spent a year working in the Star Wars universe so I am excellent at keeping secrets! You’ll just have to watch to find out. I can promise you, it’ll be worth it!
I know you just joined the cast, but what it does it mean to you to be a part of such an important show that people are really identifying with?
It means so much to me and my family to be a part of this show. As I started working on this character, I began to ask my family members about their immigration process coming over from the Dominican Republic, and I learned so many things that all my life I had never known. All of these stories started pouring out of my mother, my father, my grandmother – it was incredible! This show is special. It’s not just a job, or a piece of fiction – these are real stories about real people – my people. This experience is making it cleared for me on where I came from and more intentional about where I am going. It’s inspiring me to go out in to the world and make sure people feel seen and heard.
You also performed the full motion capture for the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order video game. What was that process like? Are you a big Star Wars fan?
Working on JFO has to be one of the most fun experiences of my life! It started with a facial scan and then led into rehearsals, trainings and principal photography. We had the most excellent stunt team on the planet leading us in fight training, stunt training, light saber training. I was pinching myself every day. My childhood dream come true. The brilliant Tom Keegan would lead us in warm up exercises each day which I think really fostered a bond between all of us cast. We wrapped principal photography in the spring and then moved into voice over sessions for a couple of months. The thing about working on Star Wars is everyone involved, at every level, cares so deeply about what they are doing, because we all grew up watching the franchise and are all so proud to be able to contribute to it in some way, large or small, and you can really sense that level of commitment in the air. I have always been a fan of Star Wars but this experience has taken my admiration and respect to new levels.
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
So many things. Such a nerd. I’m very much a mindfulness nerd; I love learning about the brain, neuroplasticity, our power to carve out new ways of thinking and being, the effect that consciousness has on matter etc. Right now I’m listening to the audio book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and it’s narrated by this British man [Derek Perkins] who speaks very slowly. I listen to it while I drive which is just about the nerdiest thing ever.
Photo Credit: Ashley Nguyen