With her oversized hat and sunglasses, Aimee Carrero looked as if she were fresh off a film set and strolling the streets of Los Angeles. In reality, she was just making time to share coffee and conversation with Cultist in her hometown of Miami. It was a casual Saturday afternoon, and once we took our seats outside the coffee shop, Carrero took off her hat and sunglasses. She glowed with excitement and humility when we brought up her latest project: The Americans.
"I never thought I had a prayer's chance in hell getting this part," she says about the cable-scripted drama on FX.
In season two of the series, Carrero plays a Sandinista leader who goes to Washington, D.C. from Nicaragua as an undercover spy aiding the Soviets. Her character, Lucia, is a fiery, young revolutionary who can't wait to get her hands dirty playing the game.
"She's everything that Keri Russell's character [Elizabeth Jennings] used to be," Carrero said.
Lucia serves as a mirror to Elizabeth in season two, forcing to latter to ask: "How far am I from that? How close am I to that? What have I lost? What have I gained being here?"
If you're unfamiliar with The Americans, Carrero describes the premise of the series as "two Soviet spies in the '80s who have been living in the states for a long time. They've left everything behind and have no contact with their people back home. They have kids together, they pass themselves off as Americans, they have no accent, and they're totally Americanized -- except they're not."
"I think what the show kind of toys with is the idea of what's good and what's bad, what's right and what's wrong, depending on what side you're on."
It all goes back to the antihero complex and audiences who love to root for the bad guy, because they're bad guys who think what they're doing it right.
"One thing I learned while working on this show is that all characters feel justified in what they're doing -- no matter how they look to the other people."
Despite justification on Lucia's part, Carrero admits it wasn't easy getting into character - especially being from Miami. Lucia is young, ambitious, and a passionate radical living in Nicaragua during the Sandinista revolution. In other words, she plays a communist, and anyone from Miami knows we don't take too well to communism.
"The Nicaraguan revolution was heavily influenced by the Cuban revolution," she said, "and having my own opinions as a person living in Miami and knowing the Cuban sentiments -- I'm not Cuban, but I feel Cuban sometimes having grown up here -- it was just really interesting."
The experience has taught her to get personal feelings out of the way.
"It's impossible to play a character if you judge them," she said. "You don't have to like them, but you have to try to understand where they're coming from."
Carrero admits that good, complex roles for young women in the industry are hard to come by. If you're young, Latin, and female, it's as if all the strikes are against you; you're either typecast as a Sofia Vergara or a maid.
"There aren't a lot of roles for women my age in Hollywood that are that rich and that deep and that complicated," Carrero said. "I don't know why that is, but I just feel so lucky to be doing it."
Despite the stereotypes surrounding Hispanic characters in film and television, Lucia is far from typical. When she got the part, Carrero said she wanted to do it right, and the first thing she had to learn was how to sound like Lucia. The character is a Nicaraguan who goes undercover as a Costa Rican. Carrero is a Puerto Rican born in the Dominican Republic who grew up in Miami surrounded by a bunch of Cubans.
"I knew that a Cuban-Miami accent wasn't what people from Nicaragua sound like, so I worked with this awesome dialect coach who kind of adjusted the accent," she said. "I want people to get carried away with the story and what's happening and not be distracted by the accent."
Her experience on The Americans taught her many lessons, but one thing she'll say over and over again is how "It's been a privilege and an education to work on this show."
Carrero, who has been working in the industry for about seven years, is an incredibly humble rising star. She doesn't intend to forget where she came from. Growing up in Miami allotted her a confidence she might not have had otherwise.
"I didn't think I was different from anybody else, and I never walked into a room thinking I was the only Latin girl, or the shortest girl, or whatever. I walked in feeling equal to everybody."
"I feel very lucky to come from here," she said, adding how Miami's diverse culture makes it an accepting place.
"Ask somebody who's maybe not Latin, and they might have a different story," she said with a warm laugh.
Unlike another local actor who's had a great year but couldn't quite admit that he was from Miami in a certain interview (cough, Oscar Isaac), Carrero isn't afraid to show some love for her hometown.
"(Miami) is really great, and I wouldn't have traded growing up here for anything," she said. "It gives you a different perspective of the world, and once you get out of Miami, you realize how special it is."
Though Carrero can't share too many details surrounding her character or the upcoming season, she can say how, as a fan of the show herself, audiences will definitely be satisfied.
"Lucia has been amazing to play because what the audience is going to think is bad, something bad that she's done, is so justified to her -- there's no other option."
She stumbled, trying to explain a morally challenging situation for Lucia, but then she stopped herself.
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"I can't talk too much about it, but it's really good," she said. "I think people are going to like it."
Carrero's character will appear in four episodes throughout the season, with Lucia making her first appearance in episode two. The Americans season two premieres on FX on Wednesday, February 26.
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