Having played the recurring role of Intern Graciella in Grey’s Anatomy across Series 4 to 6, Gloria Garayua went on to join the cast of How to Get Away with Murder in 2016 as Detective Brianna Davis. Since leaving both series, Gloria has been seen in episodes of many shows, with recent ones including The Good Doctor and Bounty Hunters, and she has filmed for an upcoming episode of Snowfall. Gloria made her major film debut in 2005 in Fun with Dick and Jane alongside Jim Carrey and, alongside her screen career, she is also a private acting coach. Gloria’s taken time to talk with us about playing Detective Brianna Davis in How to Get Away with Murder, filming her episode of The Good Doctor and her time on set of Fun with Dick and Jane.
How much did you know about How to Get Away with Murder before being cast in Series 3 and how would you describe your character Detective Brianna Davis?
I had watched a few episodes here and there but I had never followed the storyline religiously. As an actor, I do try to watch at least one episode of most shows so I’m familiar with the tones of the shows before I audition for them. But now, there’s so much content, that it is definitely challenging to see everything!
I made the decision to make Detective Davis suspicious of everyone and everything! I thought this would be a good choice because it would hopefully give the writers more to write for me. I was so incredibly happy to get cast by this casting office again in another Shonda Rhimes production and I really wanted this role to have some longevity. My role in Grey’s Anatomy lasted three years but my character very mysteriously went away. My character was not killed in the big hospital shoot-out, and yet I was only called back for two more episodes and that was it. My character in Grey’s had no completion. With How to Get Away with Murder, I wanted my character to last as long as she could for a recurring role. I was able to get nine episodes out of it and I was so incredibly grateful for the experience! The entire cast is awesome, and Viola Davis is a dream to work with! She is super professional and very personable. All the crew were light-hearted and the directors were always kind and fun to be around.
What was it like joining the cast of an already established show?
The benefit of joining a cast that has already been working together for a few years is that there is an ease on set. After so long working together, they know the drill, and everyone is there to do their job, do it well, and go home. So it really does make it easier for a new actor showing up on set to fit in. Since they all know each other, they welcome you in with all their attention. It’s quite nice.
When did you film for your role in Snowfall and is there anything you can say about your episode?
I filmed my role on Snowfall on March 1st. I believe it is the first episode of Series 3, so it should air sometime in July. I only did a one-day guest star and I didn’t follow the show beforehand, so, to prepare for the role, I watched one episode, read the full script, and made decisions about my character. I really enjoyed shooting something that took place in a different era. It was fun to wear 80s clothing, and get my hair/makeup done to match the times.
How did you find your time on set of Bounty Hunters and playing the role of Caroline?
I was so happy to get cast in Bounty Hunters! One, I always wanted to work with Rosie Perez, but two, I had never worked internationally before and this was such a blast for me! I flew to London to take care of pre-production and then we flew to Spain to shoot. Then, on my own, I decided to return to London just to explore the city since I didn’t really get a chance to do that while we were doing pre-production. I absolutely loved London! I’m originally from New York City so clearly I’m a city girl. But I also love the culture that cities provide and the opportunity to see amazing theatre!
Can you tell us about your character Sonia in The Good Doctor?
The role of Sonia in The Good Doctor has definitely been one of my favourite roles to play. This character was on her way to her wedding when there was a major bus crash that killed many people in her wedding party and injured so many more. One of the people injured was my soon-to-be-husband. A life-changing decision had to be made on his behalf and my character held a very different opinion of what to do in comparison to his parents. The entire storyline for my character was about convincing the parents that I knew their son well enough to know what he would want done in the situation. It was all very emotional.
How was your experience on the set of this show and filming with the rest of the cast?
Fantastic! They work so hard! All anyone on that show wants is to tell the story as truthfully as possible and get the job done right. We worked long hours, but got it all done very quickly. The entire cast is so professional and talented!
Who did you get chance to film with for Animal Kingdom and how were you involved in the storyline?
Christopher Chuluck directed me, and my scene was with the talented Daniella Alonso. This was my second time working with Chris. He first directed me in an episode of Southland in a scene with Regina King. In my episode of Animal Kingdom, I played Daniella’s best friend. We all thought the role would come back but it never did. The show has gone on to be very successful and I wish them the best.
You played Intern Graciella in Grey’s Anatomy across a few years, how was it filming this show?
Grey’s Anatomy was a dream come true! I couldn’t believe I landed a role on that major network show! I think I was nervous most of the time! I just wanted to do a good job all the time because I knew that that role would help me become more recognisable and it would help my agent pitch me for more projects. Plus, the show was watched by so many people so I wanted to make sure that my work was the best it could be. That show had a huge cast and so the set was always very crowded. But again, another very professional set. Everyone I talked to was very aware of the show’s success and was so grateful to be working on it.
What would you say was the best part about being involved with this series?
The notability it gave me in the industry. I was at a point in my career where I just needed a little push in the right direction so that more people would know my name and my talent. Grey’s Anatomy did this for me. It still remains one of the most known credits on my resume today and gets me recognised wherever I go.
You made your major film debut in Fun with Dick and Jane alongside Jim Carrey, what do you remember from your time filming this production?
That’s right, I did! I felt like the luckiest girl in the world when I booked this job! I had just moved to Los Angeles two months prior and was having a hard time finding my way. Los Angeles is so different from New York City, where I’m from. It took a long time to get used to the changes. I came out here all by myself without friends or family. I mainly came out here because I booked a play down in San Diego while living in New York City and I wanted to stay and give the West Coast a try. Then I booked this movie and my life changed! I was finally able to pay off some debt and just live like a normal person. I was able to buy a car and a mattress, two priorities when you’re living in Los Angeles, LOL! I remember learning everything about being a professional actor on this set! What it means to be on time, how to read a callsheet, what is the daily protocol when arriving on set, how to interact with major celebrities in a working environment, and so much more! But the most important lesson was to enjoy the benefits without losing who I was at the core. Staying humble has always been a priority for me!
What would you say has been your most challenging role to date?
I did a guest star on Desperate Housewives that I felt challenging. The role was a flash-forward of one of the little girls on the show and they wanted it to have a very sad “Grey Gardens” feel. My character was supposed to be very pathetic with very little hope for a future. I played her very downtrodden and this was a very different character for me and required a lot of focus. But the day that we filmed was the day before Thanksgiving and I could sense that everyone on set just wanted to go home and start their holiday. It was a weird feeling for me because I on the other hand felt very excited to be there and was very interested in doing a good job with my role. I didn’t let the energy around me affect my work however. And I am very proud of what was captured on film.
Is there anything you can say about the upcoming series Reckoning?
At this point, I know very little. Last I heard, they were still looking for a US and international buyer. Sony Studios basically self-financed all ten episodes. We shot all in Sydney, Australia in 2018. I would go back in a heartbeat because I loved the experience!
We understand you are working on BLACK BLUE AND WHITE, what can you tell us about this?
BLACK BLUE AND WHITE is a short film about two police officers, a black man and black woman who though partners, are having an inappropriate, and rather violent, sexual affair. The power struggle of their relationship bleeds into the results of their interaction with a ‘perp’ they believe to match the description of someone who has just robbed a 7-11 in the area. As they aggressively arrest the man (disgarding several civil rights rules in the process), they realise that they cannot tell if the man is black or white, and they also seem to be mistaken about their own colour. In the confusion, the perp attempts to escape. Still flexing his BLUE muscle, the black officer shoots the perp in the back while he flees. Knowing he is wrong for doing so, he comes to his partner, assuming her complicity, and commands her to help him come up with a story. She promptly decides to flex her sense of power and shoots him on the spot. BLACK BLUE AND WHITE is a bleak reminder of how easy it is to cross colour lines and gender lines with abuse of power. Knowing how strongly I feel about social justice, my friend Michael Philip Edwards, the story’s writer/director and producer, asked me to help produce. I jumped on the opportunity. The film is currently being submitted to several festivals including the Toronto Film Festival.
You also work as a private acting coach, how did you get into doing this and what do you find the most rewarding aspect?
It’s interesting. I never set out to be a teacher and yet the opportunity found me. When I first graduated college, many of the theatre jobs that I accepted required a post production discussion and the actors were responsible for building these speeches. It was a lot of fun to connect with the audiences and teach them more directly about the topics addressed in the shows. I believe this was the foundation to how I learned to stand in front of a group of people and speak directly to them unlike acting where you create a fourth wall for a sense of privacy from the audience.
Then, I booked a one-year contract as an actor with George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey and the program director of the children’s theatre touring department asked if I would be interested in teaching in-house classes on the weekends. To be honest, I wasn’t all that interested in doing it but I felt so honoured that they thought to ask. I thought it would not be appropriate to decline. So I accepted the job and before I knew it, that one class became three!
Then, when I left New Jersey and returned to New York, I found myself teaching piano classes for a year because I needed money. I had studied piano myself but only for about four years, so my skills were a bit limited, but I could teach basic piano to beginners and that’s what I did in order to make some money, work from home, and keep my schedule flexible so I could continue auditioning. So there I was teaching again!
And when I moved to Los Angeles, by then, teaching was a strong part of my business resume. So, I decided to look for work in Los Angeles as an acting teacher to supplement my income as an actress. Before I knew it, I was teaching at acting studios and was being requested as a private acting coach all the time. As of 2012, I really embraced private coaching. I now private coach whenever I am not auditioning. It’s amazing!
Private coaching has taught me how to become an expert at cold reading and script analysis. It has allowed me the opportunity to make quick choices that are justified and make sense to the storyline and help progress the story and the character forward. I also love being in the know about what projects are being cast now. And frankly, it has made me a better actor because I am always reading scripts, and making choices about characters. It’s fun and a great way to stay connected in the acting world when I’m not acting.
What are your upcoming career plans?
My plan is to always be an actress. That comes with highs and lows but by now I have made peace with that. One day, I would love to add directing to my resume.
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