Much like the commitment required to truly be a performer, running Gotham City is no easy undertaking. However, Zabryna Guevara manages to complete both tasks with ease. Actors seeking jobs on TV, Film and Theatre can find inspiration in her cannon of work.
Currently starring on Gotham as Captain Sarah Essen, Zabryna’s career has dabbled in all mediums. Her diverse resume includes roles in movies like The Guilt Trip and The Rebound, guest appearances on Law & Order and The Sopranos (among many others), and nearly a dozen Off-Broadway shows. Her roots truly lie in the latter, as she hopes to one day be on Broadway.
We caught up with the star of FOX’s hit TV show to see how she works as an actress and what’s in store for her character…
RP: What was your very first acting gig?
ZG: I don’t remember the exact first one, but the most memorable was playing Esther’s uncle, Mordechai, in the story of Purim. YES, you read right. I played the uncle for a sketch comedy troupe called Fried Eggs. Admittedly, hilarious!
RP: Did you receive any sort of training or take any classes you found instrumental to your career?
ZG: I started studying acting in high school (New World School of the Arts) and then at Fordham University at Lincoln Center, which gave me a great base. My training continued on the “deck” learning from other actors and directors as I grew my career in the theatre.
RP: You have an array of wonderful theatre credits, including runs Off-Broadway, what has been your most rewarding theatre experience and why?
ZG: Playing the title role in Eduardo Machado’s THE COOK was a seminal experience. I had the chance to play the role in three different productions across the country, received a Hartford Critics Circle Nomination and had the pleasure of growing that character over many years. I hope to get the chance to play ‘Gladys’ again perhaps on a Broadway stage.
RP: Did you find it difficult to make the transition to TV/Film? Do you think it requires a different performance?
ZG: Yes and yes. I was always told that one’s performance between the two mediums is the same, but I found that not true. I’m very expressive and on screen I had to learn to do much less to get the same emotion across than I do on stage. I don’t think every actor faces the same challenge, but that was certainly mine.
RP: Congratulations on all the success of Gotham! You play Captain Sarah Essen, a very strong role. Do you remember what your audition was like/ how you prepared?
ZG: I was in LA for the test and they were running late so I had time to run the scene quite a bit, as well as meditate and do a visualization. I was so at ease that when I walked in the room with Danny and Bruno, our Executive Producers, I was cool as a cucumber. It felt great to walk out of the room and feel like it was out of my hands.
RP: What an amazing cast! Ben McKenzie, Jada Pinkett Smith… have you learned anything, as an actress, from working with the talent around you?
ZG: Oh goodness yes! I learn every time I work with anyone. It’s a muscle I never turn off because there is always something to learn or make better. Working with the amazing talent on this show is no exception.
RP: I imagine that being a part of Gotham is a blast! What’s been the best “perk” of working on the show?
ZG: The greatest perk has been getting to know and working with some of my favorite actors. I’ve met the Carol Kane, Peter Scolari, Margaret Colin and Allyce Beasley among others and I’ve been a fan of their work for years. They are incredible professionals and delightful people.
RP: On the other end, what has been the most challenging part of tackling “Sarah” for you?
ZG: Sarah plays within the “real” world as opposed to the more colorful villain world outside of the precinct. That has helped pull me away from the idea of playing a “comic book character.”
RP: Is there anyone you based your character on or pulled from?
ZG: The women in my family are always great sources for me to pull from. They are as varied in personality as one can imagine with 16 aunts, but all with a thread of strength and self-possession that I admire a great deal.
RP: Very cool. Did you look to the original creation of Sarah in the comics at all?
ZG: We have diverted from the way her story unfolds in the novel quite a bit but her resilience, intelligence and desire to do good in a world that is desperately corrupt are all inspirational elements I intend to preserve.
RP: Unfortunately, she is murdered by the joker in that version. Do you think that will be your fate on Gotham (hopefully not for a long, long time)? As sad as it is, if you’re going to go – the joker is a pretty great way.
ZG: Ha! Yes, her demise in the novel is pretty dramatic because he kills her while she is catching a baby he’s just thrown in the air! I really don’t know if there are plans to enact the same trajectory for Sarah Essen in Gotham, but I’m enjoying the time I get with her in the meantime.
RP: Is there a specific villain you’re hoping they bring to the series or one you’re excited to see in the future?
ZG: Yes! I don’t know if the writers have any plans for Bane, but I’d love to see his origin story. Also, I’m still in love with the evolving young Batman and have a great deal of anticipation for what is coming for him.
RP: Bane would be awesome! Any other upcoming projects you’d like to share?
ZG: Right now I’m enjoying my time off. It was a pretty busy ramp up to the season finale so I am taking advantage of the time off with my two young children and husband before we start production again.
RP: To end on an inspiring note for our NYCastings readers: What would you say is your best piece of acting advice for aspiring performers?
ZG: One of the things we are as artists are observers and life is our palette. We observe life to play back with truth and honesty the characters we are entrusted with. Always treat that process with respect and know that our most important job is to serve the story and our roles to their fullest…
Also, don’t let other people set your limitations. There is always a reason that one won’t get a role (eg. too tall, too dark, hair too curly, etc.) The ONLY thing you have control over is your work. So check the defeatist voices at the door and walk in to express your gift and bring life to a page.
Catch Zabryna as Sarah Essen on FOX’s Gotham follow her on Twitter @ZabrynaGuevara!