I blogged the other day about the “transition factor,” my own term for the elusive quality that carries children and teen actors into adult acting careers. While the transition factor is a crucial trait for an all ready working child actor, obvious qualities for acting success in the early years are self-belief and determination. You absolutely need both to become a successful working actor, child or not. Actress Iyari Limon, best known for the role of Kennedy on television’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” (the original “Twlight” for those you under 14) has both qualities in abundance and recently shared with me about how she forged her early career in Hollywood. Something I bet you didn’t know: It involves avocados.
Iyari Limon Interview 2008
Hollywood Mom: How did you get started in the industry?
Iyari: How did I get started? Oh my goodness. Several years ago I went to one of those, you know, acting schools were you pay an arm and a leg for a commercial acting workshop, um but I didn’t know any better. My mom didn’t want me to pursue [acting] as a career. She always kept trying to keep me away and then when I was almost old enough to do it on my own – I did.
HM: Was that all here in Los Angeles?
Iyari: That was all here in Los Angeles. I was raised here. Born in Mexico but I moved when I was one, so yeah, L.A.’s my home. When I was in high school I didn’t have money to pay for the classes so a girlfriend of mine and I would pick avocados off her tree every weekend and go to the swap meet and sell them. So I paid for the classes like that – selling avocados. I was completely determined. Once I was in the school they had what’s called “a showcase,” where agents come and see you. I think I was at the top of the school because I was so determined. I stuck myself in an elevator for 4 hours rehearsing my copy making sure there was no way I was not going to get anything. I think there were a total of 8 agents there and I booked 7 appointments.
HM: How old were you at that time?
Iyari: I think I was about sixteen.
HM: Just a baby.
Iyari: Yeah. And I got an agent. I had no idea what was involved in the industry. I had no idea what a pilot was or what I was auditioning for or how to audition – anything like that. It took me a year to book my first commercial and then I was just hooked after [doing] my first commercial. I remember I just prayed, “God, please just one commercial – please just one commercial.” And then I was hooked I was like “Oh my god, Oh my god.”
I did my first co-star on the show “Maloney” a long time ago – old show. It was an episodic drama. I did the teaser on it and I got killed. It was so fun. After that, I was hooked. [Acting] was like a drug to me. I was so high. I thought this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. And that was it.
HM: What was the name of your acting school?
Iyari: At that time it was called Beverly Hills Studios.
HM: Was it one of those shady places?
Iyari: Well, it was one of those places where you pay money and you get your opportunity but you have to grab [your opportunity.]
HM: It’s what you made out of it.
Iyari: Exactly. Most people didn’t do anything with it. I did. It was my only door and I made sure it opened.
My cousin came with me [on “Maloney”] and they used him as an extra. At that point he wanted to be an actor as well. But after that day he said, “This is so not for me. I don’t want to act.” For me it was the other way around, “This is so for me.” I think you know what your calling is, what moves you and what doesn’t.
HM: With your obvious good looks were people telling you your entire life, “Iyari you should model, you should act?”
Iyari: When I was little, around 5, my best friend’s mom always used to say that I was going to be a star. But that was it. Growing up I was more shy. We moved around a lot, lived here and there. I wasn’t as extroverted because we kept moving around. No one ever told me that. I would ask my mom, “Please take me to acting, drama, theater. I want to do a TV show.” She would say, “You’re crazy. Stop that nonsense. You’re going to be a doctor or a lawyer. All girls want [to be actresses] and it’s not a wise choice. You’ll never make it…”
The first year I auditioned, like I said, it took a year for me to get anything. [My mother] would have to drive me because I was too young to drive and it was always a struggle because she would say, “You’re not going to get anything so what’s the point of going?” It was such a struggle or me to keep motivating myself and to keep going…”
HM: Because you didn’t have that support.
Iyari: None. Not in high school, not with my friends, not with my parents. My boyfriend (at the time) was completely jealous of all that and we would get into a fight at every audition I went to. It was really hard for me to keep going because the only person who believed in me obviously was my agent.
HM: And yourself?
Iyari: And myself. Many times I thought, “Oh my gosh, my mom’s right. I’m not going to make it. Who am I kidding?” And that moment I remember, I walked up to my closet door. It was one of those mirrored closet doors, and I walked straight up to myself and said, “You know what? You’re gonna make it. You just keep going.” And I just kept pushing myself.