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Vanessa Ferlito: Taking Graceland by Storm

By Gisel Habibnejad

What started off as an acting gig on The Sopranos quickly snowballed into a successful career branching out into other TV shows and movies. Vanessa Ferlito has had the pleasure and privilege of working with talented directors, such as Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone, Lee Daniels, and Sam Raimi. At the moment, she graces the small screen on Graceland, in which she portrays the character of Charlie. Graceland follows the lives of several undercover agents living under one roof, known as “Graceland.” Leading up to the third season (which premiered on June 25th), Charlie has a lot going on for her right now. Between her fallen relationship with her love interest, Paul Briggs (played by Daniel Sunjata) whose child she is pregnant with, and facing the traumatic repercussions from her kidnapping – we can’t wait to see what season 3 has in store for us! We caught up with Vanessa on the new season of Graceland, what it was like working with John Leguizamo and Meryl Streep, and how it all started.

USA NETWORK UPFRONT PORTRAITS -- Season:2014 -- Pictured: Vanessa Ferlito -- (Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/USA Network)
Photographed by Smallz & Raskind/USA Network

MSM: How did you break into the acting world?
VF: My first job was on The Sopranos then, two weeks later, I booked the lead of this independent movie called Online. Thankfully, after that I was working nonstop. I have gotten the great opportunity to work with Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone, Lee Daniels, Sam Raimi and have also worked opposite of John Leguizamo. It all happened really fast.

MSM: What is the most challenging role you’ve played to date?
VF: Probably Charlie – although, I want to say every role comes to mind. Death Proof and Shadowboxer, opposite Helen Mirren, were challenging. Maybe it’s because we’re three seasons in, but Charlie is such a complex character. Playing her and then playing her, undercover, which is playing a different character inside of the character, and also having a relationship in the house. It makes every year more challenging, and I am so thankful for that. When you’re on a TV show, for multiple seasons, you kind of become the person and take her home with you. It’s a long stretch, months at a time, you relocate and your emotions are all over the place. So, maybe because I’m in it right now, I want to say Charlie.

MSM: What was it like working with John Leguizamo in Undefeated?
VF: Working with John was wonderful. He is a fantastic guy and he’s an actor’s director. He basically let me do whatever I wanted to do. He trusted me 100%. I filmed two movies with him, in Undefeated I played his girlfriend, and in Nothing But the Holidays I played his sister. I’d work with him again in a heartbeat.

MSM: How was it working with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams in Julie & Julia?
VF: They are both extremely focused women. It was fantastic working with them, they are both lovely.

MSM: What can we expect from the third season of Graceland?
VF: A lot is revealed. There’s a lot of drama and it’s heartbreaking. You can expect a lot of truth to come out.

MSM: How is season 3 different from the previous seasons?
VF: It’s different in the sense that it gets a little more personal with the characters when Charlie is pregnant. Whereas, before, there was some personal stuff but this is crazy personal. The house is brought back together.

MSM: What does the new season hold for Charlie and Briggs’ relationship?
VF: Well, in season 3 we are not together. I can’t say what happens but Charlie is still pregnant. She is still dealing with that and just focusing on her baby and her health and finding (Jermaine) the man who beat her up in the second season. So as far as Briggs goes, it’s on ice for the moment. Ultimately she’s not even sure if she knows who he really is.

MSM: How do you prepare for the intense scenes on the show?
VF: I kind of just stay to myself, I listen to music, and I try not to goof off too much because that’s what I love to do. I try to think of what makes me sad, but I try not to go too deep into it because I’m scared of some of the thoughts that come up in my head when I have to go to a really dark place.

MSM: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you?
VF: I’m a homebody and I love to couch surf. I love staying home and watching Game of Thrones, that’s what I do. And spend time with my baby.

Watch Graceland on the USA Network, Thursdays at 10pm
For more information on Graceland, please visit www.USANetwork.com/Graceland

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