Lisa Vidal: Life of the Party
Lisa Vidal can shake it, hit those high notes, and knows how to really throw a party, oh, and she’s starring in a hot new TV show. Read on for why everyone’s dying to hang out with the sassy actress.
It’s the end of February. I am waiting for Lisa Vidal in the lounge of the W Atlanta hotel. The actress, known for her roles on hit TV shows, including Being Mary Jane, Rosewood, and ER, is running a little behind because of a makeup situation. A few minutes later, Lisa takes a seat next to me on the couch. The beautiful petite actress is dressed in a fuchsia snakeskin-print pant suit and black strappy heels. Her light brown tresses cascade around her shoulders in soft curls. And her makeup looks amazing and I tell her so. “Thank you. Oh my god. It’s hard when you’ve never worked with somebody. [This is her first time working with this makeup artist.] They don’t have a lot of time… I just got off a plane an hour ago, so... I’m so sorry to make you wait,” Lisa says genuinely.
For the last five months, Lisa has been in San Juan, Puerto Rico filming ABC’s The Baker and the Beauty. “It was our last day of shooting yesterday. We shot until 9-ish and then went out to dinner with one of the executive producers to celebrate. Puerto Rico is beautiful. I’ve been doing this for forty years --don’t ask how old I am, even though it’s everywhere anyway.” She laughs. “But that was the best crew I’ve ever worked with. Amazing people. It was like being home with the family.”
The Baker and the Beauty takes place in Miami and is based on the Israeli hit TV series by the same name. “We’re doing a Cuban-American version of it. Basically, it’s a sweet love story about this guy [Daniel, portrayed by Victor Rasuk] who is a baker, who comes from this very tight-knit Cuban family and his family is expecting him to take over the business. They’re very working class. And he kinda falls upon this gorgeous, amazing woman [Noa, portrayed by Nathalie Kelley] who is a big celebrity/fashion mogul and it’s just how he starts to fall in love with her and how those two worlds kinda collide.”
While the show primarily focuses on this relationship, Lisa tells me that there is more than one beauty and more than one baker on the show. “We’ve got my other son who bakes. My husband is a baker. Then you have three other girls... There’s all these great intertwining stories. You’ll be cracking up and then you’ll be crying. It’s that kind of show,” she tells me about the 1-hour dramedy. “We shot the pilot and we knew it was magical. We’re like, ‘I think we’ve got something here.’ It’s a beautiful ensemble and you just really get to know these characters and fall in love with each one of them because they’re just so well-written.” I watched the pilot with my significant other and we’re both already hooked.
As soon as Lisa read the script (suggested to her by friend Carlos Gómez, who had already landed the role of Rafael, the Garcia patriarch), she knew she wanted to be a part of the show. “I had already said no to two other things where I felt the script wasn’t very strong… but I read this script and I was like, This is the one. I was like, ‘God, I gotta get this.’ I just immediately connected with the character, the words were easy to say, it was well-written, and I knew Carlos was going to play the husband.”
Lisa auditioned for the role of Mari, the matriarch of the Garcia family, and landed it. “She is a spitfire!” Lisa laughs. “She’s funny. She’s sassy. She’s definitely that warm mom, very protective of her children, very in love with her husband. They have quite a hot sex life still.” Lisa basically just described herself to a tee --both ladies also have three children and are happily married. Mari was a showgirl/singer in Cuba, who left that behind for a life with Rafeal in Miami, Lisa tells me. “There’s still a little bit of that in her though, her own dream. So she kinda sees that being played out in her kids and stuff… She’s still got it.”
In the show’s trailer, Noa asks Daniel, “What do you want more than anything in the whole world?” Daniel replies, “I want what my parents have. It’s magic, the two of them. They make each other better.” Tell me about Rafael and Mari’s love. “It’s that unconditional love. That deep love where you’re with your best friend, someone you enjoy being with, someone you can laugh with, cry with, just have a bad day with and they still love you the same everyday.” Rafeal is “the silent, strong, stern Cuban father,” while Mari is the “fun sassafras” who keeps their relationship exciting. “To see this couple, who have been together forever, be romantic with each other and have fun… This is something different, which is nice.”
Lisa knows a thing or two about creating a lasting, loving relationship; she has been with her husband Jay for 35 years. The two have three children (Scotty, Max, and Olivia) together. So, what’s the secret to a successful marriage? “A lot of laughter, a lot of compassion, unselfishness, and consideration. And allowing someone to drop the ball sometimes and not holding it against them every minute of the day,” she laughs. “Though, sometimes that’s hard. And being with your friend. You have to like the person and like being with the person. And keeping it exciting, that’s a big part of it, especially for the guys,” she laughs. “That’s it in a nutshell. I could go on for days.”
You get a pretty good sense of Lisa’s personality from her Instagram page. The perky, family-loving, super-supportive actress loves to dance, and she doesn’t shy away from showing off her killer moves to her followers. When I mention that I’ve noticed this, she laughs. I know that Mari is a former showgirl, do you have any dance training? “I don’t have any dance training, except for my mother, grandmothers, and aunts in the living room. I love to dance. I am a singer.” Lisa used to sing professionally with a club date band. She treats me to a couple of verses of a song. Yep, she is the real deal. “I actually suggested that to the creator of the show, that Mari was a singer because Mateo, her son, is a rapper.” They plan to work her talent into the show’s storyline.
Scroll a little further back on Lisa’s Instagram page, and you will find videos of her singing. And she can hit those high notes. Jay frequently records his wife doing her thing in the kitchen. “It’s hilarious. He’s always catching me in my kitchen. I put on my salsa music and I start dancing while I’m cooking and he’s like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get this.’ And then we come up with a great video.” The videos where she is singing, cooking, and dancing are her followers’ favorite posts. “It’s like, ‘I just want to be in your kitchen with you right now.’ And I’m like, C’mon in! Let’s go,” she says with a big smile. Lisa loves cooking, especially Puerto Rican food and pasta dishes; however, she confesses that she is not much of a baker. “But, my kids think I’m Martha Stewart because I have a brownie thing I do with peanut butter cups and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, Mom, you’re amazing.’ And I’m like, ‘I know, right?’” She laughs. “It’s totally Betty Crocker, but they don’t have to know that.”
Lisa and Jay love to entertain at their house and often host big parties with family and many of her long-time, industry friends. “It’s another side of Latino Hollywood, so to speak. We have a good time. He’s another fun person, my husband. They call him White Chocolate DJ because sometimes: You listen to that? He’s hilarious. He’s this Jewish boy from Brooklyn and he loves hip-hop --it’s hysterical.” Is he in the entertainment industry as well? “He is not. He wishes he could be, but I said, ‘Absolutely not!’” she jokes.
Good times, positive vibes, and supporting others --that is what Lisa is all about. “I think it’s important that we support each other, especially in my Latino community of actors, but also African American.” Lisa feels that the most effective way to spread her positive message is to lead by example. The benevolent actress regularly praises and supports her friend’s projects with social media posts; I found her supporting friends and fellow actresses Taraji P. Henson, Roselyn Sánchez, and Gina Torres. The “lover of God and Life” (how she describes herself in her IG bio) also shares uplifting messages like, Let’s Take Care of Each Other. “This is what we should be doing for one another… Something to help someone’s self-esteem feel good. This is what I struggle with. I do this, it really helps. Try it. That kind of thing. And I just really feel like people respond nicely to that. They need that.”
So, what’s next for Lisa? At the time of our interview, Lisa had plans to appear on an episode of her friend, Justina Machado’s show, One Day at a Time. “I’m very excited about that because she and I have not worked together, which is crazy.” And now that Lisa’s kids are all grown up, she would love to pursue her dream of performing on Broadway. “I’d like to work with Lin-Manuel [Miranda] on something one day. I’ve always wanted to do a Disney animated project and sing,” she laughs. “So, who knows?”
“My husband’s family lives in South Florida. Him and I lived there a short time when we were dating, and then his family moved out there permanently, so we go there a lot. I love Miami. We have fun there. We always go to South Beach. The beaches are beautiful. Get on a boat, go out on the ocean, The Keys --I love it.”
WE WANT MORE!
What would fans be surprised to find out about you?
“I don’t know, it’s pretty much all out there,” she laughs. “Believe it or not, I think that because I did a lot of 1-hour dramas, people didn’t know that I could be funny.”
Who are you listening to now?
“Believe it or not, I’m listening to everything my daughter is listening to, she keeps me hip. So Billie Ellish. I love Lauren Daigle, who came out with that whole album. She’s introduced me to some of the Bad Bunny and some of that stuff, so it’s like, OK, wait a minute. Alright. I’m kinda like an old school girl. I like a lot of oldies. I just recently was listening to Gloria Estefan. Billie Holiday and all that kind of stuff. I’m even getting into a little country, Shania Twain. I listen to a lot of Patsy Cline. I kinda have an eclectic choice in music. And being in a club date band, you have to know a little bit of everything, because you never know what they’re going to want to hear.”
What are you watching?
“Oh my gosh, I’ve been watching a lot of stuff on Netflix... The Outsider. I watched Messiah. I’ve been catching up on my movies, too. I just saw Parasite. Amazing! And oh, my daughter, hilarious, she’s like, ‘Mommy, you have to watch Love is Blind. No judgment, Mommy. No judgement. Just watch.’ So I started watching it and I was like, People are talking in pods. They don’t see each other. They’re getting married. I was like, What the hell is going on? But then, I was tuning in. I’m almost done watching that. I love documentaries. Then of course, I watch Modern Family, Black-ish. I love those shows; I have friends in those shows.”