Elizabeth Grullón is the definition of self-made in Hollywood. A product of humble beginnings, she is a first-generation American born to Dominican parents in Queens, NY.
Elizabeth Grullón has been looking to films and their stars as an inspiration in her life from an early age. With supportive parents who she describes as saints, she began to seriously pursue acting by attending the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program. Ken Washington, father of the program and mentor to the likes of Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali, encouraged Elizabeth and her parents to send her to the program and helped guide her start to a professional career. She has appeared in series such as FX “Mayans M.C.,” ABC “Scandal,” ABC “The Catch,” and CBS “Criminal Minds.” In addition to being on camera, Elizabeth’s voice can be heard on the Disney animated series “The Owl House,” where she recurs as ‘Camilla,’ mother of ‘Luz,’ the young Latina protagonist of the show. Most recently, Elizabeth landed the role of ‘Selene,’ an immortal, other worldly goddess and protector of the Earth in “Saturn,” a sci-fi film part of a trilogy in development directed by Eric Esau.
Elizabeth Grullón is passionate about the world around her, from the wellbeing of the planet itself to the wellbeing of the people who inhabit it. An avid meditator, she teaches meditation and mindfulness in Los Angeles and recently completed a 10-month Intensive Practice Program at UCLA through their Mindfulness Awareness Research Center. Meditation has empowered her to find her authentic voice in the industry, ultimately helping her book the roles she was destined to play. Silent retreats have also become a regular practice for Elizabeth to turn off the noise of modern life and reconnect with herself. She enjoys travelling, writing poetry and salsa dancing. Elizabeth is committed to using her platform to help protect the planet and the environment. She believes Earth is the most sacred gift that we have been given and therefore will be lending her voice to the issue of climate change as well as pushing for legislation to protect the planet. Elizabeth also plans on joining forces with her mother, Mercedes, a retired head start teacher for low-income families, to help children of undocumented parents gain access to basic resources and medical care.
Welcome to TV Series Hub, from a series point of view, you left a lasting impression on Grey’s Anatomy. Before getting into that, what is something interesting about you that people don’t know?
Wow, thank you! Viewers probably don’t know that I am a dedicated meditation practitioner. I go on silent meditation retreats about 3-4 times a year. I’m also a first generation American, my family is from the Dominican Republic.
Speaking about your Grey’s Anatomy role, how did you land the role?
It’s actually a funny story. While on Party of Five I worked with director Michael Medico. A few weeks later he was directing an episode of Grey’s and called me in to audition for it. I didn’t get the job. But the following week the casting director, Linda Lowy, called me in for the role of Abigail Hayes. I connected with the material so much. After reading it for the very first time I was so moved; I thought, “I wish I could go in and audition for this right now!” The next day I did and the rest is history!
What was it like being on a show that has been there at the top of the television world for more than a decade? Were you a fan of the show?
It is an honor for me and a celebration. I am a huge fan of Shonda Rhimes, Ellen Pompeo, Sandra Oh, Debbie Allen, Jesse Williams and many others on the show. Grey’s has a magical kind of gravitational pull where some of the most incredible people ever have come on to the show. Not only in terms of talent but like really good people. And that says a lot. It’s not a coincidence. There’s great energy there and I think that’s why it’s had so much staying power.
Even though you appeared on a single episode, your character gave a huge insight into Dr Hayes’s backstory. How did you prepare for the role?
You know, it’s interesting, preparation is different for every role. This one required very little for me to feel her, to understand her and to love her so very much. I mean, with writing like that, it’s like…how could you not? It makes my job so easy as an actor. I meditate, I pray, I stretch and breathe deeply into my body so the energy can move, I think about the fact that it’s not make believe or pretend – people are living these moments every day in real life in America. So my job as an actor is just to open my heart and honor those people.
In the episode, your character gave permission to Dr Hayes to move on and find love again. How do you think this plays out in real life – do people really hold on for so long?
Gosh, that’s a tough question. I imagine it must be different for each and every person. Depending on the relationship and the circumstances. In Dr. Hayes’ case it’s particularly difficult because he was really robbed of her. She was young and healthy and it happened so fast. When you deeply love someone I think it creates space in your heart, and that impression is lasting. The new love you find makes a home within the space that was made by previous love.
Currently, you star in Freeform’s “Party of Five” as a Dominican activist. How would you describe the show? What similarities and differences do you have with your character?
I would describe the show as a heartfelt family drama for the Latinx community. Which is amazing because we’ve never had that! My character, “Sully,” is an intelligent, passionate, advocate for immigrant’s rights. It was important to me to make her compassionate – someone who leads with love rather than anger. I think we are similar in that way. Sully is more selfless and unselfconscious than I am though, ha!
How important is it having shows on television representing other races, cultures and stories? How has “Party of Five” helped with this?
It’s crucial! I always say this – diversity is natural. Nature created all these different races and points of view and experiences – they are here, they are real, whether we acknowledge them or not. So why shouldn’t our art and our media, reflect what is natural to us? Why have we purposefully excluded all of this reality up until recently? It’s interesting. And it hasn’t been accidental. So our evolution into creating art that reflects the diversity of the natural world will also not happen accidentally. We have to choose to do it, and we are. Party of Five is a brilliant example of really making the effort to humanize these diverse experiences. Story telling is an extraordinarily powerful tool and always has been because when human beings see another person’s struggles, their pain, that look in their eye during a pivotal moment in their life… they feel for that person. It creates empathy where perhaps there would have been none before. So, bringing a story about family and immigration into people’s living rooms, as Po5 has done, is actually an act of loving revolution. We really need this right now. We have to evolve past us v. them and revolt against the illusion of separateness.
“Party of Five” touches on deportation, a hot topic in the United States, do you have any stance on the ongoing issue in the country?
It’s a complicated issue. I get that. But I also think it’s all too easy for Americans to view undocumented immigrants as “other” or as criminals. As people who no longer deserve dignity because they didn’t file certain paperwork. Even the language we use is so telling, “illegal alien.” As if they are no longer human beings but rather some alien life force that landed from another planet. It’s absurd. Latinx people are hard working, family oriented, decent people who by and large are not looking for a free handout. They are absolutely indispensable to the functioning of this country. Also, the level of violence and desperation taking place in many of their home countries has been incubated by the policies of the US. So we have to start looking at things from a much more honest and complete angle – how do we start to heal these parts of the world? How do we ease the desperation and boost the economy and education? How do we reintroduce the concept of the dignity of human life into our politics? Like I said, a complicated issue.
Elsewhere, you voice “Camilla” on Disney’s animated series “The Owl House.” What is interesting when starring in an animated series? Has anyone recognized you by your voice?
Animation is so much fun! It’s interesting because you get to be really free and there’s no vanity involved whatsoever. You can really hear the changes in a person’s thoughts through their voice so it’s fun to explore that and challenge myself to have real experiences in the booth. Some of my family and friends have been for example washing dishes in the kitchen while the tv plays in the living room and they hear my voice and come running, ha!
In the gaming front, you are officially part of the Star Wars Galaxy. Were you a fan? How was it like being a part of the video game – “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” as the central antagonist “The Second Sister” aka “Trilla Suduri” – the ultimate boss to beat?
Yes! I am a Star Wars fan. I grew up watching the films and to this day get so excited when I hear the iconic music and the woosh of a lightsaber turning on. Performing full motion capture for JFO was one of the best experiences of my professional life. There is nothing quite so fun as playing a villain! Especially as a woman, because I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to please everyone so to turn that off and step into the shoes of an unapologetic, intimidating, enraged, embodied woman was the BEST! Pinch me!
Not everyone gets to brag about having their own action figure. What was your most memorable memory from this experience?
I still can’t believe it! Again, pinch me. There are really too many to count. In particular I loved the light saber training. Getting the opportunity to learn attacks and defenses, fighting stances etc. from some of the most talented stunt people in the world was definitely a highlight for me.
Your next project is a movie called “Saturn,” a sci-fi film part of a trilogy in development directed by “Eric Esau,” where you portray “Selene.” How would you describe the movie? What role do you play?
Saturn is a sci-fi epic with some absolutely amazing, larger than life characters and really meaningful statements being made by the creators through the story. The writing is awesome and centers on a central anti-hero and his family as they attempt to protect the planet. My character is not human. She is a graceful, other worldly being who is a protector of the planet Earth.
Jumping into another Syfy project. Do you have a preference for such genres? What role or show do you hope to portray in your future projects?
I love sci-fi! It’s such a fun genre and can be really powerful when it the creators are really saying something and the writing is strong, i.e. Interstellar, Arrival, Contact and Star Wars of course. I would love to bring my role of the Second Sister to the big screen. I also dream of playing an astronaut in a sci-fi epic so I get to do all the training that astronauts have to do. That would be a fun challenge!
What other projects are you working on?
With the onset of COVID-19 and this global shutdown I’m working on a whole lot of nothing at the moment. And I’m ok with that. I think there are a lot of benefits for the planet in the whole human race being put on time out in a way. I am finishing my directorial debut, a short film entitled “Ash,” and I’m able to work on that from home during shutdown. I’m also developing other ideas for future projects.
With the world at a standstill due to the pandemic COVID-19, as a teacher of meditation and mindfulness, what tips would you give to our deals to cope?
I would say don’t be afraid to rest. We forgot how to rest! To just be present with ourselves. We think we have to learn a language and an instrument and write a novel in our down time, and if that feels natural to you then fantastic, but if it doesn’t, it’s ok! This is a time to realize that our productivity is not the measure of our value. A time to explore simply being and knowing that that’s enough. To practice having a whole lot more self compassion than we ever had before. It’s a global paradigm shift from our old individualistic systems to this realization that we can actually move forward while taking care of each other.
What mechanisms have you used to keep your mental health in check?
Meditation is big for me. It absolutely changed my life. Mindfulness in particular has been a vehicle for lasting change because it’s so simple and accessible all the time. It’s helpful to practice even in small spurts, like 5 minutes here and there throughout the day. Also, I surrender a lot – I give up my life, my will, my fears to something larger than me and I accept that I can’t rely on myself alone. That surrender has a certain magic in it. I check in with family and friends constantly and have been lucky enough to surround myself with people who share their vulnerabilities with me and vice versa; it’s so important to remember that even in your deepest fears or shame, you are so so so not alone.
It’s important to you to partake in assisting undocumented families with access to basic human rights. Why is it as important it is, especially during such times, to have such initiatives?
Yes, my mother and I are in early talks to develop an organization that will help provide assistance to undocumented immigrants, many of whom live in poverty, with their children but because of their immigration status do not have access to the government assistance programs that they would if they were citizens. Before she retired last year, my mother worked directly with families like this for almost 30 years, so it’s very real for us, not just a concept. It’s important because it makes people’s lives better. I mean, why else are we here?
At the same time, you are also passionate about climate change. What has been your view in all of this? What should be done?
Yes, I am extremely passionate about protecting our planet and its environment. I believe a lot can be done when we take the threat seriously and that we can actually reverse the majority of the desecration that has occurred if we work together and act now. We must demand that our elected officials respect and honor science and let scientists lead the way in this fight while giving them the support that they need. We also can’t let the grimness of the data scare us so much that we sink into a place of paralysis or overwhelm. Something CAN be done and MUST be done and we have to do it. NOW.
What do you do for fun? Any hobbies?
I love to cook and share my creations on my IG. I love going for walks in the evening and watching the sun set. I’m a big fan of a living room interpretive dance performance. Oh and I’m obsessed with going to the movies and getting a big bucket of buttered popcorn.
Thank you for joining us, any final words for our audience?
Thank you so much for having me! I’ve really enjoyed your questions. To your audience I want to say HI! Come connect with me on Instagram!