‘Spider-Man’ actress: Racism is the real villain

T.V. Carpio lands huge Broadway role. Photo: Jacob Cohl

By Maricar CP Hampton

An accident in “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark” did not deter Teresa Victoria Carpio – nicknamed T.V. — from taking on the role of Queen meanie Arachne.

TF: You suffered an injury in one of your performances. How are you doing now?
TVC: I’m much better. Hopefully I’ll be going back on the show maybe the end of this week. It’s definitely not as bad as my injury in “Rent.” I got injured in that as well. Will this incident affect my performances? I don’t think so.

TF: Some are saying “Spider-Man” is a doomed production because of all the accidents and the delays.
TVC: All the things that have happened are the results of human error. We are doing some risky things here. When I was in “Rent” I had a concussion, and the girl who took over my part had an injury and the girl after that got another injury. Within a month there were three injuries. I’m not minimizing it, but these things do happen in Broadway, but you don’t hear about them in other productions.

TF: You were originally cast as Miss Arrow. How did you land the role of Arachne?
TVC: Originally, I was actually asked to understudy Mary Jane and Arachne. I had passed on Arachne because they basically asked me to learn all three female leads of “Spider-Man,” and I just thought Arachne was too much because with Miss Arrow and Mary Jane there were always constant changes. So I thought I’d hold off on learning Arachne. But I ended up doing it after Natalie (Mendoza) didn’t come back. I already knew it, I can do all the flying stuff so when Julie (Taymor) offered it to me it was pretty quick.

TF: How do you feel about being the second FilAm to play Arachne?
TVC: It’s definitely an honor for the both of us. We were definitely aware of that, but that was not the reason why they cast me. The casting was for anyone and everyone. There was no particular race, color or person they were looking for. It just so happened that we were both part Filipino. So it was amazing, it’s great when I see fellow actors who are FilAms or Asians in this business because it doesn’t happen all the time.

TF: Your mom Teresa Carpio was a famous singer in her time. Would you say performing is in the genes?
TVC: I originally wanted to be an Olympic ice skater, but my mother was one of those mothers who, she could see I was an artistic child so she’d had me in all different classes. I was in pottery, in Chinese calligraphy classes, in origami, art classes painting classes, gymnastics, but my main one was ice-skating. But, yeah, I guess it’s in my genes. My whole family, my ‘lolo,’ they’re all musicians.

TF: Did you ever learn to speak Tagalog?
TVC: Konti lang. I’d love to speak Tagalog, I just don’t know how. I tried to learn Chinese. I had Chinese lessons at home but nobody spoke Chinese. My mother is Filipino, my lolo is Filipino, my grandma is from Shanghai, but my mother grew up in Hong Kong and spoke English. Growing up we all spoke English.

TF: Except for the flying stuff, how is your role in “Spider-Man” any different from that “Rent”?
TVC: Miss Arrow and Arachne are both leads. I sing a lot more and I fly a lot more. I was in an ensemble when I was in “Rent.” I played Alexi Darling, and I understudied Mimi. So this role in “Spider-Man” is obviously is a lot bigger and to think I’m an original member of a new Broadway show. “Rent” has been around I think 11 years. So it’s kind of a big difference.

TF: How do you prepare for a role?
TVC: I meditate first, which is sort of a quiet time, I do some sort of a prayer. Then I do my vocal exercises and have my hair and make-up done, and then I go on stage. Sometimes I’ll have a soundtrack of songs that I picked for different parts of the show and that puts me in a particular mood.

TF: What’s it like being a FilAm working on Broadway?
TVC: This is only the second time I have been on Broadway. But I find people very welcoming, and there are a lot more opportunities I think for Asians not just to be seen but to be seen as just regular people. I think there is a lot more opportunities now than it was maybe, say, 10 years ago.

TF: Away from the spotlight, who is T.V. Carpio?
TVC: I am a very simple, very traditional girl actually. On the outside it doesn’t seem like it because I am very Americanized. I grew up in a very old-school way of life with my mom. So everything is about respect and discipline. I like to clean my house, I like to cook. The first thing I learned to cook was adobo, pancit sotanghon, and lumpiang shanghai, all that stuff. I’m a pretty boring person. I love to watch movies.

TF: Do you come from a big family?
TVC: I have eight siblings. They are all half siblings. I am the oldest.

TF: Have you been to the Philippines?
TVC: Almost every year. I love the Philippines; I have my ‘yaya’ who is like my second mother. She lives in Pampanga so I go every year. Last year I also went to Palawan. I travel every year to the Philippines because I also go to Hong Kong to visit. I am a beach sunshine girl. I love the food. I love the people.

TF: What’s it like growing up in a Filipino-Chinese-American household?
TVC: It’s great. I get the best of both worlds, but there was this thing about not being made aware of my race. I never thought of people as black or white. I didn’t grow up in the Philippines, I grew up in Hong Kong, which is a very international place. Of course now as I get older looking at Hong Kong, there was racism. I did not realize what racism was until I moved to America when I was 11.

TF: How did you become aware of racism?
TVC: Actually it started when I went back to Hong Kong when I was a teenager. I started feeling that there was sort of a different attitude towards people who were darker. I was, am brown. A lot of people in Hong Kong thought I was only a Filipino, they did not think I am also Chinese (from my father) and they did not treat me well, they did not treat me as their own. That was when I felt I wanted to learn more about my Filipino roots because I felt at that time Hong Kong was not accepting of me. I wanted to speak Tagalog, but I ended up learning Spanish because in New York City, unless I was traveling to Queens, it was much harder to find someone to teach me Tagalog.
My mother did not learn to speak Tagalog because my ‘lolo’ I guess at that time wanted the family to assimilate to the Chinese culture. He realized at that time that people looked down on Filipinos because they were seen as second-class citizens. Growing up with that notion was just so upsetting. That’s mostly the reason why I took Carpio, my mother’s maiden name. I do have that Filipino pride.

T.V. Carpio occasionally guest-stars in “Law and Order;” she has a cameo role in the Bradley Cooper movie “Limitless.”

Maricar CP Hampton is a freelance journalist. She was awarded a New America Media fellowship in 2010. In Manila, she covered celebrities and entertainment personalities for the Philippine Star daily.

One Comment

  1. […] is Teresa Victoria Carpio’s – also known as T.V. – biggest break. The production took all of four challenging years to […]

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