Actress T.V. Carpio on Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Julie Taymor, and Risk Management

carpio_reeve_getty.jpgA little-known fact about your history with Julie and Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark is that you introduced Julie to Spider-Man himself, Reeve Carney (pictured with Carpio at right).

That's a funny story! She'd been looking for a Spider-Man for two years, and I was eating lunch with her and my father and Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess from Across the Universe. I had just taken them to see Carney, the band, and they were blown away. I turned to Evan: 'Wouldn't Reeve be amazing as Spider-Man?' She was like, 'Yeah!' So I told Julie, you have to meet this guy, my best friend Reeve, who's in this band Carney. He never performed that often in New York, but it just so happened that that week he was performing at the Mercury Lounge.

I dragged Julie down to this club. I don't think she's really the type to stand in a club full of people, but she was really taken by him. At first she wanted to know if he was an actor. She saw him more as a prince, not as a Peter Parker. She ended up casting him in The Tempest, but after working with him there -- she had her partner Elliot Goldenthal write a song for him -- and after seeing him sing and having him do this presentation we did for financiers... they put him through a million auditions, and I just so happened to be at that last audition, which is just so crazy; I'd been doing workshops with Spider-Man since 2007, and on this particular audition they had me go in and sing "Rise Above," which is one of the songs we sing in the show as Arachne and Spider-Man. I had no idea. It's really surreal how this has come full-circle. Who knew I would have been the one actually singing the song with him right now?

You were originally cast as Miss Arrow, but after recent cast exits and shifts you've been given the role of Arachne. How did that come about?

I guess with the recent departure of Natalie [Mendoza], because I've been working on this for so long I could pick up the material pretty quickly. I know the show backwards and forwards, through all of its incarnations. Working with Julie on Across the Universe, if you remember the circus scene in which I was Henry the Horse, I had to learn how to roller skate with a horse papier-mache metal corseted puppet on me. Ice skating is one thing, but roller skating... it took me two months to learn how to do that, for maybe five or six seconds. The point in that is I'm able to pick up things, and I'm pretty physical. So I'm assuming it was because I could pick up those things pretty quickly.

And you're up for pretty much anything, it seems.

I love a challenge. I love diving into things. When we did Across the Universe we didn't know what I was going to do, they just knew I was going to be in the circus. So I learned trapezing, I took Evan with me too --- I wanted to enroll in circus school. I had no idea how long the scene was going to be, but with Julie you just never know. She might just say, "I want you to trapeze and fly into ice skates,' and you'd be like, OK!

How physically demanding is the role of Arachne?

It's more stillness and core strength. There's a lot of stuff that takes control, versus exerting a lot of energy. Compared to the Spider-Men who are flying all over the place, a lot of it is more controlled. The whole time I'm strapped into four different harnesses to do the flying, but it's not so much flying as suspension.

Even just being suspended in the air during a performance sounds daunting.

It's not scary. Reeve was flying the other day, and when he was flying through for the first time throughout the house he went, 'Wheeeeeee!' I don't really have that 'Wheeeee' factor when I'm flying. I have eight legs strapped to me. It's not just like free-falling.

The postponement of Spider-Man's opening day has been partially credited to a new ending, but there are also the cast changes and safety issues involved. Why the delays?

It's changed a little bit. I can't speak for why we had to extend it, but there were all these things that happened and we had to put in covers, whether it was me or Chris [Tierney] who fell, who needs three people to cover him. So based on safety issues, they did not want to rush putting in new people. We basically have to sacrifice time [to] take safety precautions for the new people who are coming in. There were five people -- me, Alice [Lee], the girl who now plays Miss Arrow, and three guys who took over Chris' part until he comes back. So we had to make sure. There's a lot of flying involved, and you have to take the time. You can't force these things.

What do you think of media outlets reviewing the show before it's officially out of previews?

I guess I can't be shocked that with an unconventional piece, there's going to be some... As much as it's like breaking rules and stuff, rules are meant to be broken. It's a little bit disappointing because it's like judging something before it's finished.

As a performer who's experiencing this from the inside, how do you respond to criticisms of safety on set?

I wouldn't do it if I didn't feel safe. And we're so close to the crew. Somebody asked me this the other day. This group of people is so supportive and loving. It's really like a family. People have probably heard this a million times, but this crew is amazing, they really do look after us. Not to minimize the things that have happened, but for instance when I was in Rent I got a concussion. Nobody knew about it because Rent's been around for 11 years, but a week after that my cover got injured doing a similar move. And if you've ever seen Rent, it doesn't have all this flying stuff.

Again, not minimizing, but these things sort of do happen. And the things that did happen on this particular project were not flying things. I think people don't realize. It's human error. I'm not worried about all the flying stuff. It's the little things that you forget. It happens all the time, but you don't hear about it. This is such a high profile thing. Julie calls it "circus theater." There are things that might happen. We all know that. But I'm not worried. I feel so taken care of; I do feel safe so I'm not worried about it. Because the things that did happen were kind of flukes, human error. From what I've been told from the stunt coordinator, he said those guys that messed up on that day, I would trust them with my life.

I caught a glimpse of you on the 60 Minutes Spider-Man special, singing with Bono. What has it been like to have U2 on set, and what are their creative interactions with Julie and the cast like?

Before Across the Universe and seeing them in concert, I really hadn't known much about U2's music other than they're the biggest rock band in the universe. Of course as a child I'd known who they are and their music, but working with them, they're the real deal. The lyrics, the music -- they come in and they're amazing. Yeah, they can write some songs that sound like U2, but they also did stuff outside of what they normally do. Mixing of different genres, of worlds of music. I dream of working with people like that, people who think outside the box and work with who you are, bringing out what your talents are.

You're going to have a busy spring, with Spider-Man opening and your new film, Limitless, in theaters. Set it up for us and tell us what to expect.

Basically the turning point of the story is he's this loser schmoe who has no life and nothing going on for him. One particular day he's given this pill by his brother-in-law who says that his life will change by taking it. When he first takes it is when he first meets me, and I've been this berating sort of landlady, his landlord's wife. I play Valerie, and the beginning of the scene is me berating him because he hasn't paid his rent on time, and then the pill works and he's able to switch the whole thing from me hating him into helping me. And then bedding me. It's kind of funny. Bradley was super professional and a great actor to work with. He's very spontaneous and very quick, just there. He was open and giving.

Where did you find the time to shoot your scenes for Limitless?

I was actually in Hong Kong working with my mother because she had a really big concert this year, and I was doing that for four months. I flew back to do a Spider-Man workshop and in between that I shot Limitless in Philadelphia as well. It was kind of insane.

How do you ultimately choose your film roles?

Who I'm working with plays a big role, as well as the role. But I'm really interested in working with certain actors and certain directors. The role, sometimes, I can't always pick ideally what I like. But so far I've been really blessed and lucky so I haven't had to worry about that part.

Do you see your film work as fundamentally different from your theater and television work?

Project to project, I try to do what I really love and I've been really fortunate so far. I love all those mediums -- film, television and theater -- and each has things that I love and things that I don't like as much. Again, playing and exploring and experimenting is such a big part of me and each has their own challenges. I love having that mix. Because with live theater, the challenge is that you can be amazing one night, but you've got to re-prove yourself again the next. And the next night after that, and the next night after that. You have to find a way to keep it fresh. Whereas with film or TV, you get it that one time and move on. Translating how you tell the story.

I don't see it as either/or, as long as I love what I'm doing. It's a dream to do what I'm doing. Even when I sang that 60 Minutes thing with Bono -- that wasn't planned. I was just singing the Mary Jane stuff and there was another actor singing Peter Parker stuff and Bono interjected and said, " want to sing this song on TV." And after we sang it, I literally went home and cried -- like, that was awesome. Dream after dream, I'm in a waking dream. I hope I never wake up.

[Photo of Reeve Carney and T.V. Carpio: FilmMagic]

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