Elizabeth Grimaldo was already a household name in her native Panama when she came to study Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy, but since then her career has truly crossed international borders. Now based in Miami, the singer/songwriter and actress recently made her U.S. television debut on Telemundo NBC ’s Al Otro Lado Del Muro, tackling an intense storyline involving immigration, human trafficking, and unbreakable family love.
Here, Elizabeth shares a bit of her amazing story with the NYFA Blog.
NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?
EG: I’ve been on TV since I was 12 years old as a singer, which is also my profession. It started in a national singing contest for kids (Canta Conmigo), which opened so many doors for my career in Panama. At the age of 15, I started acting in my first soap opera as the main character, and it was an amazing experience. My next big project, at the age of 18, was Romeo and Juliet the Musical as Juliet, at the national theater of Panama City. That was a dream come true, to perform there.
That play turned on my hunger for the performing arts, and I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to this field. One month after the play finished, I went straight to the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.
NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time studying with us? Or did anything about your program particularly surprise and challenge you?
EG: Many things were challenging. Acting is hard work, and not many people understand what it really takes to build a character who is nothing like you and convince an audience that it’s “real.”
I remember one of my coaches, Michael, used to challenge me a lot — which I am grateful for, because I admire him as a person and professional. He was so passionate in every class, every detail, and most important, he wanted us to do what it takes to be great. He cared and wanted us to succeed. He told us once, “Imagine all the secrets that someone would need to know about you to play you perfectly.”
That was the most challenging part for me, because I realized in that moment how far I was from knowing my character. I realized what it takes to do the job. It’s not acting; its life, and a lot of research.
NYFA: Before coming to NYFA, you acted in Panama’s Summer Dreams. How has your process changed regarding performing, since your studies and other experiences in Miami?
EG: It’s totally different. I started to act without having studied acting. Now that I have studied acting (which you never stop doing), I wish I could go back and do it again with what I know now. It’s been a satisfying and fun process.
NYFA: For our international student community, can you offer any advice on studying in the U.S.? Can you tell us a little bit about your experience of coming from Panama to NYFA Los angeles?
EG: It was the best decision of my life. It’s hard yes, but it’s so worth it.
I know it’s scary to leave home and pursue a dream by yourself out there, but let me tell you something: it’s going to change your life in so many positive ways! I accept that I felt overwhelmed many times missing home and feeling lonely, but all those situations that I went through back then in Los Angeles made me the strong, independent, and passionate woman that I am today.
NYFA made me grow as a professional and a human being. I learned so many things and I am grateful and happy for it.
NYFA: How did your experience on Canta Conmigo come about? What was it like achieving second place?
EG: It was amazing. It changed my life, basically. So many doors opened for me after. Since then my career in Panama has been accepted and successful, thanks Gob and to the people that has been supporting me since the beginning. I feel blessed that I have been able to represent my country in the U.S. and make them proud.
NYFA: As a singer and musician, what most inspires your work?
EG: I could say experiences, in every sense of word, which led me to start writing songs. It’s funny because that process started when I was at NYFA living by myself for the first time. I wrote my first songs back then.
I use to think I couldn’t write lyrics, but I was wrong. Experiences are necessary to tell stories from the heart.
But what inspires me the most is my mom. She is my drive, the one who encouraged me to do this and helped me in everything. She believed in me since I was three years old and sang for the first time, Cucurrucucu Paloma. Everything I do is dedicated to her.
NYFA: Can you tell us how your work with Telemundo came about, and a bit about your character?
EG: This February I had my debut on American television in the Telemundo NBC series Al Otro Lado Del Muro, which means “the other side of the wall.” I still don’t have words to express how happy I am for this opportunity. It was an honor to work with renowned actors such as Gabriel Porras, Litzy Martinez, Marjorie De Sousa and Adriana Barraza, the Oscar nominee for the movie Babel, who was my coach here in Miami at her school Adriana Barraza Black Box. Being able to work with Adriana on my first job was a dream come true.
The series talks about immigrants and their different stories. My character is Raquel Aranda, a Salvadoran immigrant who arrives in the U.S., running from the human trafficking. Later, she is separated from her family and unjustly deported to Mexico. She tries to cross the border, again facing dangers in order to be with her family and her one-month old child.