Recently, we spoke to actress Vanessa Minnillo, who will be doing a guest star appearance on the hit NBC series, 30 Rock. Ms. Minnillo plays Carmen Chao, a highly competitive co-worker of Avery Jessup (returning guest star Elizabeth Banks) at MSNBC.
In the story, Liz (Tina Fey) fakes being pregnant in order to hide the fact that Avery is pregnant from Carmen, whom Avery considers a workplace rival. This episode will air Thursday, February 3 on NBC.
We spoke to Ms. Minnillo about her guest spot, her acting aspirations for the future, and her relationship status with singer Nick Lachey.
|(l-r) Vanessa Minnillo, Elizabeth Banks guest star on 30 ROCK [Photo Credit: Al Goldstein/NBC]
USTOWNHALL SPEAKS TO VANESSA MINNILLO:
USTH: Going into this project – being a guest star on 30 Rock – were you nervous or did you have any anxiety about working with...
VANESSA MINNILLO: I was nervous...
USTH: ...the 30 Rock cast?
VANESSA MINNILLO: I can even cut you off at that, because this is a big deal for me. This is 30 Rock, NBC. It's Emmy Award winning, Golden Globe winning, and the cast alone is just – this is as good as it gets. This is A-List. These are A-List actors and comedians that I'm working with, so I was completely beside myself. I was so nervous that I was actually making myself sick just for the audition process.
And I was traveling, actually, the day that they were auditioning girls for the role of Carmen Chao, which is my character's name, and I couldn't make the audition. So, what I had to do was put myself on tape, which is even more nerve wracking because one of the things I love is being able to walk into a room and meet people, make eye contact, have a conversation with them, and then go into reading.
But this is just me putting myself on tape, sending it in directly to the people and the powers that be, and then they show Tina – she's the final yes or no – and I completely, to be honest, I made a fool of myself. But, I thought it was necessary for the character. I laid it all on the line. It took me, gosh, by the time I got to my friend's house to shoot it, it was already midnight.
I came back home at 1:30, and the car was picking us up for our flight at 5:00 am. I didn't sleep. I showed it to Nick [Lachey, Ms. Minnillo's fiancé] when he woke up, and I'm like, "What do you think?" And he said, "Wow. Like, you literally just put on the line." He said, "They're either going to think you're crazy and you're psycho, or that you're really a good actress."
And so, you'll see Carmen is a fun character to play. She's bananas. She's very confident. She's very honest. She's very outspoken. She's very out there. And so, I tried to let that come across on the tape and obviously I think it did, and they literally called me while I was in Cincinnati – for our engagement party, actually – and said, "You got the job." So, I left from Cincinnati to New York, shot it all in one day, and just had the most amazing time.
USTH: Does the storyline allow you to come back to make future appearances?
VANESSA MINNILLO: The storyline is – obviously, I don't want to give too much away – but yeah it does, and that's the beauty of 30 Rock. They said with everybody that they've had – it always leaves the door open for this big revolving door of fun guest star appearances. I guess recently they had somebody on there play an HR guy, and they loved him and had such a great time with him, and he was great that they brought him back already for a couple other episodes. So, I am putting all of my faith in the TV gods if they will let me come back. Trust me, I've begged and said as much as I could.
USTH: I can imagine. It is a great show, obviously, and it is a feather in your cap to be on it. Looking into the future, would you want to star in your own weekly series? Do you think you would like something like that – an ongoing weekly engagement?
VANESSA MINNILLO: Yeah, I think that would – that's like the dream job. For me, hosting was always fun and was something that I was able to do at – without sounding, I don't want to – some people find their niche. Like Nick is able to sing a capella in front of 50,000 people. I cannot do that, but I can host. I can get on a microphone, and I can be myself, and I can interview people, and I enjoy that.
Acting is fun because it lets you dive into other parts of your personality and in your brain and even in your psyche. It's almost therapeutic when you dive into characters. So, when I came to L.A., I actually have been doing some guest appearance roles, I've had a couple pilots that didn't go, but it's all good stuff.
People are out here for years at a time and never get one, so I have to count my blessings in that regard and hope this year is the year. It's already starting out with a bang with 30 Rock, so hopefully I can keep the momentum going.
|Vanessa Minnillo on the set of 30 ROCK [Photo Credit: Al Goldstein/NBC]
USTH: Do you think that comedy is your strength, or would you like to try a drama?
VANESSA MINNILLO: I've always said comedy is exactly what I want to do. But interestingly enough, while I've been taking acting classes and coaching, my coach says that drama's probably more where I'll be comfortable because I have so much to pull from in every single one of the roles I had to be dramatic in. Like, I just got back from Hawaii Five-O. I have to cry. I was on CSI: New York, I had to cry. I was on Psych, I had to cry.
And so I'm like, "Wow, I guess there is a little dark Vanessa that's dying to come out and just express herself," you know? So, I'm open to any and all opportunities, not just limited to comedy, but that one for sure I feel the most comfortable in.
USTH: On a personal note, I'm not really up on the latest celebrity gossip, but have you and Nick set a specific wedding date yet?
VANESSA MINNILLO: No, we haven't.
USTH: Is there any indication of when you would do that, or is that sort of under wraps right now?
VANESSA MINNILLO: No, it's just we're enjoying being engaged. Everyone rushes to the next step, and I like this step, you know? It's fun, and I'm in love, and we're happy. So when it comes, and it happens organically, I will be welcoming it with open arms.
USTH: When did you and Nick first meet?
VANESSA MINNILLO: We actually met at a pageant, believe it or not. We were both judging Miss Teen USA. This is in 2003, maybe. He was judging. I was judging. I was Miss Teen USA 1998, so they brought me back to judge and he was, you know, Nick Lachey and 98 Degrees, and his album and had a solo album coming out, so he was a judge as well. And that's where met as friends and obviously through MTV had kept in touch whenever he came to New York to do TRL [Total Request Live]. It was like I just saw an old family member, "Hey, what's going on? How's it going?" So, I had known him for a minute.
USTH: Vanessa, thank you for speaking with us today, and good luck to you and Nick in the future.
Ms. Minnillo's episode of 30 Rock airs Thursday, February 3, 2011, 10pm Eastern on NBC.