If you’re not already familiar with Liza Lapira, you should be. She’s currently pulling double duty with recurring roles on the smash hit NCIS and the critically acclaimed Showtime drama Dexter. On NCIS, she’s the murderous mole Michelle Lee, whose secret is about to be discovered by Gibbs, making tonight’s all-new episode a big one for Lapira. On Dexter, she’s the sulty Internal Affairs detective hounding Debra to turn on her partner, Quinn.
If that wasn’t enough action for you, Liza Lapria will also be starring in the fourth installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise this summer, and will have a recurring role on the new Joss Whedon series Dollhouse. BuddyTV spoke to Lapira about juggling all of these projects, and what fans can expect to see from her characters on NCIS and Dexter in the coming weeks. Continue reading to listen to our exclusive interview and to read the full transcript.
This is John from BuddyTV and I’m talking to Liza Lapira, the star of NCIS and Dexter. We’ll start with NCIS. Last week it looked like Gibbs is finally going to be on to Michelle Lee, so I’m guessing this week’s episode is going to be a very big one for your character?
Oh yeah, this is where it all hits the fan. This one and, I don’t want to give it away, but I would watch the next couple weeks if one was interested. If you look at the track record it was all revealed way early, first episode. Then if you looked two seasons ago, none of this was even broached. They like to take their time.
You weren’t told right away you were going to be a mole, were you?
No, I call that the Jimmy years. Not during the Jimmy years, but certainly when I signed on for this second half, absolutely. It was great, because then I could do a whole lot of work on it and research on it and think about it. It was a really exciting call to get.
The downside is that after you’re uncovered you probably won’t be around much longer.
I don’t want to say yay or nay, I just want people to see. We still don’t know the who and the why and the how of it, and I think that will greatly affect what happens to her. “Mole” is so general, except for the little tiny bit from the flashback in the season opener we don’t really know the extent of it. It’s to the writers credit that she’s become so complicated.
What does it mean as an actress to be on such a hit show? NCIS is being seen by 17, 18 million viewers.
I felt disconnected from it. When I first signed on, I have to admit I hadn’t even seen [the show] yet. I’m one of those that doesn’t watch much TV, or tries not to. Once I got the job I got the DVDs and I watched it and I loved it, but the bigness of it didn’t hit me until I went to Fan Fest and I got to meet everybody. I would get letters through the network and things like that, and those were always great, but then I got to actually meet some fans. That was a bit overwhelming in a good way, because everyone was so cool, fun, and big fans of the show and big fans of Mark [Harmon]. It’s kind like the quiet storm, the silent killer, NCIS is. It’s not splashed in the papers and there’s not a commercial for it every five seconds, but there is a big, big following.
On the opposite side in terms of ratings is Dexter, which you’re also on this season. Were you aware of Dexter before you got that role?
I was aware of it. It’s critically acclaimed, both the writers, the actors and the series of books. I did not ever see it, but I knew right away before I auditioned that this is a character I have to play. I never get excited, I’m kind of nonplussed about the whole thing because it’s a crazy, wacky profession with a million variables you can’t control, but I read it and I said, “I love this girl.” She’s something else, I haven’t played this before, and the writing’s so good. I got the job and I went to Blockbuster and got the DVDs, and I loved it. I had to watch them back to back, because I got obsessed and I just kept putting them in and putting them in. It literally haunted me, some of the images. Great, great writing.
Most of your scenes have been with Debra, Jennifer Carpenter’s character, and there’s only a few episodes left in the season. Does Yuki ever get to go beyond that?
I won’t say, except to verify that my character is there to serve the Quinn ambiguity story, and that is definitely petered through Deb and Anton.
Everyone Debra’s around is dying, so it leads me to believe your character is either in trouble, or she could be the skinner.
I was just going to say, everyone around Debra either dies or is not so good. There’s so much ambiguity there, I love it.
What’s on your plate after these shows?
Well, I have stuff coming out. One of them is a romantic comedy, I think it comes out in the spring, starring Brandon Routh, Sophia Bush, and Johnny Galecki from The Big Bang Theory. I love that guy. He plays my fiance. It’s a romantic comedy, screwball, quirky, and that comes out in March. Then Fast and Furious I believe is coming out in June.
That’s back with the original people as well, right?
Yes, which excited me. I’m not an action kind of girl, I’m kind of the girly girl who likes romantic comedies, but when I found out it was all four of them back even I got excited. Even I was like, “Ooh, I would see that!”
You also shot a guest starring appearance on Dollhouse?
Yes, that’s another secret thing. I’m recurring.
Oh, you’re recurring in Dollhouse?
Yes, as if this conversation I was.
On the TCA Press Tour, Joss and Eliza took us on a tour of that set.
Oh my god, you tell me what did you think of that set?
It was huge, especially that giant room where everybody hangs out.
Doesn’t it look functional? It actually is functional. I asked Eliza if she worked out on those machines there, or if people took naps in the beautiful Zen-like garden palace they have there. The bigness of it, for me it was so overwhelming, and also really calming. The theme is Zen and relaxing, and there’s so much yoga so that these dolls are perfect. When I walked in I was like wow, feng shui really works, because I feel really good.
You’ve got the big ratings hit with NCIS, you’ve got the critical acclaim with Dexter, and now you’ve got the Joss Whedon show, which has every TV nerd in the world excited.
I’ve been pretty lucky. This has been a good year in that I’ve been able to touch a lot of things. Also the action, fast cars-type deal as a young FBI agent in Fast and Furious. I’ve gotten to touch all the genres. Dollhouse is kind of sci-fi. Joss Whedon is kind of his own thing. What’s the term for that?
It’s just Whedonesque. You have Buffy, Angel, Firefly, it’s all his own world.
Yeah, it’s Joss’ world, we just live in it.
-Interview conducted by John Kubicek
(Image courtesy of CBS)