I just met Aimee Garcia, and already I love her! The Mexican/Puerto Rican actress—who you might remember from her role as George Lopez’s niece Veronica on The George Lopez Show—is the perfect example of what it means to be a Wise Latina (she should go ahead and buy herself one of those fabulous shirts we’re selling!). She’s smart and hardworking (she had three majors in college: Economics, Journalism, and French (for fun!), she’s a philanthropist who donates her time to various causes and charities (including the National Kidney Foundation), and she’s sublimely sweet. Best of all, Garcia, 30, is about to become a big TV star this fall with her role as war-veteran turned badass helicopter pilot Marissa Benez on NBC’s groundbreaking new drama Trauma.
What’s Trauma about?
It’s like ER—out in the field. And I would describe it as 24 meets Grey’s Anatomy because it’s the only medical drama that takes place out in the streets of San Francisco. We’re not shooting our exterior shots on the lot of Warner Brothers or Universal. We’re actually shooting in the actual streets of San Francisco: on the Bay Bridge, in the middle of the freeway. We shut down the freeway for five days! It’s almost like shooting a film because we’re on location and we have to start from scratch, so hopefully that kind of raw energy will project on screen as well.
Sounds awesome! And scary! Speaking of which, do you have to do your own stunts?
Yeah. It’s a physical show. When you sign on for a medical drama that involves [Executive Producer] Peter Berg, you better not even think that it involves you just standing around in a hospital, because that is not what this show is. We are sprinting, running and doing a lot of our own stunts. Just the other day, I was up in my helicopter in a crane that was about five feet high above concrete, and all I could think was “Wow, I really hope that these drivers know what they’re doing.”
Who do you play on the show?
Marissa Benez. She is a war hero, and she’s used to flying really cool helicopters like Apaches and Blackhawks—and being shot at. She gets tired of seeing her friends die at the front lines and decides to “retire” in San Francisco, but she’s in for a bit of a surprise because while she’s used to seeing soldiers fight for their lives, she’s not used to seeing 12 year olds and newborns fight for theirs.
I saw the pilot, which you were great in by the way! And I kept thinking: Wow, this girl is a badass! Is she?
[Laughs] I think, like all badasses, she probably has a lot to protect, which is a big heart! Marissa will take a bullet for someone she cares about. She really believes in integrity, self-respect, hard work, and doing unto others as they do unto you. I think as long as you treat her with respect, she will give you the same back. She comes from a military background so that is very important. But she is a badass because she doesn’t have to wear it on her sleeve.
In the opening minutes of Trauma, there’s a huge helicopter crash that I think is one of the finest moments in the history of TV. It reminded me of 9/11 a little bit. Did you also get that feeling?
I didn’t even think about 9/11, but I think it is like that. In the way that you realize life can be ripped away in seconds and it’s completely unexpected. One second your going to work or your loved one is going to work, and the next second your world is turned upside down. The first scene was so impactful and like an adrenaline rush for the viewer, and for the actor as well. That’s what people who answer the 911 call have to deal with—it’s a very physically demanding occupation where life can be taken away in seconds. That opening scene sets the tone for the everyday job of these people.
You co-star Cliff Curtis is sensational as the character “Rabbit.” And I loved your scenes with him. Are your characters going to become an item on the show?
There’s always going to be some sort of sexual tension. It’s a love/hate relationship. They both have type A personalities, they both love to be in control and they’re both somewhat of adrenaline junkies. They share this small confined space of a helicopter, and when you put a very aggressive man with an ex-war veteran who is used to rolling with the boys and feels very comfortable holding weaponry and flying these incredible pieces of machinery, you’re going to get a lot of spark.
You’re on a show called Trauma, so it begs the question: Have you ever experienced or witnessed any kind of trauma in your real life?
I have actually. I had a dear, dear friend of mine have a horrible head injury, and I was the only one there. I had to call 911, and for those 5-10 minutes, those paramedics became the most important people in my life. That’s why I really think that this show is important, because I don’t think people realize how the whole time I was with my friend, I wasn’t’ even looking at my friend because my friend was unconscious. I was looking at the paramedics to see if they were going to be OK. You really have a great responsibility as a paramedic to instill confidence in not only the victims themselves (because a lot of the time they’re suffering a head injury and not fully conscious), but the family member as well. I will never forget it, and I hope to never do it again. But in the moment I was very, very grateful to those four highly trained professionals.
You were also on The George Lopez Show. What was it like working with him?
He is part of the reason that I think I booked Trauma. They wanted someone who had the sense of humor of a true soldier—because a lot of times soldiers have a really good sense of humor because they need that to keep them afloat—and there is no better comedy acting school than George Lopez. And especially when you’re in-between Andy Garcia and George Lopez. It’s the real deal. He was just like a real life uncle—very nurturing, but he pushes you and doesn’t settle for anything but your personal best. He definitely taught me about working really hard and I thought, 'you know what, if a millionaire is working really hard, I can definitely work hard because I’m not a millionaire!' [Laughs]. He was fantastic, and I feel honored to be part of the only all-Hispanic show in syndicated television history!
Are you looking forward to some Trauma drama? The show premiers Sept. 28 at 9 p.m. Check out the promo here: