If you don’t recognize actress Judy Reyes from her no-nonsense role as nurse Carla Espinosa on the hit show “Scrubs,” chances are you probably don’t own a TV set.
With “Scrubs” in its eighth and final year, Reyes begins to anticipate what the future will look like for her once the stethoscopes are put away and the hospital doors close.
She starts the transitional process with the Lifetime movie “Little Girl Lost: The Delimar Vera Story.” Based on actual events, “Little Girl Lost” tells the story of Luz Cuevas (Reyes), a Philadelphia mother of a newborn who is devastated when she is told her baby has been killed in a house fire.
Unwilling to believe her little girl is gone, Luz lives in anguish for six years until she finds out that her maternal instincts were right all along and that her baby had been kidnapped before the house was set on fire.
During an interview with me, Reyes, 40, talked about researching for the role and what she is looking forward to for the rest of her career.
How did you get involved in this project?
I got a call from my agent telling me that Lifetime wanted to offer me this role for “Little Girl Lost.” They sent me the script and I responded to it emotionally. I was really moved. I immediately started doing research on this woman and found lots of footage on the internet. Everything just started falling into place.
Since this is a movie based on a true story, did you remember when this tragedy in Philadelphia took place?
I didn’t, but I spoke to my mom about it. This was a story predominately told in the Spanish-language media. I spoke to some of my girlfriends who live on the East Coast and they had heard about it. But I started doing all the research and getting all my material to recreate the story and I kept talking to people who remembered.
Did you get to meet Luz Cuevas or any of the family?
No, I didn’t. I made efforts to…reach out to her, but she is a woman who is protecting herself and her family. I think she was very cautious about opening herself up again, which I respected. I think in hindsight it gave me freedom to be as honest as I could without letting whatever is happening now in her life affect that. I did hear that she was very happy about how [the film] was turning out.
I’ve seen interviews with her and she does seem very private, but at the same time she did sell the movie and book rights to her story. Why do you think she wanted to do this?
She is a very poor woman that came from a very poor background. The situation she found herself in wouldn’t have gone as far as it did if she had been an educated woman with money. I don’t think the system would have been able to take advantage of her. She certainly does have the right to sell the story so this doesn’t happen to somebody else in her position. She has the right to protect herself and not be exploited at the same time.
If you were to have met her, did you have questions prepared that you wanted to ask?
Of course, but none of them actually had to do with the event. I wasn’t prepared to make her relive everything. In the media blitz, everything has been asked and covered already. The wonderful thing about the internet is that you can find all the coverage. I just wanted to ask her questions about her. How old is she? Where did she grow up? How old was she when she came to this country? I wanted to have that in my identity when I personalized her.
What more are you looking forward to now that “Scrubs” is in its final year?
I anticipate doing more things like this film and springboarding on the wonderful education it has given me and moving forward and taking advantage of all that. I want to explore all my options. I want to do more drama, more comedy and taking a lot of chances. I want to go back and do a lot of theater. The possibilities are endless and I’m excited about the future.