T.V. Carpio Opens Up About Wild 'Spider-Man' Ride
NEW YORK -- T.V. Carpio must have either the best luck in the world or the very worst.
Consider all that she's endured these past months: She lands a small role in Broadway's most expensive musical; sings with U2's Bono; gets promoted to a starring part; performs on David Letterman's show; gets whiplash; discovers that she has a thyroid disorder; turns 30; watches her patron get fired and has her role cut down.
The one constant for the star of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" seems to be change.
"You couldn't make it up. It's like a dream. A surreal dream. And I'm living it," she says in her dressing room at the Foxwoods Theatre. "How I deal with it is I give into it. I find that fighting it doesn't make it go away."
Carpio has managed to keep perspective amid the behind-the-scenes turmoil that saw original director Julie Taymor dismissed and Carpio's part of Arachne cut down from an epic villain with five songs to a guardian angel with just three.
"Like any relationship, there's been a lot of ups and downs. I'm not going to lie and say there haven't been gloomy times. Of course, it's traumatizing when mom and dad get divorced," she says.
"Everybody in this building is human. We're not superhuman. Although we're doing a show about superhumans, we're human. So everybody has feelings. Everybody has emotions that are natural, whether they be sad or excited or exhausted or fed-up."
The stunt-heavy $70 million show, originally co-written and led by Taymor and with music by Bono and The Edge, began previews on Nov. 28 after years of delay but never officially opened, instead lurching from one embarrassment to another.
Performances were canceled and stunts went awry, leaving actors trapped hanging over the audience. There were five major accidents to cast members, the worst to actor Christopher Tierney who suffered a fractured skull, a fractured shoulder blade, four broken ribs and three broken vertebrae during a fall on Dec. 20.
In early March, after some critics got fed up with waiting and universally slammed the show, the lead producers finally stepped in, hiring a new creative team and saying goodbye to Taymor and choreographer Daniel Ezralow, among others.
Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and director Philip William McKinley cleaned up a story that had wandered into darker and mythological themes that featured Carpio's Arachne, while the songs were reworked. The romance between Peter Parker and Mary Jane returned to center stage and Arachne was toned down. It finally is to open June 14.
"I think everybody sees the finish line and we want to get there. Everybody's worked very hard. Everybody's put blood, sweat and tears in this. That includes tears of joy and tears of sadness," says Carpio, who was in the spring film "Limitless" with Bradley Cooper.
She chooses her words carefully when discussing the transition, torn between allegiance to Taymor and the new team. She's loath to explain how the original version stacks up with the reboot, saying it's like comparing apples and oranges.
"I think the foundation of what makes the show amazing and magical is what came out of Julie's head," she says. "If this show that we're doing right now is a success, then ideally at the end of the day that's what everybody wants, including Julie."
Carpio's maturity and professionalism during tough times were noticed by Bono, with whom she sang early on when the musical was first getting off the ground.
"T.V. lights up any room she's in," the singer wrote by e-mail. "When the going got tough in `Turn Off The Dark,' she did too, without ever sacrificing her tenderness toward the people around her, or indeed her vocal tones which are so tremulous and true."
Teresa Victoria Carpio was born in Oklahoma City, but grew up in New York, Missouri and in Hong Kong with her mother, Teresa Carpio, who is a well-known singer in Asia. Before she became a Spider-Woman, she had been an ice skater, a dancer in videos and had small roles on TV.
The 5-foot-2 actress' biggest moment until now was appearing as the cheerleader Prudence who sings a stunning rendition of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in "Across the Universe," a Taymor movie set to the music of The Beatles.
The movie marked Carpio's entrance into Taymor's tight-knit world, one that would pay off when the director began work on "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." Her admiration for Taymor is still intact. "She does stuff that people don't think is possible and to me does it really well," Carpio says.
The young actress landed a part in the so-called Geek Chorus – four comic-book fans who framed the plot and represented Taymor, Bono, The Edge and co-book writer Glen Berger. But Carpio had understudied several roles since joining the show in 2007 and was a natural choice when the original Arachne – Natalie Mendoza – pulled out after suffering a concussion in December.
Carpio moved into a new dressing room and threw herself into the role with acting and singing lessons – until she had her own brush with injury. A performer playing Spider-Man toppled onto her in March, giving her whiplash and keeping her out of the show for 16 days. But while having blood work done, she was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, an immune system disorder that affects the thyroid. Now she is actually grateful the injury revealed the disorder.
"If this didn't happen to me, I would never have found out. It's good to catch it early, then you can make more adjustments to your diet," Carpio says. "There is always a silver lining."
Shortly afterward, Taymor was dismissed and Carpio braced for more changes. She had a feeling that her part would be cut down by the incoming team, especially since they were clearly going to make the musical more linear.
"It's not about how I feel. This whole show is bigger than my one part. People are, at the end of the day, coming to see Spider-Man. I understand that it's not the Arachne show. So I'm not hurt by that," she says.
"At the same time, in my head, I was like, `You know what? If this actually makes it better, than I'm all for it.' I am actually a team player. I am for whatever it takes to make this work."
Carpio, who turned 30 on April with a big dress-up party at a beer garden, still believes in a good ending. In her dressing room, she has posters hanging of her favorite films, all of which have memorable endings: "Gone With the Wind," "Casablanca" and "The Wizard of Oz."
She comforts herself that she still has a great part on Broadway and will be heard on the show's cast album. She also reminds herself that she was unemployed for a long time before Spider-Man entered her life.
"At the end of the day, I'm still really grateful that I still have a job. I get to still sing some really beautiful songs," she says.