Acting is a career with no linear path, no ideal ratio of auditions to roles booked that will guarantee success. Irene Sofia Lucio ’08 is well aware of that uncertainty, and for years tried to steer away from performing and toward something more practical. “There was a part of me that was always like, ‘I’ll grow up and mature and become a lawyer or be in advertising,’ ” she says. “But it didn’t work out that way.”
After Princeton, Lucio attended the acting program at the Yale School of Drama. She’s done theater — most recently in the acclaimed Broadway show Slave Play. She’s done television — she has credits on The Americans, Gossip Girl, and Madam Secretary. The web series she co-created and stars in, BUTS, which satirizes Latinx stereotypes in the media, was an NBC Short Film Festival winner.
The web series was notable for Lucio, who grew up in Puerto Rico: “Something that’s interesting about being a Latina who’s white-passing, but has a Spanish name, is that I’m not being treated as a white person,” she says. “But, I’m also not being given Latina roles.”
Lucio’s recent role in Slave Play allowed her to engage with that cultural duality. In the show, she played Patricia, a therapist who, along with a colleague, leads a performance therapy devised for interracial couples to confront the legacy of slavery in their sexual dynamics. “It’s not very often that you get parts that are close to your actual person, but my character is described as a ‘white-passing brown woman with many lives,’” Lucio says of Patricia.
Growing up in Puerto Rico, Lucio fell in love with acting. “There was something, weirdly, that made sense the moment I went on stage,” Lucio says, remembering her experience playing the title role in Annie in a school production. “Things just started aligning and even though it was scary, it felt right.”
As a freshman at Princeton, Lucio says, she tried to escape acting and move toward a more “serious” career. Ultimately though, she found herself in her most authentic role: actor.
“I basically lived at 185 Nassau, and three professors — Michael Cadden, Robert Sandberg [’70], and Tim Vasen — took me under their wing,” Lucio remembers. “That’s when I claimed what I wanted to do.”
Lucio has advice for today’s acting students: “Reach out to people, reach out to teachers who believe in what you’re doing,” she says, adding, “Everyone, especially in these fields, has had a hard time. Nobody had it easy, so they’ll empathize.”
What’s next for Lucio? The BUTS plaudits have generated further projects and inspired Lucio to create more original work. “It gave me the confidence that I have a voice that knows what it’s doing.”