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Tampa native Joanna Garcia: a veteran actress in kid's clothing



Joanna_garcia2 As an appropriately cynical TV opinionator, whenever I meet Tampa native Joanna Garcia, I'm always wondering in the back of my mind: Is she for real?

That's because, despite assembling a lengthy showbiz resume -- she starred in the old Nickelodeon series Are you Afraid of the Dark? back in 1994 -- Garcia seems as bubbly and enthusiastic as the day she started her first acting job, playing the role of Wendy in a Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center production of Peter Pan about 18 years ago.

This year may be the best year for her since snagging a co-starring role in the WB's long-running sitcom Reba in 2001. The 28-year-old is finally starring in her own series, Privileged, for the struggling CW network, playing a Yale graduate forced to care for a family's bratty rich kids in Palm Beach, Fla.

Considering some of the overnight success stories clogging Hollywood these days -- seems all you need to get a starring role in a network series these days is a work visa from England -- it's always surprised me that the Tampa Catholic High School grad didn't snag a series sooner, given her wide-eyed beauty, dedicated work ethic and CW-network-ready youthful look.

I spent some hanging with Garcia on the set of her new show last week -- where the show's crew has recreated the interiors of a glitzy, Trump-style mansion with surprising detail. I expect to cobble together a story based on my day there soon; Garcia proved an engaging, earnest subject, tackling everything from her romance with fiancee and longtime Justin Timberlake partner Trace Ayala to Joanna_garcia_2 questions about why she dyed her signature blonde tresses auburn (it signifies a life change for her character in the pilot).

She may need that positive attitude soon: producers have been working hard to turn a 20-minute presentation filmed for the network into a full-fledged hourlong episode, bringing along movie veteran Anne Archer as the mother who hires Garcia's Megan Smith, crafting a comedy striving to bridge the gap between teens and young adults.   

“The one thing that’s kept me upbeat about my career, is that I’ve always made choices based on the material,” said Garcia, now starring in a comedy series producers defined as “the Gilmore Girls teaching the Gossip Girls.” “I feel really proud of everything I’ve done, because I never did anything for the money.” 

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:49pm]


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