Catch local actor on Fox starting soon
It has been nearly five years since Monica Raymund, then a junior at St. Petersburg's Shorecrest Preparatory School, had the lead role in Manhattan Casino, a locally written and produced musical about racially segregated St. Petersburg.
She's 22 now, a graduate of Shorecrest and of the Juilliard School in New York, where she received the prestigious John Houseman Prize. The award recognizes an outstanding student in classical theater.
Come Jan. 21, she'll have a supporting role in Lie to Me, a new Fox television series that stars Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman, the world's leading expert in deception. His team helps federal law enforcement, government agencies and police with investigations. Raymund plays Ria Torres, a gifted "natural" who has the ability to tell when someone is lying.
"She has a strong knack for identifying the liars in the world," Raymund said in a telephone interview last week. Initially, her character believes in a world of good and bad, black and white. "As the season goes on, she begins to learn that there are some shades of gray."
Raymund said she is the youngest person on the set, "fully fresh out of the box." The days are extensive, usually 12 to 13 hours. "If I'm not working, I'm either sleeping or preparing for the next day of work. I'm just focusing on this, and letting this be my life."
Filming on the series began in November. Last week, the cast and crew completed Episode 4; they hope to wrap production in mid April. Fox has ordered 13 episodes.
Raymund, who made a guest appearance on TV's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit last year, worked with playwright Jose Rivera on Boleros for the Disenchanted at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston before heading to Los Angeles.
"It's quite exciting," Raymund said. "It was a little overwhelming when I first got on set and realized this would be my life for the next six months. Being on set is a whirlwind. And I try to learn as much as I can about what it takes. The technicians, the grips — I'm sort of being a little student, following them everywhere.
"I don't have time to pretend I know what I'm doing. I have to learn fast. There's too much money involved to let myself get behind. Just now, I'm beginning to feel at home."
Raymund spent her summers during high school participating in the Broadway Theater Project in Tampa and at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. At Shorecrest, she acted in musical productions such as Crazy for You and The King and I, and she credits Bill Leavengood with paving the way for her current success.
"He was an integral part of my decision to pursue acting," she said. "He taught me loads about theater and acting. When the time came for me to go to Juilliard, it was my experiences with him and my classes in theater that gave me the confidence I needed to pursue this as my career."
Raymund's father, Steve, is chairman of Tech Data in Clearwater, co-chair of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce's baseball task force and a member of the coalition studying a long-term strategy for the Tampa Bay Rays. Her mother, Sonia, is a community volunteer, co-founder of the Soulful Arts Dance Academy in St. Petersburg and an amateur photographer. Brother Will, also a Shorecrest graduate, attends the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Treasure Island woman named to hall of fame
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist last week named Treasure Island resident Betty Sembler to be inducted into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame.
Mrs. Sembler and her husband, former ambassador Mel Sembler, have dedicated more than three decades to anti-drug efforts on local, state and national levels. She has served on the boards of the Florida Holocaust Museum, the Florida Governor's Mansion Foundation, the Florida House in Washington, D.C., and the University of Florida Brain Addiction Research Advisory Council.
Names of inductees are permanently displayed on the plaza level of the Capitol. The Florida Legislature established the Women's Hall of Fame in 1992; the Florida Commission on the Status of Women nominates 10 women to the governor, who selects up to three for induction.
Crist also named Louise H. Courtelis and state Sen. Gwen Margolis for the honor. Courtelis is an international businesswoman, philanthropist and longtime supporter of higher education and veterinary care in Florida. Margolis, a longtime elected official, became president of the Florida Senate in 1990, the first woman in the United States to head any Senate. She has championed stringent ethics policies and open government and open records legislation.