Check out our interview with Lakers and HBO series, “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” actress Carina Conti who plays the role of the iconic and incredible Paula Abdul before she was a popstar and was just a high school student from San Fernando Valley, moonlighting as a choreographer and dancer for the Laker Girls. Paula, a triple threat, Carina mimics those attributes and is excited to show the world her gifts, especially as Paula Abdul.

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty is based on the Jeff Peralman book, Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Laker Dynaste of the 80’s. It chronicles the lives of the 1980’s Lakers as one of the sports’ most revered and dominant dynasties, which defined it’s era on and off the court. In addition to Carina, the ensemble cast includes newcomer Quincy Isaiah as Magic Johnson, Adrien Brody as Pat Riley, Sally Field as Jessie Buss, Jason Clarke as Jerry West, Solomon Hughes as Kareem Addul-Jabbar and many others.

For fun, Carina loves to be with the people she loves, teach and/or take dance classes and has a passion for photography, where she loves to take pictures.

Follow Carina @carina_conti

Hi Carina, please tell us a little about you?

Hi guys, I’m a German-Italian actor-singer-dancer. I love boba tea, photography, and mixology, and I ride my bike every chance I get.

Describe yourself in 3 words?

Sun-lit, earthy, loving.

How did you get started into acting?

My mother was an actress, and I grew up acting, dancing, and doing commercials for Disney and Universal. Performing has always been an intense source of joy in my life.

How has this changed your life?

I grew up in Orlando, and I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time at Disney. Seeing stories brought to life in this boundlessly imaginative world taught me to believe in magic, but the real kind: the kind that brings joy through acting and performance and production. Movie-making and theater are the creation of worlds, and that’s magic. Later on, I understood that storytelling wasn’t just for entertainment — its a profoundly affective vessel for empathy and healing, and its the only thing I’ve ever truly felt called to

What is the best and worst part of being an actress?

I am the best version of myself when I’m acting. I have permission to be all the things I’m afraid to be in real life. I might be playing a character who is dark, or selfish, or unkind, but I always come from a place of understanding and love for that character. In this, I get to embrace my own duality. The hardest part of acting professionally is auditioning for characters and falling in love with them, but having to let them go when the audition is over. You always have to trust that what’s really meant for you will come back.

How do you prepare for a role?

Generally, I do as much research as I can to understand the character’s circumstance. Maybe they have an accent, or they live in a different era. Our surroundings effect us in a million minute ways — the way we dress, the way we talk, the way we carry ourselves. Then I try to find points of overlap between me and the character; I hunt for shared experiences or opinions or passions. If a character really feels like a reach for me, I start on the physicality, and I just trust myself to fill in the blanks.

Tell us about your work on much anticipated Lakers and HBO series, “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty?”

I’ve spent my whole life acting, dancing, and singing, and I’m happiest when I get to do all three. But it’s rare to find a role that involves both acting and dance, so every step of the filming process really felt like a privilege.

And about portraying the iconic and incredible Paula Abdul?

It’s been so humbling. Paula Abdul has an incredible story, and the more I learn about her, the more I love her. I feel so lucky that I get to portray a pre-fame version of her, because the tiny dancer that no one knew is just as fascinating and inspiring as the pop star who became a household name.

How was working with such a talented cast and on a great Lakers era story?

It was clear that every member of the team had worked their butts off just to be there, and that made every day feel like a privilege. This was my first experience working on a project that takes place in another era, and the amount of work that goes into creating this world (especially in the hair and makeup departments) is seriously mind-boggling. On the way to set every day, I had to pass a whole hangar just dedicated to wigs.

What kind of roles do you like or would like to play and why?

I crave roles that let me act, sing, and dace, because that’s when I can express myself the most fully. Down the road, I’d love to play a character that’s darker and grittier, just because that’s a part of me I rarely get to show.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

The purpose of all this is to create something that will inspire, comfort, and bring joy to others. This show is a celebration of life, in a lot of ways. And that’s something we all need, especially now.

What’s your advice for the newer actors?

Spend time getting to know yourself. Quarantine was an intense time of growth for me because I was able to explore new passions and challenge myself in creative ways (outside of performing.) I developed passions for gardening, cooking, mixology, and surfing, all of which are still works in progress and sources of joy. Fostering self-love translates to our work as actors because we are selling ourselves as vessels for stories. The more you pour into yourself, the more richly and effectively the story will flow through you.

What would say are the greatest lessons you learned so far in this business?

Trust your gut. I think we know when something isn’t right for us, but for whatever reason — fear, self- mistrust, laziness — we often put off making important changes. This was definitely true of me. I wish I’d had the courage to quit that job or leave that relationship or release that agent a little sooner.

How would your best friend describe you?

Sweet, scatter-brained, empathetic.

If you are a book, what would be the title of the book and why?

Maybe “Sunward.” I started gardening in quarantine, and I noticed that plants will rotate toward the sun. In a darker room, plants will usually point their leaves toward a window. I love that, because it resonates with me. Even in dark moments, I try my best to orient toward the light. I’m always growing sunward.

What advice would you give to your younger self and why?

I wish I’d had the courage to let go of things that weren’t serving me. I learned that lesson the hard, slow way. If someone acts like they don’t value you, it’s because they don’t. You have to teach people how to treat you.

What book should every entrepreneur read?

Gosh, everything. Reading has really become a source of inspiration to me this past year. Especially for storytellers, reading all kinds of books — fiction, non-fiction, biographies — offers a window to human experiences, even when we’re feeling drained or isolated.

What’s next for Carina Conti in 2022?

I’ve just finished working on a short film by Brian Hartley called “Glimpse,” which is about lovers who get caught in a time loop, and which will come out later this year. I’m also looking forward to working on an action short, directed by my good friend Alex Hurt, where I get to play the right-hand-man to the boss of a drug cartel. Beyond that, I’m deeply enjoying auditioning for new projects and can’t wait to see what comes my way next.

What is your favorite healthy food?

Avocados and oranges. I’m obsessed. Ask my friends.

And your favorite cheat food?

I don’t really consider anything “cheat” food, because most things can be healthy in moderation. But I love dark chocolate. And mochi.

What is your own definition of happiness?

Loving and being loved in return. That’s what it feels like to perform.

Best advice ever given?

“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” I learned that from Paula Abdul, who learned it from Gene Kelley.

Where do you see yourself and your career in 5 years from now?

I’d love a chance to see Paula’s story through. This first season is just the start of what that character has to share. Beyond that, my dream is to be in a musical film. I’m perpetually hungry to combine the things I love.

Favorite song? Why?

I actually love sad songs, especially by Taylor Swift. Right now there’s a lot of joy in my life, and sad songs help me feel balanced. They remind me of what I’ve overcome and help me find love in heartbreak, too.

What do you think of Social Media?

Social media is an insanely powerful tool for knowledge and growth! I approach it mostly from an artistic standpoint — that’s how I learned photography — so I use it as a source of inspiration and motivation. Like anything, it can have its dark sides, but I try to be aware of my inner thoughts enough to know when its time to take a break.

Where we can follow you?

Follow me on Instagram! @carina_conti

Book: “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

Quote: “Try to understand men. If you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love.” – John Steinbeck

Movie: “Singing in the Rain”

Tv Series: I really loved “Crazy Ex Girlfriend” and “The Wilds,” but right now I’m enjoying “Pam and Tommy.”

Favorite Food: Boba tea. Does that count?

Travel Destination: I love getting to visit my family in Italy. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world to me.

Sports Team: The Lakers, duh!



Photo credit: Carina Conti