Carla Jimenez, it seems, has made an appearance on each major TV series since Y2K. With roles in every hit from The ER to Malcolm in the Middle to My Name Is Earl to CSI to Dexter (the list goes on and on...and on) her face should be familiar by now. But it wasn't until she nabbed the role of Alba in FOX's fresh new comedy The Mick that Jimenez committed to star in more than 20 episodes of the same show.
Alba, a maid and caretaker in the Pemberton home, is caught up in Mickey's (Kaitlin Olson) shenanigans after the previously unencumbered girl-about-town is tasked with looking after her wealthy sister's kids. Indeed, Alba was originally hired as a "servant" in the household. But she's also fun, and smart, and (gasp) her own hilarious person with unique characteristics and nuances — all things Mickey helps brings to the surface.
Zimbio chatted with Jimenez Tuesday, April 11 about busting the trope, her knack for comedy, and what fans can expect from Alba in the future. Our first question? How exactly do Jimenez and Olson (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) pull off their on-point chemistry?
"It's never been work," Jimenez says of working playing with Olson. "It's really easy...like, super easy. She's just so good."
A seemingly run-of-the-mill maid role was rapidly outed as anything but when Jimenez auditioned. Her first scene with Olson was from episode two, when Mickey sneakily drugs Alba before a wild night out.
"I was nervous at first because you see her on It's Always Sunny," she says. "I love that show too, and I was always drawn to her. She's this female character surrounded by all these guys. Everyone's keeping up with each other and they're so funny, but there's something about her that really pops. I always watched her timing and thought, 'God, how does she do that?' So to get to work with her was really cool. I was nervous, but it was weird because the second we began it's like everything went away and we just clicked. Nobody calls attention to it, it just happens. We just groove on each other on set."
In the show's first season alone, Alba and Mickey drop molly, steal a convertible, and almost get their asses handed to them by a loan shark, doing it all while babysitting three kids — Sabrina, Chip, and Ben. Needless to say, Alba is no ordinary role, let alone an ordinary maid.
"I'm beyond grateful and excited and happy to play [Alba]," Jimenez says, "and a little scared. When there's no limits, you realize, 'Oh, I'm not in this box anymore. I don't know what's gonna happen.' It's really exciting compared to other roles where, if you are the maid, you kinda know where you stand, you know? You'll come in and you'll go out. I gotta say, Raising Hope was really good in the sense that they took her out of her profession and gave her a little more. But it was still in the main vein of, 'This is what you do.' So I appreciate them for that because I got to do some quirky things, but this is so out-of-the-box that I love it. I love the thought that my profession's not me, it doesn't define who I am. They make her such a real person with all these flaws."
As Broadly pointed out in January, Jimenez has played six nurses, one maid, and three characters named Rosa. This time around, however, she's accomplished a near-impossible feat: "subverting the stereotype" to make Alba special.
"It's hard," she says. "I don't know if maybe you asked, like, Eva Longoria or women that are more leading actresses, if they'd say that they struggle as much. Because I'm a character actress. So usually when parts like this come down for me, yeah, it's a little harder to find good, quality roles. Just off the top of my head, Desperate Housewives did give me a great role that was actually dramatic and really fun to play. Those parts are harder to come by. I love drama and I love comedy. I like doing them both. Through the years, comedy has been where I seem to head. But I just feel extra lucky that I landed where I am with the writing and the material. What I get to do right now is just very refreshing."
With a cast like The Mick's, Jimenez says the fun doesn't end when the cameras shut off.
"We do laugh a lot off-camera," she says. "They're so funny. Thomas [Barbusca] and Sofia [Black-D'Elia] have a very brother-sister relationship. They tease each other. It's really fun. We're this little dysfunctional family."
Barbusca and Black-D'Elia play siblings Chip and Sabrina, whose more than slightly spoiled habits and heightened senses of entitlement don't lend to a smooth transition when Mickey and Alba take over. Their younger brother Ben, played by Jack Stanton, is especially affected when their parents are arrested for fraudulent business practices, disappearing to a foreign country overnight. No one's quite sure what's happened to the Pemberton parents, leaving Mickey and Alba to fill their roles in Season 1. But Jimenez says adoption is far into the future where Mickey and Alba are concerned.
"[Adoption] hasn't come around yet," Jimenez says. "I think they're still learning to care for them, and we don't know what's going on with their parents. So that whole thing is kind of up in the air right now. We don't take ourselves too seriously, but if anything were to happen that was a little mysterious, that would be in Season 2. I think more will be delved into that. Mickey's still trying to figure out her place with them and Alba's just Mickey's friend, just there with them hanging out. She's still helping care for the kids because she has that innate responsibility to want to take care of them."
Jimenez, who grew up in a Mexican-American household that thrived on humor, says she's inspired by a diverse range of funny ladies.
"My top has always been Tina Fey. I watch her and I just die," she shares. "Anything with her and Amy Poehler, it kills me. Tina Fey, just because she's a writer and a performer and she's so funny, she's my number one. Kaitlin [Olson] is on the list. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Aidy Bryant...Aidy Bryant came out of nowhere for me and I got obsessed with her, because again, her timing and writing are so funny. I didn't realize until now, it didn't click with me: they're all older women, but they're so funny and amazing that it doesn't matter. They're ageless in that sense. It always gives me hope. It always shows me that comedy is ageless. Funny is funny."
In the past year alone, these women and more have proven it doesn't matter who you are — you can build a solid career purely off of your own sweat, smarts, and wit. Anyone can be hilarious. The Mick itself is a fantastic example of that.
"I gotta say, that's what makes me proud," she muses. "When someone asks about the show and about the characters...I'm so happy that everybody is just so talented and so very different. From little Jack [Stanton] to Sofia [Black-D'Elia], Thomas [Barbusca], Kaitlin [Olson] and Scott [MacArthur]. We all just work so perfectly together. You don't want to watch a show and see a bum character, you know? Because then you 'gotta wade through them to get through the good stuff. To me, everybody is so funny."
Jimenez says she's grateful for the door Alba has opened.
"I think what Alba does is create a possibility for so much more," she says. "The fact that there's a team out there that believe in you and wants to write you in this way, it tells me, 'The world is much more open than you think.' You live in this land of small roles and you're just doing what you're doing because you love it, but you're just kinda getting by, and then this happens and you're like, 'Oh!'"
Don't be surprised if you see her in New York sometime soon. Jimenez says she'd love to get back to her first love: theater.
"I grew up thinking I was gonna go to Broadway," she shares, "and that that's where my path was gonna take me. So I still want to do that, and I still hope to one day do a show in New York. But I really think that [The Mick] has opened a door that says, 'You are not just this one thing. You can be anything.' Alba is a dream role in a way because the show's writers write with a humor that I love and that I grew up with. It's how I joke with my friends and my sisters. It is a dream come true. This show feels special. I hope everybody sees what we're creating and thinks it's special too. The reaction that I get is that, yeah, it's working. People are responding to it."