If things had gone a bit differently, Aimee Carrero would be a lawyer right now. But when she started college in Miami and realized that her greatest passion was acting, she did the opposite of what you might expect: instead of dropping out and running to LA, she buckled down and managed to graduate with honors in only two short years from Florida International University. “I graduated and took the LSAT, but since I had finished so early, I would have been entering law school at 20 years old. So instead, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try acting full-time,” she says. She dove into the Miami acting scene, appearing in local commercials and taking acting classes, before eventually making the move west.
Parts on The Mentalist, Lincoln Heights, Greek, Level Up came quickly and it was clear her risk was paying off—especially when she scored a coveted part in The Americans, the hit FX series which stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as Soviet spies hiding in plain sight in D.C. as the average American family. Carrero, now 25, played an idealistic Nicaraguan freedom fighter who—spolier alert!—seduced and murdered a young congressional aide for information. But don’t peg her as strictly a dramatic actress—her next project is as far a departure from Cold War spy antics as you can get. Tonight, Carrero’s new flirty sitcom Young & Hungry debuts on ABC Family. The show stars Emily Osment as a food blogger who lands the opportunity to be a personal chef for a Mark Zuckerberg-type tech entrepreneur and Carrero as her ever-supportive best friend.
“Sophia is the Ricky to Emily’s Lucy,” she says, describing her ambitious, type-A character, while referencing the classic I Love Lucy. “Emily is always coming up with crazy schemes and bad plans, and drags Sophia along with her.”
Unlike most shows on TV today, Young & Hungry is a multi-camera series shot in front of a live audience, which Carreo says has been a huge learning experience. “It’s the closest thing to theater that you can get in television. And the writers are right there—if a joke falls flat they give you an alternate one. It’s an invaluable thing to have an audience there because you can tell what’s working.” She says the cast keeps the energy high by jumping up and down before the Friday night tapings.
As for her time working on The Americans, which just wrapped up what New York Magazine called “one of the best second seasons” of a drama, Carrero says, “Keri [Russell] is unbelievable, I’ve never met an actress who’s so giving. I had to do a love scene and I was really nervous about it and she pulled me aside and she was like, ‘I understand, I come from the Mickey Mouse Club, I have two kids…I get uncomfortable too.’"
One of Carrero’s favorite parts of The Americans was the authentic vintage fashion. “I had to wear these high-waisted late ’70s, early ‘80s pants and my ovaries were like up to my ears! I couldn’t get them on and texted my mom, I was so worried. She said I had to lie down, suck in my stomach and zip it up. I was like, that’s a thing? She was right!”
Offscreen, the rising star’s style is much more subtle, despite growing up in Miami where the louder the fashion, the better. “Miami is sort of living a bit under a rock. The style that’s prevalent there was not what anyone was wearing in Los Angeles. It was a bit of a wakeup call for me.” Her uniform of bold-print maxi dresses, platform heels and hoop earrings has since been replaced by a streamlined look—think sleek trousers and jackets with sharp silhouettes.
Making the menswear look work is a particular challenge for her, however. At just over five-feet tall, everything needs to be hemmed and tailored. “I’m not exactly pulling off a Tilda Swinton look like I wish I was, because I have an ass on me," admits Carrero with a laugh. "But I’m all about clean, classic, boyish looks.”
She may not look much like the legendary chameleon, but Carrero’s proving that on screen, she can play all sort of characters too.
"Young & Hungry" debuts on ABC Family tonight at 8pm EST.