La Brea star Lily Santiago on Veronica’s struggles, season 1 takeaways, and more

Hidden Remote had the pleasure of chatting with Lily Santiago who stars in La Brea, NBC‘s new hit drama series.

In La Brea, Lily Santiago portrays Veronica Castillo, who caught our attention right away. She’s a complex character audiences loved learning more and more about each episode. The series has been renewed for a second season and we can’t wait to see what happens next! Naturally, we were super excited to chat with Santiago about La Brea and get to know both Santiago and her character Veronica a little better.

Please note there are spoilers ahead if you have not watched the season 1 finale! 

The below interview was edited for length and clarity*

Interview with La Brea star Lily Santiago

Hidden Remote: La Brea is one of our favorite new shows this season here at Hidden Remote. We love the mystery, the drama, the diversity, and how it follows not just one character, but several. One story that instantly caught my attention is Veronica Castillo’s. I just knew there was more to her. Can you tell me how much you knew about Veronica and Lily’s story going in?

Lily Santiago: Yeah, it was really interesting. For my audition, all the information that I got was that she’s protective of her little sister. And so that’s how I played it. And then in my callback, they started giving me information. I learned that I kidnapped her. Then it wasn’t until we were filming that I learned that I was also kidnapped myself! I never know what to expect from a script. They like throwing things at me that shock me and are really interesting and tragic, but exciting as an actor to play with.

La Brea season 1 episode 9

LA BREA — “Father & Son” Episode 109 — Pictured: (l-r) Chloe De Los Santos as Lilly Castillo, Lily Santiago as Veronica Castillo — (Photo by: Sarah Enticknap/NBC)

HR: I always enjoy asking that question because I find it so interesting how much actors know at first and what they have to change as they learn more. I follow you on Instagram and you and Veronica couldn’t be any more different. I love when actors just completely transform into this new character. Can you talk about what draws you to Veronica?

Santiago: Absolutely! I think it’s really, really exciting to get to play a role that is so unlike me, and obviously when I got through I had my doubts because you know, there’s the imposter syndrome of like, “but I’m not like her.” And she [Veronica] harbors a lot of anger and sadness, but I think what I love about Veronica is her strength and her ability to survive and persevere.

And the truth is that she has a big heart. She cares a lot. She sees herself in Lily and she is also struggling with a lot of the confusion, a lot of the trauma. I’m enjoying figuring out how to access her humanity and how to allow her past to be visible but not control her life.

HR: And I think we see a little bit of that in the scene where Veronica suffers a panic attack — which you did amazing in that scene by the way!

Santiago: Thank you so much!

HR: Can you tell me what went through Veronica’s mind during that moment?

Santiago: So in my mind, it was the handcuffs and the physical touch that initially set off that panic attack because I don’t know if people notice, but my character doesn’t really touch people, except for Lily.  And to me, especially a man touching her, touch is traumatizing. It’s based on her past. What I’ve been told of Veronica’s past and what I’ve made up for myself about Veronica’s past. Chloe [Chloe De Los Santos], who plays Lily, we got to talk about what our past couple of years possibly looked like and I imagine we were handcuffed on a bed together every night to sleep. So that panic really came from being stuck, being out of control, being physically out of control. And being reminded of her past containment.

Lily Santiago on the magic that goes behind-the-scenes of La Brea

HR: Do you watch La brea on TV when it airs?

Santiago: I do. I like to watch it with my parents!

La Brea star Lily Santiago

Lily Santiago headshot courtesy Lily Santiago

HR: I ask because I want to know about the the whole filming experience. There’s just so much CGI and magic that goes on behind the scenes. How is it watching all of that come to life? Are there any special effects that surprise you? 

Santiago: I think with the pilot episode, all of the buildings like the CGI that went into the destruction of Los Angeles, I was blown away by that. And it’s sort of funny to watch back and see a person who was standing in a blue suit turn into a full on creature! I sort of I get good giggles out of it.

HR: After every episode, I’m always jumping on Google to research those creatures, the animals, the history. It’s all very interesting. It’s a truly unique show. 

Santiago: You never know what’s gonna jump out at you from the woods!

HR: What are some takeaways you took from season one?

Santiago: I was just so impressed, grateful, and amazed by everyone who worked on the show. I have never been a series regular on a show before so I was learning every day. I was learning from the other incredible actors and I was learning from the crew who you know, they’re there for endless hours, and they’re always so positive and helpful. So that was a takeaway for me of like, how I want to be on sets going forward and the environment that I want to be around.

Who will survive the La Brea?

HR: For fans who haven’t watched the season 1 finale, what can you tease?

Santiago: Everyone just keep your fingers crossed for everyone’s survival! [laughs]

HR: And just a couple of fun questions. Besides falling into a sinkhole, what would you say is your biggest fear?

Santiago: [without hesitation] Great white sharks. I am so terrified of how powerful they are. And also because humans are so helpless in the water and they’re so fast and strong and their mouths are so big and I just…they’ve freaked me out since I was like, seven years old.

HR: If you did fall into a sinkhole, what songs would be on your playlist while you wait for rescue?

Santiago: That’s a good question. I think I would want some relaxing songs. I’d probably listen to some Lucius and Daniel Caesar and maybe some Mac Miller. Those are some of my go-to these days.

The first season of La Brea is now streaming on Peacock