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Being Mary Jane postmortem: Lisa Vidal on Kara's emotional breakdown

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Guy D'Alema/BET

SPOILER ALERT: The following contains details from “Being Kara,” Tuesday’s episode of Being Mary Jane. 

Being Mary Jane, as its title suggests, is pretty much all about Mary Jane. That’s not to say that the show doesn’t put the spotlight on other characters, but rather, that Mary Jane’s experience is offered as the primary perspective through which womanhood is examined. This week, though, was decidedly different. In “Being Kara,” viewers saw Lisa Vidal’s character scramble to balance her career, a sizzling new romance, and parenthood in a way that made it clear that the lofty ambition of “having it all” might not be all its cracked up to be. (Um, you think?)

As the episode unfolded, Kara – who’s never been shy about what she’s willing to sacrifice in order to keep her status as a star producer at SNC – struggled with self-doubt under mounting pressure, and eventually had an epic breakdown over a pan of burned brownies. What triggered her meltdown? Can she pick the pieces and move on as a confident mom? Will her plan to move in with her ex-husband help her get there? And did Kara really dump Gael? With these burning questions in mind, EW called up Vidal to get the dish on the dramatic episode – and here’s what she had to say.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Ultimately, what do you think was the event or emotion that triggered Kara’s breakdown? This is the very first time we’ve ever seen her like this.

LISA VIDAL: I think it’s a feeling of guilt. The feeling like she’s lost her children a little bit, like she dropped the ball and traded them in some way for her career. I understand that feeling, and it’s something that Mara and I talked about incorporating into Kara’s story. That feeling stems from her divorce, and what divorces can do to a family and a relationship. It’s her feeling like, “Even when I’m there, I’m not good enough.” It’s a consistent pressure that working women feel when they have kids. I know I’ve felt it. We put so much pressure on ourselves to hit every kind of goal, to dot every “I” and cross every “T.” It’s too hard, and that’s what triggered the breakdown for Kara.

Have you had any experiences that have helped inform your approach in playing Kara?

I think the biggest thing would be the fact that I’ve been a working mom for so long. I think we’re incredible in what we can accomplish and what we can juggle. And I’m from a family of very strong, opinionated, intelligent career women, full of lawyers, doctors, and nurses. One of my aunts was one of the first Puerto Rican judges on the New York Supreme Court. My mom worked my whole life. I pull a lot from my personal life in that respect, and what I juggle on a daily basis is something I love to talk about it on the show. It’s a great story to tell on screen, because so many women can relate.

We saw the full gamut of Kara’s emotions this episode, from literal climax to a depressed, all-time low. What was the most challenging scene to film? 

The emotional stuff was very heavy, and just being a mom myself, it was so hard to get to a place where you’re saying “Maybe I regret having kids.” I think we all kind of feel that way sometimes, but no one likes to admit it or talk about it. Lots of women feel that way, so I wanted to make sure to be true to that what Kara was feeling and going through. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but we had some laughs on set. And of course, having Gabrielle as my partner is great, because we’re so there for each other in every scene.

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Throughout the show, we’ve seen a fair share of moments – both good and bad – between Kara and Mary Jane. What needs to happen for these two become less co-dependent?

I think that Kara needs to be more honest with Mary Jane. But she’s also so afraid of Mary Jane going off the deep end. She doesn’t really allow her to deal with her own consequences. And Mary Jane definitely has issues with control. She needs to start making better choices for herself. I think both of them need to let go in a lot of ways. That’s what makes their friendship so tight, but also makes them butt heads.

Kara’s character was quick to jump to the conclusion that Marisol – a fellow Latina – was sleeping with the boss. Was she justified in doing that or was that a mistake?

She was not justified in doing that at all. [Laughs] I think that ties into all the feelings of insecurity that Kara feels about Mary Jane’s job being on the line. And Kara is a pitbull. She will attack. She’s like, “Nothing will mess up what I’ve worked for.” Attacking Marisol was totally inappropriate, but it was a symptom of what she was going through and where she was at that point. 

Will we see Kara really move in with her ex-husband – and if so, do you see that being successful?

I don’t think it’s going to be successful. But I think she’ll try anything about this point to be part of her kids lives. I just don’t think this will be the way to do it, you know? It might not be the right choice. But I think what’s great is to explore a variety of choices and situations for Kara, just to see what makes her tick and to see how her choices might affect Mary Jane’s life. 

I have to ask: are Kara and Gael really broken up? 

We left it that way, but I don’t know. Mara doesn’t like to give anything away. I have no idea what’s going to happen!

Last question. You’re going to have a guest role on Rosewood this season. How will your character be different from Kara?

Daisy is a very complicated, funny, over-the-top, inappropriate mom. She has a very loving but at times contentious relationship with her daughter Villa, played by the beautiful Jaina Ortiz. She’s the type of woman who does not hold her tongue and says exactly what’s on her mind. Daisy is the opposite of Kara’s more conservative, classic approach to style and dress. She’s a really fun character to play.

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