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Angelique Cabral talks Fox's 'Enlisted' & why she's playing her dream role

Cabral and her co-stars trained for four days at an Army boot camp in El Paso, Texas as part of the training process for their characters.
Cabral and her co-stars trained for four days at an Army boot camp in El Paso, Texas as part of the training process for their characters.
Kevin Parry/The Paley Center for Media

If there is a new show that's worth checking out this new year it's definitely FOX's “Enlisted”! With humor, heart, and character, “Enlisted” follows three brothers on a small Florida Army base comprised of soldiers whose main job is to try to keep the post in order and take care of the deployed Soldiers' families. Actress Angelique Cabral plays the smart and confident Staff Sergeant Jill Perez, who leads one of the REAR D (Rear Detachment) platoon's on the post, all while challenging the brothers at their every turn and keeping them on their toes.
A graduate of Indiana University where she was a double major in musical Theater and French, Cabral comes from an impressive Theater background that includes studying abroad at the prestigious British American Dramatic Academy. In a recent interview, the Honolulu-born actress discussed the influence her on-stage experiences have had on her, why her role on “Enlisted” is a dream role, and what makes this comedy unique to television.

What are you most enjoying about playing Sergeant Jill Perez?

Angelique- Everything. This is like a dream role. Jill is basically me. She's this girl that is kind of in a man's world. She's tough. She's very type A. She's got a little chip on her shoulder-trying to prove herself. But ultimately, she just cares about the people around her and her work. She just takes it very seriously. When I read the script, the way she was written, I was like this is me. I just love her comedy. I love how she can be a smart ass and keep these guys in check. But also, they love her; we love each other. I'm very careful about Jill to not make her unlikeable because she's really the only girl on the show so she can't be this nasty girl. She's not nasty; she's just a smart ass. There's a difference.

I've noticed from the episodes that I have seen so far that she is definitely a little competitive. She always wants to be the best. It has to be fun to play someone like her.

Angelique- She is very competitive! It's a dream. This is a dream for a woman to have a role that is ballsy, smart, and intelligent. She's eye to eye with the men. She's one of the guys. There is a lot of witty humor and banter. And again, she's one of the bosses there, so that's huge. I just feel so blessed. It's so awesome! I'm loving every minute of it.

Are we going to see more of a softer side to her as the season goes?

Angelique- Yes, you see a little bit. Actually, in the first episode we shot you see a little bit of her awareness that she's a female in the army and that she's a Sergeant, and that she at this point can't be a ranger yet and there are some limitations on her ranking. You see a little bit of a softer side with her about her family background and what she's gone through to get where she is, so you understand why Jill takes it so seriously. And you see her go out with the girls. You see a girls night out, which was fun. But she's never like a super soft girl. But neither am I. There are parts to me that are very sensitive. For example, that came out at boot camp. I get overwhelmed with the situation. It touches me so deeply. I just can't believe what we're doing or how awesome it is. But I'm not like a wimp! (Laughs) She's never like a wimp!

Now that you have filmed the entire first season, what's been your favorite moment or storyline that you have had?

Angelique- One of the most amazing moments for me was when we were filming the ranger episode and I had to do the monkey bars. It was part of the ranger training. I had this huge pack on, and I literally couldn't do it. And I also can't do it in the show. And then the guys help me do it. They root me on through it. That just brought back all those memories of the boot camp. And I think it really showed me that thank god I got through this because it speaks to the show. This character, she breaks sometimes, but then these guys around her bring her back up.
And I think my favorite moment probably after that was watching Geoff and the boys on the beach in our finale episode. It was just so heartwarming and sweet to see the brothers kind of come together. Geoff blew us away with his performance. It was just lovely. Our show ends on a very beautiful, high note. It's very sweet and I love that. I loved being on the beach with the guys. It was very special.

The show definitely has a lot of heart.

Angelique- Yes, it does. I think it's what sets our show apart, honestly. Our show is a family comedy. I think all ages can enjoy the show. The humor is quick but it's not above anyone's head. It's not speaking down to anyone. And ultimately, it's about the brothers. That's the heart of the show. It's just a sweet show. We're trying our best to get it right and if we're not, we encourage people to tell us about it and we'll fix it.

I know that you and your co-stars went to a military boot camp in Texas and trained with real soldiers, how would you say that experience changed you or impacted you as an actress?

Angelique- It changed everything. At first we were like what is this? This is not what we signed up for. In retrospect, it changed everything. It changed me immensely. It changed me as an actress, for sure. In that when we came to set, we were no longer playing characters. We had done it and we understood, literally, things like why we wear the uniform the way we do, and why the hair is back. You literally understand a lot more about these people and what they go through every day in their lives. I don't think the show would be what it is if we hadn't done that. I think having that experience together changed our show and changed our bond.

You seemed very emotional in the webisode videos of you at the boot camp. I could tell you were very affected by it all.

Angelique- Yes! When I look the finale webisode video- that was when we were leaving- and I remember I was so physically and emotionally exhausted. It was very emotional. I was crying on and off the whole time. There were so many things that got to me. These soldiers were so open. It's a culture, and they really welcomed us into their culture and on to their post and let us see glimpses of their everyday life. I just found that so heartwarming. I walked away from it with a huge amount of respect and just completely humbled by the army and what they do for us.

The military and the Army can be a sensitive topic, what do you hope viewers get out of this show when they tune in to watch it?

Angelique- It's a very sensitive topic. We're very aware of that. We hope that they take the time to look at the webisodes that we did and the boot camp and understand that we're doing our best. We know that we may not be perfect, but we'll fix it. And to just welcome us into your homes because we're good people and I think it's a good show. And it comes from good people. Kevin [Biegal] and Mike [Royce] are the best. Kevin has the biggest heart of anyone I've ever worked for. So this show is coming from a place of love. It's not like, “Hey, let's just do a funny show!” This is about his brothers. This is very, very personal. I think America is ready. I think we were oversaturated for a minute with Army talk. And this is the lighter side of it. We're not the soldiers who are fighting. We're not on the front lines. We are the Rear D unit, so we're the ones at home taking care of the families. No one has ever done a show about that. No one has ever seen that. So this is very new, and if people give us a chance, I think they'll fall in love with the characters.

I read that you have a background doing theater and off-Broadway, and that you studied Theater abroad in London; with all of your experiences, what would you say was the most valuable thing or lesson you gained from that time that you hold with you now?

Angelique- When I was in London, it was an intensive theater program, and all through college and all through high school I always did theater; singing, theater- big theater background. So I will say that that gave me a sense of confidence in my body and in my performance. This is like second nature now, which is awesome because a lot of actors come from only TV. And I feel like you can see a difference with actors who are comfortable on stage. Even in talking with interviewers and on panels, I'm comfortable. I'm used to thinking on my feet.
I think often about my life, kind of in retrospect. I've been through a lot, and it's all led up to exactly where I am for a reason. I just feel so blessed to be right here, right now, doing this. The most important thing is just to do the work. The one thing that has stayed constant throughout my life is I've stayed in class. I've always been in acting class, I've always been reading plays, I've always been studying- I'm a nerd like that. I think that my psyche process is just to always be perfecting it and never thinking, ‘Oh I'm done, I'm great, I made it.’ Even now, I'm still in class teaching. That's something that will never leave me. And I think you always learn by doing and by teaching. I'm a student a Lesly Kahn when I' not shooting, and I'm on the faculty there with two classes that I teach on Monday and Thursday evenings. I'm constantly working on my craft.

Keep up with Angelique Cabral on Twitter- @AngeliqueCabral

ENLISTED premieres on FOX Friday January 10 at 9:30est/8:30pst. @ENLISTEDonFox

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