Most people know how much an unexpected text message in the middle of the night can ruin a good sleep. For Aimee Carrero's character Patti in the Amazon Prime dark comedy workplace thriller The Consultant, this interruption means communicating with someone whom her fiancé absolutely despises. Her cellphone's screen lights up her face, and the camera closes in on her pursed lips and unmoving brows. There’s a mix of shock, heartbreak, and rage in her eyes — and it's clear Carrero's breakout moment has arrived.
Throughout the eight episodes of the new series, which shares the premise of Bentley Little's novel of the same name, Carrero displays a masterful control of her emotions. The story follows Regus Patoff, a consultant (Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz) hired to improve the business at the app-based gaming company CompWare. His arrival upends existing workplace dynamics to the point that everyone is risking their lives. As Patti, a seemingly devoted fiancée to coder Craig (Nat Wolff), Carrero’s natural charisma is subverted as Patti's outside perspective challenges her partner and those around her. The softness in Patti's eyes transforms into a look of exhaustion. Her smile becomes either a threat or an apology.
By stepping into this complex role, Carrero is quite possibly ushering in a new era for her character choices and further cementing her status as a performer to watch. As the 34-year-old actor recalls it, her road to The Consultant began by telling her agents and managers, "I want more."
"By stepping into this complex role, Carrero is quite possibly ushering in a new era for her character choices and further cementing her status as a performer to watch."
It was October 2017, and Carrero performed in the Off-Broadway romantic comedy The Portuguese Kid, marking her second New York stage credit. The play's December 10 closing night coincided with the cancellation of Young & Hungry, a five-season Freeform romantic sitcom in which she played Sofia, the protagonist's witty roommate and best friend.
For Carrero, these back-to-back endings signaled the beginning of her ambition burning anew. It was the gift that helped her challenge herself in the years to come.
"I wouldn't take any of it back," Carrero tells Refinery29 Somos. "I chose to only really go for things that I felt spoke to me creatively and was passionate about, leading me down a path of rebranding as an actor. And that's hard to do because people know you as one thing, and they want to pigeonhole you in that category."
Being open to opportunities, in whatever form they took, was central to her early success. "'Put me in coach. I want to play' is my de facto state," she says. After graduating from Florida International University in 2008, the Dominican Republic-born actor moved from Miami to Los Angeles, where she received credits in sitcoms and as a voiceover artist, most notably in Young & Hungry, Elena of Avalor, and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
"I chose to only really go for things that I felt spoke to me creatively and was passionate about, leading me down a path of rebranding as an actor. And that's hard to do because people know you as one thing, and they want to pigeonhole you in that category."
In 2016, she booked a four-episode arc in the FX drama The Americans, stepping into the role of Lucia, a Sandinista working undercover with the Russians in Washington D.C. She could've chased bigger, more dramatic roles after this, but she says she wasn't entirely ready for it. "I would have definitely been excited to get scripts like [The Consultant and The Menu] eight years ago, but that was not where I was at," she says. Instead, she took more acting classes, nurtured herself, and built herself up.
But Carrero says she knew she wasn't going to be happy in the long term if she simply kept taking jobs that "were easy to get because they were easy to get." There comes a time, she explains, when the projects you're being considered for don't feel right. "No shade at all to network TV, but this didn't feel like the right next step for me," Carrero says. "It's having a balance between gratitude and ambition. I wanted to do movies and projects on cable. That decision to say 'I want more' sometimes makes people uncomfortable."
Then she landed Maid, Netflix's 2021 miniseries where she plays Danielle, a mother at a domestic abuse shelter who helps protagonist Alex (Margaret Qualley) get back on her feet. Maid felt like a culmination for Carrero, who was more than ready to demonstrate her years of work and challenge the public perception of her as an actor. "I'm a versatile actor," she says about this transitional period in her career.
"It's having a balance between gratitude and ambition."
After Maid, which set a high bar and opened the door for subsequent projects, she moved on to dark comedy thrillers The Menu and The Consultant. The Menu, which premiered in November 2022, centers on a group of rich, eclectic people who attend a tasting at a lavish restaurant, and something goes awry. She plays opposite John Leguizamo as his beleaguered assistant Felicity. They have a strained relationship, and she uses the dinner as a pretext to quit her job. Her work in the dark comedy thriller earned her the Newport Beach Film Festival's Breakout Performance Award.
But as Patti in The Consultant, Carrero is finally front and center. "It was a lot of lean years and slowly but surely educating the people in the business and casting directors like, 'Hey, I can do other things.'" Carrero says. "I'm used to being perceived as this girl who can still play a teenager and hit a joke."
But in the Amazon Prime series, Carrero has to tap into more adult emotions and experiences. Patti helps drive the narrative in the latter part of the season, and a series of events plunges her further into loneliness. Her darkest impulses threaten to destroy everything in the seemingly perfect life she's creating for herself, including her career and relationship with Craig. Carrero began finding her way into Patti by looking at her own love life in her 20s and the "deep, deep loneliness” she felt.
"I was really young — I was working, which was all I ever wanted, and I had these great friends,” she recalls. “But did I have a romantic partner who understood me on a cellular level and accepted me for who I was? Not really, and one of the eventual downsides was loneliness. Patti has a partner in Craig, but she's not seeing him for who he is and is only seeing what she wants to see."
As the series progresses, whether she's playing insistent yet hopeful Patti, warm and friendly Patti, or frustrated Patti, Carrero welcomes the challenges of playing such a fallible woman. Multidimensional characters like Patti remain an anomaly in film and television, especially for Latina actors.
"She's human, and I like that about her,” she says. “What ends up being a real eye-opener for her is the unpopular choice."
"Ambition has added a lot to my life, and I don't think I would be here without it, but it's not the only thing. It can't be the only thing because if it's the only thing, then you're just going to be miserable."
So, where does Carrero go from here? There's Code 3, the buddy action-comedy she booked last month and will lead with Rainn Wilson and Lil Rel Howery, and all the TV shows and films that will inevitably come her way soon enough. Yet as 2023 gets into full swing, Carrero is reevaluating how she defines happiness, satisfaction, and ambition. She's not putting too much pressure on herself to figure out what might come after The Consultant.
"Ambition has added a lot to my life, and I don't think I would be here without it," she says. "But it's not the only thing. It can't be the only thing because if it's the only thing, then you're just going to be miserable."
As much as she enjoys taking the gigs she has worked so hard to secure, she also takes advantage of alone time to recharge her batteries so she can keep doing what she enjoys the most.
"I'm doing the best work of my career now," she says confidently. "And the best thing I can offer is myself."
The Consultant starts streaming on Amazon Prime on Friday, February 24.