By Kelsey Richardson
Murphy – Since childhood, 25-year-old Cody Carrera knew he was destined to reach beyond the western North Carolina mountains and pursue a life of stardom.
As early as the third grade at Murphy Elementary School, Carrera found himself deciding to dress as an actor for a career project at school.
“I told me mom I wanted to be an actor,” Carrera said. “She was like, ‘How are you going to do that?’ She made me go as a scientist instead, and that was the complete opposite of what I wanted to be.”
At 13, Carrera debuted in his first play, Big The Musical, which took place at the Peacock Performing Arts Center in Hayesville. Carrera sped up his high school education, earning his diploma along with an associate’s degree at 16. Soon afterward, he left for New York to follow his dream of acting.
What’s in a name?
Carrera said his parents, Dulcie and Jeff Riffle, wholeheartedly supported his decision, remaining his largest motivators during his career. Like most actors, Carrera’s stage name is different from his original name. He chose “Carrera” instead of his true last name, “Riffle.”
“It’s my mother’s maiden name,” Carrera said. “I took her name because it was part of me. I wanted to show people it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can still be the first generation of yourself.”
After accumulating a toolbox of skill-sets from a year at an acting conservatory program in New York City, he decided to move to Los Angeles.
For a year-and-a-half, Carrera hit the ground running, appearing as the waterboy in season two of the television show Glee for the episode, “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle.” He also took on small roles in Disney’s Lab Rats, 90210, Kickin’ It and the independent film Ashley.
Carrera said the actors and actresses who have left the largest impression on him include Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Hugh Jackman, Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Rooney Mara and Sarah Paulson. Carrera finds himself drawn toward films and shows that fall under the drama genre, specifically those with dark and edgy themes like American Horror Story.
Getting his guild card
Carrera received his Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television & Radio Artists membership after playing an extra in the movie The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Marc Webb. While on set, he felt inspired by A-list actors Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
“There was a fight scene and he (Garfield) was getting us all hyped up,” Carrera said. “As an actor, it was really cool to see the guy playing Spider-Man really hands-on and wanting to make the scene as authentic as possible.”
Carrera returned to North Carolina to finish earning his bachelor’s degree at East Carolina University in Greenville. In a year-and-a-half, he completed the degree and flew back to Los Angeles, where he interned at an acting agency office and worked as an assistant to a prominent voice actress.
He now lives in Atlanta and has branched out from acting into writing scripts and producing music. In 2016, Carrera won the Hollywood & Vine Film Festival Award for his written original pilot, The Life of an Arts Student. He also recently launched his first extended play record, Fire, which includes five songs.
Carrera said his newly released “dark pop” music conveys a story about his life. Each song ties together to form a coherent representation of himself. The songs’ biblical and self-reflection themes develop further in his music videos, which can be found on YouTube.
Carrera said he doesn’t plan on settling on either the music or acting route. He will continue to go wherever art is found.
“I always have irons in the fire, that’s why I write and keep myself busy when I’m not booking a job,” he said. “I’m an artist, and I want to always generate content.”
‘Art is a mirror’
One of the most challenging aspects of his career is the period of waiting for the next role. Carrera said since technology is at his fingertips, he has the ability to create his own content and continue working between his acting jobs.
As an independent music artist, Carrera relies mostly on his own efforts to reach the masses.
“It’s hard to be seen unless you’re one of the top 50 artists on the radio,” he said. “It’s rewarding when either a stranger, friend or someone in my family tells me that my art touched them in some way. Our job is to make people think, feel and relate to that, and see themselves. Art is a mirror.”
While he would love to eventually win an Oscar, Carrera said his main goal as an actor and musician is to leave behind a legacy of art that has impacted people.
To those who plan on pursuing an acting career, Carrera recommends establishing a good support system and attending a reputable acting school. He said the best way to learn and gain skill-sets in the acting business is to become immersed in the field consistently.
“Be active with yourself or career because no one else is going to do it for you,” he said. “Know what makes you you, because there’s no individual like yourself. God made us unique, don’t try to be someone else.”