Pelham Gardens actress ventures from the classroom to the courtroom, to the silver screen

Bronx actress Lisann Valentin stars in “Manifest.”
Photo courtesy Lisann Valentin

Pelham Gardens resident Lisann Valentin has dabbled in many professions, including as an elementary school teacher and attorney. But her favorite role has been as an actress on the silver screen.

Valentin has been on the NBC drama series’ “The Blacklist” and “New Amsterdam,” and Netflix’s “Narcos.” She was also cast in a recurring role as “Officer Molinaro” in the third season of the Netflix show “Manifest” last year.

The science-fiction series centers on the passengers of a plane that mysteriously lands years after takeoff. The group now faces strange, new realities in a world that has moved on without them.

“It’s always exciting to book a role on network television,” she said. “But now everyone I know can binge the series and send me pictures of their TV when I pop up on their screen – because that’s literally what they’re doing and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Valentin wanted to be an actor, but didn’t view it as a viable career. However, after watching “The Cosby Show,” she soon pictured herself as a powerful lawyer like “Claire Huxtable.” With a father that worked for NYCHA and her mom, a retired computer engineer for the city Department of Education, they thought their daughter becoming an attorney would be great.

“They loved the lawyer thing,” Valentin told the Bronx Times. “They thought it was a solution and we’ll have a lawyer in the family now.”

Valentin attended St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn where she was encouraged to be a writer. One professor even suggested she become a teacher.

So, she took that advice, got a degree in elementary education in 2001 and taught third and fifth grade for two years in Brooklyn. Yet, she still wasn’t fulfilled.

Valentin decided to switch gears and enter the courtroom. So she went to law school at UMass Amherst, before working as a personal injury attorney in New York City for several years while simultaneously studying acting and booking roles. However, litigation took over her life.

“I was in court all of the time,” she said.

Knowing she could not master her craft or satisfy her acting bug while being stuck in court all day, she soon quit the legal profession. The day she resigned from law, Valentin cried while asking herself, “God, did I do the right thing?” Then a bird pooped on her — some would call it a sign of good fortune to come.

“I started acting because there was something calling me to it,” Valentin said. “I started acting to see if I could feel different about myself. It was really challenging to handle two careers at once.”

She soon landed her first role on a TV dating show and from there auditions continued. She’s had roles in the TV series “Jessica Jones,” and “Here Today,” a movie with Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish. Valentin can also be seen on the last episode of this season’s “Search Party” on HBO.

When she was cast as a cop for two episodes of “Manifest” it was fun, yet challenging because they filmed during COVID-19.

“I was super panicked because it was my first thing going into the pandemic,” she said. “I didn’t know how production would go.”

Valentin told the Bronx Times that although she grew up idolizing actresses Linda Carter, Rita Moreno and Phylicia Rashad, she doesn’t regret being a teacher and lawyer. Those jobs helped shape her to who she is today.

Since moving to Pelham Gardens with her boyfriend, Valentin has fallen in love with the borough. From visiting the Botanical Gardens and Conti’s Bake Shoppe in Morris Park, she is slowly becoming a Bronxite.

Valentin said there is no better feeling than being on the silver screen.

“It’s very different when you love what you do,” she said.

Reach Jason Cohen at [email protected] or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.

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