Katie Barberi walks into the small Italian restaurant in Lincoln Park and somehow, on a muggy Monday night, in a pizzeria with a listless wait-staff and even less-enthused customers, she makes a Grand Entrance, and immediately owns the place, without even trying.  That is what is known as “presence.” With a delicate beauty and eyes a shade of green that inspires art, Katie Barberi has an over-abundance of presence that cannot be contained within her petite frame.  

Not to be outdone, and without even trying, is her fiancée and partner in the most true sense of the word, Craig Hurley.  Tall, lanky and quiet, with an easy laugh and fierce eyes that don’t miss a thing,  Craig is either Jimmy Stewart with a dark side or a younger Sam Elliot with an edge.   

They are perfect together, because together, in the space between them, they create something magical, and it’s more than just True Love.   They seem so different, but maybe it’s that difference that ignites their creativity.  Katie Barberi and Craig Hurley are taking on the world, or should I say many worlds, and with their graphic novel “Daylight Sucks” they have created very human Vampires who wreak havoc on  the worst of humanity.  And as if that wasn’t enough, they have bravely taken on the right of actors to join the union SAG-AFTRA.   Getting to know these two over a delicious pizza (thin-crust- YAY!!) was a treat, but something tells me we that are going to enjoy a few more meals together, especially since they have planted roots in Chicago!  

You know Katie & Craig,  and you have known them for a long time:

 Katie has been in countless,,fabulous telenovelas like “Corazon Valiente,” “Dona Barbara” and “Eva, La Trailera,” to name just few.  I loved Katie in “Corazon Valiente,” a telenovela that will always be special to me because it was the first telenovela that captivated me so much that I wanted to learn Spanish so I could understand what was happening.

 Katie Barberi, as “Perla” just about killed me.  If one hallmark of a great telenovela is really beautiful people are making horrible decisions, then Katie was telenovela royalty because no one in that wild and crazy show made worse decisions than Perla and I LOVED her for it.

Katie has been performing long before she starred in telenovelas and has been in plays, movies and plenty of television shows in the USA and Mexico.  She is beloved as the funny fashionista “Ursula” in the Nickelodeon series “Every Witch Way” and it’s Mexican counterpart “Grachi”. All of the young women who grew up on these shows really love Katie.  At the First Annual ALTA Awards at the Victory Gardens,which Craig and Katie invited me to attend with them after dinner, she was surrounded by such a group!   ALTA stands for the “Alliance of LatinX Theatre Artists” and it was the most fun awards show I have ever been to.  Yes, it was also my first awards show, but Katie agreed it was fantastic, and she’s been to the Oscars! As one award-winner put it:  “We are LatinX. We cheer and yell for every nominee, and then we all cheer again for the winner!!”  It was a joyous event.

When we walked out of the theatre into a cold mist, Chicago was shutting down for the night.  Craig and I waited on a quiet Lincoln Avenue for Katie, who was surrounded by enthusiastic fans –award winners themselves for their new storefront theatre  in Chicago’s Albany Park, these young women had grown up watching  “Grachi or Every Witch Way” or both, and they were delighted to be meeting Katie.  And Katie was so excited for them, and so proud of their work, the admiration was mutual.  

A few feet away, Craig watched it all with a smile equal parts love and pride. “This happens everywhere we go.  Everyone loves Katie. They just gravitate to her.”

I looked up at him, with a bit of a crush, because after all, he did beat up Luke Perry in “90210.”  Craig might be as close as I will ever come to meeting a cowboy, even though Craig Hurley is not a cowboy, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and graduated from the Chicago Academy of the Arts and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena, California.  But he is so laconic, with the air of certainty that comes with the ability to be just that quiet and still speak volumes, that I think this is what cowboys must be like.

Craig has been acting for a long time; since he was a kid.   After having performed in multiple shows and plays as a child, Craig began his adult acting career after he moved to Hollywood.  After guest starring on shows like “Highway to Heaven,” “Freddie’s Nightmares” and “21 Jump Street” and playing recurring roles in “90210,” “Life Goes On” and “Hunter,” Craig was a  regular on the Dick Wolf (pre-“Law & Order”) show “Nasty Boys” opposite Dennis Franz and Benjamin Bratt.

After years in show business, Craig was the guy with the best stories, so he wrote a book called “27 And All Washed Up.”   It is his narrative of what he calls his “trip down the Rabbit Hole” as a young actor in Hollywood in the 80’s and 90’s. Even though the book is filled with great stories about his years in Hollywood, he views it as a text for young actors.  Craig is currently re-editing a second edition of the book which will be available soon, when it’s going to fly off the shelves.

It was the book that brought Katie and Craig together: They met in Hollywood, on the horror anthology  “Freddie’s Nightmares,” but were too young to appreciate what had sparked between them. Years later, when Craig sent Katie a copy of his  book because she was in it, they reconnected, and have been together ever since.

Katie and Craig  navigated the treacherous waters of a  childhood spent in front of the camera, and came out fine on the other side:  Is this why they still look at each other like they are in the fresh bloom of love?  Maybe, but I think it’s something more:  These two didn’t just survive those waters – they are flourishing.  Is it their charm? Talent? Looks? Their wicked and very in-sync sense of humor?  Well, those things help certainly, and they have those qualities in abundance. Nope, it’s something more.  When I ask them how they have done it, how they have stayed in show business for so long without losing their humanity (and their minds), and with such enthusiasm and optimism, I found the source of  their bond: It’s  old-school toughness, and it’s super-cool.  

Katie tells me that you can’t take anything personally; stay focused and don’t give up ever.  Ever. In a separate conversation, Craig tells me you have to be able to shift if you want to stick with show business:  If acting doesn’t work, try writing, producing, accounting.  ACCOUNTING, I ask? Yes, says Craig. Studios need accountants too.  If you love the business, you will find the right opportunity.

Their philosophy is really just two sides of the same coin: Stick To It. And don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. Katie and Craig share a resiliency that has served them well, and they are all about their future – a future filled with vampires.   

The future looks very bright for “Daylight Sucks”  their series of graphic novels that they have created and produced (along with very talented artists)  about the Alnwicks, a clan of vampires that destroys (and  feeds upon) the worst of society, while being real-life Champions for people that need their help. In other words, they are  Vigilante Vampires.  Except for the fact that the Alnwicks are The Undead, and also Superheroes, they  are just like every other family.  

Their leader is “Eva,” who is older than Time, but because she is modeled after Katie she looks FABULOUS!  She has a younger boyfriend, George, who is about 1750 years old, but stays in shape.  Eva fights for Women & Children, while George is the clan’s provider and defender.  Everyone in the family has a cause: Equality, the environment, animals, immigration, and even romance.  True vigilantes, no abuser escapes their wrath, or escapes being dinner.

Craig has been forever fascinated by Vampires, and wanted to debunk the myths that surround them. He does a great job of it in “Daylight Sucks” and also over dinner.    Since everything I know about vampires comes from “Dracula” or “The Lost Boys,” Craig burst a lot of my Vampire bubbles when we met. Katie is a natural fit for  Eva, and when she started writing the backstory for her character, Eva came alive and flowed through Katie as she wrote. Their partners in this amazing endeavor are Mauricio Toro and William Finke; with the artwork of Pablo Solarte and Brigiet Lopez.    

There is more than just vengeance, judgment and violence in the series – there is a star-crossed, bilingual love story too.  A young woman named Esperanza who has crossed into the USA from Mexico to find the father she doesn’t know endures hardship and sometimes horror on her journey, and she crosses paths with the Alnwicks.  Will they help her? It’s not just Vampires that have to live underground, is it?

It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows Katie and Craig that they have managed to weave into “Daylight Sucks” one  the most pressing issues of our day – Immigration.  Katie and Craig are a power couple who use their powers for others!   In fact, Craig’s favorite role is the shy, scared “Billy Bibbit” in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” because he can give Billy the strength and courage Billy lacks.

For the past several years, Katie and Craig  have been working tirelessly to bring the union SAG-AFTRA to the actors who work for Telemundo. It became Katie’s  true passion and it’s an amazing story. Katie’s work on behalf of actors was not easy and was not without a huge cost to her own career, but she has no regrets.  Like her alter-ego Eva, Katie simply saw a wrong and tried to right it.  Of course, unlike Eva, she did it without killing anyone.

Katie’s steely tenacity paid off when, in a historic moment, Telemundo performers were allowed to vote to on whether to join SAG-AFTRA.  This election was the first time in 65 years that actors at a major television network took a vote to the National Labor Relations Board.  Katie and Craig have a lot to be proud of, but if you ask me, the BEST part of that whole story is that the President of SAG-AFTRA is actress Gabrielle Carteris, who played “ Andrea Zukerman” in “90210!”  What??!!

I hope that Katie, Craig, Gabrielle and Luke Perry all go out to The Peach Pit to celebrate, and that they invite me.

And when they are not saving the world, Katie is also a  lyric Soprano who also has her own jewelry line, composed of pieces as lovely and delicate as she is! And Craig is a fantastic cook and also a structural engineer (which is the family business)!!

Why couldn’t they save some of their great qualities for the rest of us??

Watch this space for more telenovela news next month! And follow me everywhere @gringanovelera!!

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