Angelic Zambrana – Girls (TV)

February 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

It’s been six years since Latina actress Angelic Zambrana made heads turn as part of the young ensemble cast in the Oscar-winning film “Precious.” In the film, Zambrana played Consuelo, an at-risk teenager opposite Oscar-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe’s title character. Since the 2009 drama, Zambrana has starred in a number of independent films, including “Sleepwalk with Me” and “Rites of Passage.”

Zambrana’s 2012 film, “Musical Chairs” will be airing throughout the month of April on HBO & will be available on demand via HBO GO! In “Musical Chairs,” the inspiring romantic film from renowned director Susan Seidelman (“Desperately Seeking Susan”), Angelic stars alongside EJ Bonilla, Leah Pipes, Laverne Cox, Morgan Spector, Auti Angel, Jerome Preston Bates, and Nelson R. Landrieu.

During an interview with me on her birthday (Feb. 21), Zambrana and I talked about what’s she’s been up to since her role in “Precious,” how she feels about nudity as an actress and explains what the situation would have to be if she said yes to playing a role as a chola.

How has life changed for you over the last five years since your film “Precious” received so much attention back in 2009?

I think more than my life, I have changed over the last few years. “Precious” was a really beautiful experience. It catapulted me. I got to meet all of my idols – Oprah Winfrey, Sidney Poitier. It was crazy. I changed as a person. I became more humble. I focused more on the art of acting and caring less about the sparkle. We were all kids when we did “Precious.” We were all mature and talented, but I needed to grow as an actor. That’s what I’ve been working on.

What about professionally? Did your role in “Precious” give you more opportunities in the industry? Did you have the advantage of being able to say “no” to some of those things if they weren’t right for you?

Even before “Precious,” I would already say no to things that were badly written. (Laughs) There’s nothing you can do to save a badly-written script. No good actor could save a badly-written script. Some of the scripts were just overtly sexual. I mean, if [the sex] has something to do with the story, I’m all for it. But if it’s just gratuitous, then I’m not. But “Precious” did open the doors for more auditions, to meet studio heads, to go to meetings. It gave me so much confidence and I had so much fun doing those things. Sometimes I wouldn’t get into auditions because I was typecast, but for the most part “Precious” did open doors for me. Even today, “Precious” still helps with the pitch.

Give me an example of something you’ve said “no” to.

The thing is I’ve said yes to things I thought were going to be great, but they didn’t pan out. (Laughs) I think what I’m trying to do now is take care of who I am as an actor and really do things that I want to do. I won’t name specific things I’ve said no to, but I would say no to things that I didn’t feel comfortable doing. I mean, I like a good challenge, but if it’s something I don’t agree with or felt was gratuitously sexual for no purpose, I wouldn’t do it.

So, nudity, in general, wouldn’t be out of the question for you, but it would have to serve a purpose in the story, correct?

Yeah. I mean, I love my body. It’s my instrument. I’ve been an athlete since I was a child. I work out now. I don’t know if I would do nudity or not. I’m still young in my career. I don’t know if I would want to put myself out there like that. For me to expose my intimate parts to the world, I feel like it would really need to be worth it. (Laughs) I’m not going to be like, “Wooo! Here are my tits!”

Nudity on TV has been a hot-button topic recently since “Girls” debuted on HBO. I know you recently had a small part on that show. What’s your take on the show and how it’s been criticized by some as including nudity simply for nudity’s sake?

I think that each artist has different things they are willing to compromise and not compromise on. It’s [Lena Dunham’s] show. It’s her baby. If she sees a reason why [there should be nudity], it will have its benefits in the long run. She believes in what she is doing. If you want to be naked and it makes sense to you, it will be fine. If you are uncomfortable and you’re out there and you’re naked, it’s going to be [uncomfortable].

Another criticism about “Girls” is that, until recently, there haven’t been any Latina actresses on the show. This season we have Melonie Diaz in a supporting role. Did you see this as a problem in past seasons, especially since the show is set in a city as diverse as New York?

I always felt these shows that cast in New York City really do a good job at casting diverse characters. With a show like “Girls” I think that’s starting to change and I think that it’s happening overall. I mean, I have an audition for something soon that I never thought would be open to a Latina. I can’t say what it is yet, but it’s a period piece. But I think the media is finally getting it and the doors are finally opening up. There are more things opening for [Latinos]. We don’t have to be the drug dealers anymore. But I love “Girls” because it’s true to what it is. That’s her and her group of friends. As long as it’s realistic, then I’m OK with that. I don’t feel like there has to be a minority in everything.

You mentioned earlier about getting typecast, which I know is not something you want as a Latina in this industry. But at the same time, your role in “Girls” is a nanny. Talk to me about that. How do you make a decision to play a nanny in “Girls” but you might pass on playing a chola on another project?

The thing is, I wouldn’t pass on playing a chola unless it was badly written and cheap. A chola is a real person. If the role is great, give me the chola! For “Girls,” I went in for a bigger part and almost got it, but I was too young. So, they offered me [the nanny] role. So, I said, “Why not!?” I had fun with it.

I’m sure over the last five years there have been ups and downs for you going into auditions. Have you felt the cutthroat nature of the industry yet?

Yes, of course. I’m not this supermodel soap star. (Laughs) A lot of the times, there is this idea of what a Latina woman is supposed to look like. But I don’t focus on that. I focus on the fact that I have been given this gift and that I work really hard to improve on my art. But, yeah, I’ve felt the cutthroat nature of it all. When you do anything for TV or film, you’re put on this platform. [Actors] have a product to sell and people go to them when they want their product. But you have to have tough skin in this industry. Sometimes you don’t get a role because they wanted someone who is a blonde or someone tall or someone more ghetto. It’s all about how you fit into the story. As long as you audition your behind off, it’ll pay off somehow.

Angelic Zambrana – Precious

March 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Actress Angelic Zambrana knew she was part of a special film when “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire” started winning award after award at the beginning of 2009 and continued to receive accolades throughout the year. It wasn’t until last November, however, when the film made its premiere in Los Angeles when Zambrana felt like her life had changed.

“That’s when I first met Oprah and she knew who I was!” Zambrana told me during a phone interview. “I also met Sidney Poitier and he said I did excellent work. Will Smith even sent a letter to my house. After that I told myself, ‘I am an actress and I’m never looking back.’”

In “Precious,” Zambrana plays Consuelo, one of the more caustic classmates enrolled in the same alternative school as actress Gabourey Sidibe’s title character. The film tells the story of Precious, an overweight, illiterate teen who is abused by her family, but strives to do something with her life. This past Sunday, “Precious” won two Oscars (Mo’Nique for Best Supporting Actress and Geoffrey Fletcher for Best Adapted Screenplay). “Precious” was released on DVD March 9.

During our interview, Zambrana, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, talked about growing up in Queens with aspirations to be an actress, where she found the inspiration to play Consuelo and why her big confrontation scene with Sidibe could not have been more realistic.

How did you get involved with “Precious?”

I had gone in to audition for one of the other roles and even got a call back for it. When [director] Lee Daniels saw me, he was like, “No, I want you to read for Consuelo.” He wanted me to schedule another appointment to read for the other character, but I was like, “No, I’ll read for it now.” So, I did it and [Lee] was like, “Excellent!” That’s how I got the role.

Since you weren’t actually ready to read for that specific character, where did you draw your inspiration?

I knew girls like Consuelo and the other characters. They are all outcasts of the education system. I knew how I should play her – her attitude and all her insecurities. I knew where to find the truth in Consuelo right away.

Did you ever think an independent film like “Precious” would get so much acclaim when you first started working on it?

We knew [the novel] “Push” had a following and that we were working with something substantial. I always hoped that it would reach the status and success it has now, but we really didn’t know. We just hoped we could make a good film. You can’t think, “We’re going to win an Oscar” when you first do it. We just wanted to tell a good story.

Was it more evident how far this movie could go after Sundance last year?

Yes, that’s exactly the time when Oprah and Tyler Perry stepped in and said they wanted to promote the film. During the [Sundance] awards ceremony, we were winning award after award. Then it came down to the most important award, which is the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Feature, and when they called our name, we all jumped up. That’s when it all started.

In your big scene in the film, you and Sidibe get into a physical fight in the classroom. What was Lee looking for in that scene and how were you able to deliver it?

Lee wanted a fight to happen. No one is supposed to like me in the movie. I didn’t know I was going to get hit. I was in character and being really disruptive in the classroom. Lee whispered to Sidibe to knock me on my feet. When she came up to me, I was playing Consuelo and acting like I was hot shit and thought, “She’s not going to hit me.” But she was like, “Wham!” and hit me. I was shocked, but I stayed in character and I got up and started fighting back as an impulse. It was all genuine.

Stephanie Andujar – Precious

November 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

For actress Stephanie Andujar, her role in the critically acclaimed drama “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire,” hit close to home.

Born and raised in Manhattan, Andujar, who is of Puerto Rican descent, spent most of her adolescence without her father, who was in and out of jail for drug-related crimes. In “Precious,” she plays Rita, a young girl trying to put her life back together by quitting drugs and attending an alternative school. There, she meets the title character, Precious (Gabourey Sidibe), an overweight and illiterate teenager who is pregnant for the second time with her father’s child and living with an abusive mother (Mo’Nique).

During an interview with me, Andujar, 23, talked about the film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and what she hopes audiences discover in their own lives after seeing it.

You graduated from Pace University this past May with a degree in business. When did acting become a part of your life?

It’s always been a part of my life. I did a lot of theater growing up in New York. My mom put me in an after-school program for acting. She didn’t want me to be on the streets. Then, I went to a performing arts high school. All I could see myself doing was acting and being an entertainer. I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.

Tell us about Rita and what interested you in playing this role.

Rita is a former heroine addict. In the book, she can’t read, she has HIV and she’s been a prostitute since she was 12. [The role] hits home because my father was a heroine addict. I’ve dealt with things like that in my family. I’ve always had a tumultuous relationship with my father because he was always in and out of jail.

What did he say about your role in “Precious?”

It was tough to talk about. I just remember when I got the part, he told me I should go to rehab programs to see what they were like. He didn’t get to see “Precious.” He passed away in January.

Did your role give you a better understanding of what your dad was going through?

Oh, man, yes. Heroine is such a tough drug to beat. My father really tried to overcome that. I can see the same in Rita. She had no other choice in her life. In the film, she is ready to get her life together. She wants a better life.

“Precious” is your first film. What was the audition process like for you?

I just remember [director] Lee Daniels telling me in the audition room, “I don’t care how many other girls are out there, you got this part. I want you to play Rita.” I was so excited. At the time, it was only a small independent film. We didn’t know where it was going to go. Now, it’s getting all this press. I feel honored to play this character.

What would tell people who might say this character is stereotypical?

I play this part because it’s a true character. There are so many Latinas out there who are told, “You can’t do this. You can’t do that; just have babies and get on welfare.” They don’t have the guidance to see they can do whatever they want. They can become a Supreme Court Justice. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Latinas who are misguided and go through things like this in life. Other Latinos might say these types of roles are demeaning, but I’m an actor. Why is it demeaning? If a role calls for a pregnant prostitute involved in a murder case, I’m going to play it because that’s what I do. That doesn’t mean I’m limited.

What do you hope audiences who see this film take from it when they leave the theater?

This film is about hardships and getting through difficult things in life. I hope people see that they shouldn’t let things bring them down. They should keep on fighting and succeed. The movie might make some people cry, but the tears will be happy tears. I can’t wait until the world sees it.