She may have stepped into the public spotlight by strutting down the runway during Season 3 of “America’s Next Top Model,” but Yaya DaCosta isn’t just another pretty face.
Since placing first runner up on the reality show for fashion models in 2004, DaCosta has used her newfound fame to focus on what she considers her first love: acting. In the last six years, she has earned roles on TV shows such as “All My Children” and “Ugly Betty” and in a handful of films including “Take the Lead,” “Honeydripper,” “The Messenger” and “The Kids Are All Right.”
In her most recent role, DaCosta has a small part in the sci-fi film “Tron: Legacy,” the sequel to the 1982 original, which follows a computer hacker who is transported into a digital world where he must defeat a powerful computer program.
During an interview with me, DaCosta, 28, whose multiethnic background includes being part Brazilian, explained why most models wouldn’t make good actresses and what she is looking forward to as her own acting career expands.
Was there a specific point in your professional modeling career when you felt acting was the next step for you?
To this day, I still don’t think I really had a professional modeling career. (Laughs) A lot of people dabble in this and that. I dabbled in modeling. At the same time I was waitressing and teaching and doing a million other things. Acting has always been my first love. It’s always something I knew I wanted to do. It just took many years for me to actually have the confidence to commit to doing it at the exclusion of all my other interests.
Did modeling help build that confidence?
I think for some people it might, but for me, not at all. It’s a different kind of job and a completely different skill set. In order to really excel in my acting I had to combat some of the things that models go through. Models have to be concerned with how they look at all times. With me, it’s the opposite. If you’re unable to lose yourself in a role and really embody the character rather than worry about how you look, then it’s just not going to look real. For me, personally, the two are unrelated.
Well, I really think you lost yourself in some of the roles you have earned so far. You were heartbreaking in “The Messenger” and really great this year in “The Kids Are All Right.”
Aw, well thank you!
This must be a dream come true for you.
I am working hard at it. I don’t think anything has come true just yet. I’m still working on my craft. I still have a lot to learn. For me,cwith each opportunity I get. I’m always in acting class and always studying, so for me it’s a journey. I don’t really see myself arriving at any particular place, but I really love what I’m doing right now.
Tell us about your role as a Siren in “Tron: Legacy.”
I’m actually in the movie for a really brief moment. But my acting coach always says, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” I went out for an audition to play a Siren. I didn’t know what it entailed. Like most of these big movies nowadays, they were very secretive. They wanted to know about my movement abilities because there was some very specific choreography they needed me to do for the scene. [Director Joseph Kosinski] wanted all the Sirens to move as one unit. It was short and very sweet.
Is it just a coincidence that your next film, “Now,” is also a sci-fi movie?
I’m not at that point in my career where I can be picky with roles. I just feel so lucky to audition for projects that I connect with. “Now” is such an amazing script. I’m just so excited being on set with the actors and seeing it come to life. Plus, we’re in a time where everyone is concerned about the future – what it will look like; if we’ll even have one as human beings here on this Earth. I think it’s very fitting for these kinds of scenes to be depicted on film.