Hello all you Buzzers. I was fortunate to speak with actress and activist, Rosie Perez, recently at the YWCA’s annual “In the Company of Women” luncheon in Hartford. Truly inspiring.
Are there any roles you’ve done that really stand out for you in your career for one reason or another? I really like “Fearless” and “The Take”. Those two movies allowed me to play and develop characters that I normally do not have the opportunity to work with. Working with Jeff Bridges in “Fearless” and with John Leguizamo in “The Take”, was really cool because they both are so giving and did not have any type of preconceived notions about me or my abilities. That produces a free environment to explore many possibilities and most important, it produces a fun atmosphere.
You’ve had nominations for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, as a kid growing up; did you ever think you’d have that happen to you? It was not a question of wondering if it would happen or not. Acting was not my aspiration as a kid. I loved the arts and would fantasize about them and enjoy them constantly, especially movies and theater, but I always thought that I would be a scientist or perhaps an influential politician that would shake things up. When Spike Lee “discovered” me, my path changed its course. That said the possibilities were wide open. I never consciously thought about receiving a nomination, but I also I never limited myself in thinking, ‘Oh, that or this thing could never happen to me’. I was just enjoying the ride and its challenges. I think if you appreciate what life is bringing you and enjoy the process, you are in the moment as best as you can be, and disappointments are few and expectations are organic that do not carry certain burdens that can and may weigh you down with worry. So, when it did happen, I was so happy and filled with great joy.
We understand that you are the Head of the Artistic Board at the Urban Arts Partnership. Tell us how you got involved with them and why that work is so important. Urban Arts Partnership is an arts-integrated education curriculum that services over 12,000 undeserved kids. We work directly with and inside over 60 public schools in New York City and outer boroughs and are currently developing our program in Los Angeles. I am one of the co-founders of Urban Arts Partnership and have been part of the art-ed curricula for the past nineteen years (it began twenty years ago), and the board later appointed me to be their Artistic Director. I love my position at UAP. Sometimes it’s very hard work; trying to secure financing (which is not my primary responsibility, thank goodness), dealing with the public school system and its politics, coming up with new and innovative ideas that push the teaching and learning process ahead, etc. However, the rewards are enormous! It makes you feel so good to give, to just give and give and seeing it through. Respecting young people’s intelligence capacity, especially low-income kids who are regularly underestimated solely based on either their ethnicity or income status, is a great joy to me. When you respect that child’s ability, you can put any challenge in front of them and they will respond in the same way a “privileged” child would, or could. Offering another way to learn the academics necessary to graduate in a way that would lead to a college career or some type of viable career, specifically through the arts, is not only exciting to me but is productive and produces results. We, as a nation, must try and accept new teaching methods to reach “all” of our kids, regardless of race, creed or financial standing, because the current system is not working.
Lastly what is the next step in the Rosie Perez journey? What are you working on or hope to soon be working on? I don’t know where this wonderful journey may take me next, but I do know that I am as ready as I can be for whatever it brings me. I am currently promoting a movie I did last summer, “Won’t back down!” starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhall, that will be out this September, and a special guest starring role on “Nurse Jackie” that will be airing mid April. I am also working on two other projects that will hopefully come out in the next year or two, and a book.
Thanks so much for your time and have a great day! Rosie Perez