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Interview: actress Rosie Perez discusses new autobiography, arts activism, acting career

Kam Williams | 7/17/2014, 6 a.m.
Actress Rosie Perez discusses new autobiography, arts activism, acting career in interview with Kam Williams
Rosie Perez

Well, I applaud you for overcoming so many obstacles. After all, the odds of making it in Hollywood are long enough for someone coming from a privileged background.

I hear you, since the odds were supposedly great. But you know what? I knew I was going to be successful from day one. From day one. That’s why it throws me whenever someone says it was such a fluke that I was successful.

What key quality do you believe all successful people share?

I would say tenacity and perseverance. You have to be like a dog with a bone. You can’t just let it go. And number one is belief. You have to believe in yourself. You need to have the audacity to be great.

With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you’d like to star in?

Wow! No one’s ever asked me that question. I wouldn’t try it, but the only one that popped into my head is “A Woman Under the Influence,” the John Cassavetes film starring his wife Gena Rowlands. Her depiction of mental illness frightened me. Her performance shocked me, because it was so simple.

What was it like to skyrocket to fame?

It was both difficult and wonderful. It was quite difficult for me because, being raised in a home, I’d come to hate being pointed at whenever we went out in public in a group. It’s still uncomfortable for me to be stared at, although I’ve learned to deal with it better. It makes me self-conscious.

What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

I’m more guarded and shy on the carpet. At home, I’m the silliest cornball who talks way too much and wants to be quiet and left alone at the same time. And I love to entertain, but in a small, intimate way. But I feel like I can be myself on Craig Ferguson’s show. I have so much fun on his couch, because he’s an idiot. That man cracks me up. I think there’s a kinship in our silliness. I dance like he does in my living room all the time.

How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

You might think it was being abandoned by mother. But no, it was being taken away from my aunt at the age of 3, because I was self-aware by then and I knew what was going on. That was my biggest heartbreak, and it informed a lot. I didn’t want it to be my whole story as an adult. So, I’ve learned to heal that heartbreak and move on.

The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

As someone that gave back, because the people I remember the most in my life are the ones that gave.