Rosie Perez apologizes for sounding a little hoarse — partly because of a cold, but mostly because she spent Saturday night at Madison Square Garden screaming for Amanda Serrano in her historic bout with Katie Taylor . “I wasn’t supposed to fight, but I did,” she murmured in that distinct Brooklyn accent. But how could she miss the biggest women’s boxing match in history? “On the one hand, it’s going to go down in history as one of the best fights of all time, which says a lot. On the other hand, I’m very frustrated that Amanda didn’t win.”
Perez is no casual fan.Moviegoers know her as a different, expressive actress who has mastered everything since 1989 do the right thing to current HBO hits flight attendant. In other circles, however, Perez is better known as the “First Lady of Boxing.” Around New York, she was a regular at the circus, not only in big title fights, but also in lower-level prospect competitions. All the promoters knew her, as did many boxers — including Serrano, a Puerto Rican from the same neighborhood in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
While Perez punches and trains regularly, she doesn’t fight. “I learned how to box because I used to be beaten a lot. And I was fighting. I would always fight back, even if I was going to lose,” she said. “I was that idiot, like after I got knocked to the ground, I would stand up and say, ‘Is this all you have?'”
When most people first see Perez, she’s boxing and dancing, through the credits of Spike Lee’s “Doing the Right Thing.” It set the tone for the film, and possibly Perez’s own career. She overcame unbelievable hardships to get to where she is now, and she smashed some Hollywood hurdles.
It was dance that got her started. Lee found her at a nightclub in Los Angeles, where he held a nasty-sounding “ass contest” to see which black woman had the biggest ass. Perez disrupted the program by dancing on the speakers. Li handed her the business card and said, “Tonight is destiny” and she replied, “You will!” She thought he was hitting her, but he was looking at her for the role of Tina, who was Lee doing The Right Thing in Character’s Girlfriend. This part was originally written for a black actor, but Perez (who is identified by others as “Afro-Latino” but rejects the distinction, calling herself only “Latino”) features her brassy , with a no-nonsense attitude to create his own works. She talks about her dissatisfaction with Lee’s nude scene in the movie (she has forgiven him), but he’s right about the “Fate” part.
Perez, however, is still fighting to gain a foothold in an industry that isn’t interested in Latino actors. “I understood from the beginning, racism and stuff like that,” she said. “So I just made sure I had representation.” Jennifer Gray, who co-starred with her next film, “Criminal Justice,” introduced her to her agency, CAA. “I remember the first time I met them, I said, ‘Let me in the room you let all the white girls in,’ and their mouths dropped,” she said with a laugh. “I said, ‘If I don’t get the role, that’s my business. But if you don’t let me in the room, that’s your responsibility.'”
They got her into the room, and she got roles, many of which were written for white actors. Like Gloria, Woody Harrelson’s trivia-loving girlfriend in the 1992 basketball classic “White People Can’t Jump.” She, Harrison and Wesley Snipes reunited at this year’s Academy Awards, where they rudely presented the Oscars for Best Cinematography. Harrelson and Snipes admitted they had just been shot in the car. “I’m not mad at them; I’m more like, gosh, really? You can’t wait back? ” Was it the same on the set back then ? ” No opinion . “
The character that eventually revealed Perez’s range was also originally written as the white character Carla in Peter Weir’s 1993 film and television series “Dreadnought.” The film wasn’t a hit, but Perez’s raw and emotional performance as a survivor of a plane crash who lost her child earned her an Oscar nomination. She later revealed that she had been drawing on a lifelong experience of depression, loss, betrayal and undiagnosed PTSD.
If you were to make a movie based on Perez’s childhood, it would be overly dramatic. She was originally raised by her aunt, who she considers her mother. Her biological mother and father married other people and nearly abandoned Perez as a child. Her mother came back when she was three, only to send her and several of her half-siblings to a strict Catholic convent school in upstate New York. After that, Perez moved between group foster homes, seeing her parents on and off. Her mother (who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia) and some nuns physically abused her, and she was sexually abused by her half-brother. In 1999, her mother died of AIDS-related illness.
At least the nuns taught her to dance, she said, although they might not approve of how she used the techniques. She started studying biochemistry, but, as her 2014 memoir, The Handbook of Unpredictable Life, said she was often seen in nightclubs “in a tight-fitting hoochie-mama miniskirt and a bunch of makeup.” The producers of the TV show Soul Train discovered her and hired her as a regular dancer. Then, one day, a music executive asked her to arrange for his new solo artist. “I said, ‘I’m not a choreographer,'” Perez recalls. “He said, ‘I’ll pay you $1,600 a day,’ and I said, ‘I’ll go on Monday.’ That’s how it started. I made it up on the fly.” The new solo artist is Bobby Brown.
Suddenly, Perez became a choreographer, touring with early hip-hop groups including LL Cool J and Heavy D & the Boyz, and later as an in-house choreographer for the seminal ’90s show In Living Color, drilling the The famous Fly girls (including Jennifer Lopez).
“It was exciting, difficult, and frustrating,” Perez recalled.
Why are you depressed?
“Because it was very difficult to be a woman in the music industry at the time. The misogyny was very, very high. All these people were just — pardon my French — fuck all the walking stuff. They got patted on the back. God forbid if you caught kissing a man; your profession is complete. But then everyone hits you. It’s non-stop. Even if you get a job, if you don’t flirt with managers, producers, record labels, or sleep with them, you’ll be hard-pressed to get a job. Perez refused to play that game, she said, “but people still think: ‘You might have slept with them. ‘ or they’ll label you a bitch. “She singled out a few good guys — LL Cool J, Heavy D, De La Soul, Tupac Shakur — “but they weren’t many. “
She also had her unwelcome advances and uncomfortable casting sessions in hotel rooms. “I let this feeling come up in the room and be like, ‘Don’t fucking try it on me. It’s not going to happen.'”
Perez chronicles her early life in honest detail in her memoirs. While filming an episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” a stunt went awry that kept her out of action for more than a year. She has long been urged to write her life story, saying, “But I’m not ready. I’m still in hiding – when I break my neck, I get the truth, every terrible day, Sitting in bed immobile, nurses had to take me to the bathroom, and so exposed. I just opened my laptop and started writing.”
Perez is now more popular than ever, in part likely due to her rising status as a Latino trailblazer. Once she had to fight to get into the room, now people are trying to get her into the room.
For example, her new Apple+ show, Now and Then, is a twisty suspense thriller that focuses on a group of Hispanics in Miami who share a dark secret from their school days. The story switches between Spanish and English, and the timelines are 20 years apart; the cast is a Who’s Who of Spanish and Hispanic stars. Perez said the show came about because Apple hired a Cuban female executive. “That’s why representation matters.”
Stewardess has a similar story, now in its second season. She said that when Perez was offered the role of Kaley Cuoco’s hot heroine’s colleague and best friend Meghan, she turned it down. “I really like it, but I hate flying and traveling. I hate it all.”
What changed her mind? “Kelly,” she said. “She was so charming, I couldn’t take it, I fell in love with her instantly.” But Perez made one condition that the writers take into account her character as a middle-aged, menopausal woman. “I want her to have a feeling that when you’re old and walking down the street, men stop looking at your breasts,” she said. “And you just feel invisible.”
Personally, she feels the opposite. “When I started noticing that I wasn’t getting the attention I was getting when I was younger, it made me laugh, it didn’t depress me.” The 57-year-old is self-deprecating and candid about getting older. When she learned that she was going to play both her older and younger self in “Time and Space,” she said, “I said, ‘Honey, do you see these jaws on my face?’ I don’t have fillers. Maybe. A bit of Botox. The actresses don’t want to admit it, I know, but they all admit it, you know?” She’s smiling like a child now. “Gosh, my PR probably didn’t want me to say that, but I would. I said, ‘What are you going to do to my neck? They said, ‘We got the secret.'” The makeup department had a special one A neck recovery “device,” she said. “A lot of Spanish actresses do that.”
Perez enjoys her success, but she never really enjoyed celebrity: “It’s hard for me in entertainment because I’m so compelling, I Yes Look at it this way. ”
Despite the help of therapy, she still suffers from anxiety and depression: “It’s under control now. I’m able to get out of the situation and enjoy my job. Preferably after $400 an hour!” She’s happy at home. “I still live a simple life. Just my friends, my family, my husband, my cat. I have a beautiful house and I have a huge backyard which is unheard of in New York. About a week I’m fine with not leaving home.” Still, if the promised Taylor-Serrano rematch happens in Dublin, she’ll be there.
“That’s another reason why I love boxing so much,” she added, “because it takes so much tenacity and discipline to be a champion. You have to train every day of your life. Even if you don’t train, you train. You have to Watch what you eat, you have to watch your sleep, you have to watch everything. That’s what I was like when I was a kid. I always felt like I was doing time. I wanted time to work for me.”
Against the odds, Perez has won the title fight of her own life, and much of it seems to boil down to determination and self-discipline. “You know, people think that just because you were born into a certain environment, you’re that way, and I’m no way That, even as a kid,” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘I don’t belong here. ‘ That’s part of it. The other part is, “Except by the grace of God, I go there”. I am really lucky. “