October 31, 2019 

By Lapacazo Sandoval 

Contributing Writer 


Rosie Perez has strong words for Hollywood but that’s nothing new. Since she burst into the industry in Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” the five-foot-one-inch powerhouse has expressed her thoughts on the bigotry and racism that exists in the entertainment industry without a second thought.


A proud Puerto Rican-American the actress, singer, community activist, talk show host, author, dancer, and choreographer smashed expectations and went on to star in numerous films including “White Men Can't Jump” and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in “Fearless (1993).”


The opportunities to work in an industry that she “loves” is not lost on Perez despite being frustrated by the same political climate that perfumes the industry today. 


Here’s what Oscar and Emmy Award-nominated Rosie Perez had to share about her 30+ years of working in Hollywood and receiving The Latinavator Award given by Hispanicize to Latina visionaries who are doing amazing things both in their professions and in life and creating a lasting impact in their respective fields and the Latinx community.


L.A. WATTS TIMES: Was it easy to get into the industry when you started?


ROSIE PEREZ: As a Puerto Rican-American getting into the entertainment industry business over thirty years ago was extremely difficult and very, very hard.


LAWT: How did you do it then?


RP: What helped me was that this was not my choice as a career I was gifted by Spike Lee to be a part of Hollywood. So, I didn’t understand everything and so I didn’t care. The risk to me didn’t apply so I voiced my opinion regarding the racism and bigotry that existed then and unfortunately exits still to this day.


LAWT: Take us back to the beginning of your career, please.


RP: I could not get a job to save my life. So, I had to keep pressing forward. I decided to leave college. I was majoring bio-chemistry so I said I’m gonna this and I’m gonna do this 100% and when I preceded it (laughing) it was quite difficult. It was but I always said knock down those doors and if there is no door there, create one, and kick it wide open and that’s exactly what I did.


LAWT: That’s an understatement. Tell me about working on Fox’s ‘In Living Color’ created by the genius Keenen Ivory Wayans.


RP: Keenen Ivory Wayans was a fantastic boss. They challenge you to challenge yourself and that was my greatest take away from working as the head choreographer and music coordinator on ‘In Living Color.’ That environment was so creative and so inspiring and hard. We worked very, very, hard. The entire staff, crew, and talent. Everybody worked extremely hard and so it instilled in me an even stronger work ethic that I already had. It also gave me an insight in regards to the behind-the-scenes, the inner workings on how the television world works and how corporate works within Hollywood as well.


LAWT: Do you notice a difference in the level of racism?


RP: It’s gotten much better but we still have a long way to go. So it was very, very hard.


LAWT: I can imagine people not wanting to rock the boat.


RP: Even within the Latin community they were telling me to not make waves and be quiet and I said no, no, we have to make waves because where we are right now it’s not working and the waves will push us forward to our goals, so like it or not, I’m going speak out.


LAWT: The new generation—Latinx—they are roaring and demanding to be heard, don’t you think?


RP: And what’s fantastic to me is that the new Latinx generation they do not care. And they are voicing their opinions and I think that’s fantastic. We do have a lot of ways to go so I’m going to keep the fight going. 


Perez will next be seen in “The Last Thing He Wanted,” opposite Anne Hathaway and Ben Affleck for Netflix and “Birds of Prey,” opposite Margot Robbie for Warner Brothers and will also be returning to television with a starring role in HBO Max’s thriller drama series “The Flight Attendant.”


The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Category: Arts & Culture