When people think of actors they probably think of these: Hollywood, Glamour and Luxury. Few are aware of the struggles most of the actors go through in order to be seen, get booked and be paid to do a job. On the one hand, some make it all the way to the three I just mentioned. On the other hand, some are happy just by getting paid doing something that they love. The second is my case. I started acting when I was in my early teens, doing local commercials and T.V. shows in Puerto Rico. Although I wanted to work behind the scenes, life led me to the world in front of the camera and as time went by, I started considering acting as a career goal. Little did I know that it was a decision that would involve more sacrifices than I could have ever imagined.
I moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting at a time when Latinas were still not accepted in the industry unless you were going for the maid, nanny or prostitute role. Although some of these have not changed, Sofia Vergara has recently opened more doors for us. When I first moved out there in 2002 I was constantly told that I had to take accent reduction classes. Stubborn me, I refused. Fast forward to the present and casting directors LOVE my accent as I sound like the girl from that show: Modern Family.
I never lost myself in the Hollywood field of dreams. I would be asked out by producers who thought I was going to be the “aspiring actress who would do anything for a role”. I would walk away from these type of situations, with tears coming down my face as I faced the sad reality that can happen to young girls out there. But nothing would make me give up. I would wipe my tears and keep moving forward. The sacrifice of being so far away from my family and the town that saw me grow was too hard and painful for me to get discouraged by the ignorance of some of the “powerful players” out there.
The money situation is another aspect that we actors struggle with. Oftentimes, people joke about it but it is sadly the truth. Because of the instability of auditions and work, we will be the ones acting as your server, bartender, hostess, etc. If you think that sending resumes and going to a couple of job interviews is hard, imagine having to do that two to three times on a daily basis, to be called back one out of the last ten interviews (auditions). Although it can get frustrating, it is a matter of keeping your self-esteem and faith at a high level.
And then comes the times when an acting job parallels the reality of your life: “Too close to home” moments.
Such was my case for the movie I want to introduce to you called MI PRINCESA (My Princess). I was sitting on the floor of my apartment in North Hollywood packing everything into boxes as my relationship of 2 ½ years came to an end. It was a very emotional time for me when I was crawling around life with a broken heart. Puerto Rican Director Carlos Jimenez Flores, whom I had worked for before in two other films, called and asked me to be in his next film which would start shooting in my hometown, Puerto Rico. Although at first I did not want to do it as I was trying to take in what had just happened in my life, between him and friend and actor Sevier Crespo (who plays my brother in Mi Princesa), I was convinced to take the offer. I flew to Puerto Rico to work on the film and soon my life turned around for the better!
Although as actors we go through a lot of downs, there are the ups that you do experience when you are part of this beautiful art. Talk about timing. As my relationship with a love ends, I start working on my first acting job as the LEAD actress in a DRAMA/ROMANCE. Aside from having family and friends around to cheer me up, the irony of this life event brought smiles and laughter back to my life. I arrived July 13th of 2012 and started shooting my scenes on the 14th. I did not have much time to settle in back at my parents’ apartment. But there I was. You move on and you show up for work.
As I walked to my first day on set, I took in the beautiful scenery in front of me and thanked God for the opportunity to be working at home. I was now playing the role of Mayra, a good girl who is full of life, surrounded by family and friends. The only thing she has been missing is love and she is about to find it. Again, very ironic as I had just lost it in real life. Nevertheless, I was ready to play this character!
(CLOWNING BEHIND THE SCENES: HUMOR ALWAYS WORKS)
One of the challenges you can face when working on a film is a lack of connection with fellow actors, especially when shooting a romance. Being that Mi Princesa was shot without scripted lines and we had to improv, I was a little bit scared as to how the interaction was going to go between the actor who was playing my love interest and myself. I met him less than 10 minutes before shooting our first scene. I have to admit that it was challenging at first. The director let us know what he wanted out of the scene and we proceeded to give it to him, but it was a little bit uncomfortable at first, for both of us. This was his first acting job and I was fighting the emotions that were so raw inside of me as a result of all the changes that I was going through. Still, we did our scene and after seeing the final result, it could not have been better!
(First scene with my love interest in the movie, Ricky. Played by Roberto Perez Perez)
After the ice was broken and days of shooting went by, everything just started flowing in divine order. The Director found some amazing locations where I got to enjoy the beautiful sceneries of my island that I had been missing for so long. We shot at beaches, mountain view locations in the country, resorts, venues with great local live music, among others. I was finding that happy place again. I was home. I got to work with one of my best friends, actress Millie Ruperto, a great crew and the icing on the cake, my niece Kenya. The Director offered my niece a role in the movie and she flew in from Miami to be a part of it. I had my team!
(MOROVIS, PUERTO RICO)
(WAITING TO SHOOT A WEDDING SCENE WITH ACTOR ROBERTO PEREZ PEREZ AND A GREAT FRIEND AND ACTRESS, MILLIE RUPERTO)
(ABOVE: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH MY BEAUTIFUL NIECE KENYA DE JESUS)
(BELOW: KENYA RECEIVING DIRECTIONS)
(OLD SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLACES)
After two weeks of shooting my heart was feeling happy! We had an amazing project in our hands. I was able to go back and work in my beautiful Puerto Rico surrounded by love and creating new memories. I was back to being me.
(WITH THE PRODUCTION CREW BY THE FORTRESS-EL MORRO IN SAN JUAN)
Production finished the last week of July 2012. As in any production, there can be obstacles that can risk a movie to be finished and/or released. So was the case with Mi Princesa. Some of the crew parted ways, footage was given to the editing team later than expected, while other footage was lost with really important scenes we will not get to see. The editing went from hands of the crew in Puerto Rico to another company in Chicago, which is Director Carlos Jimenez Flores’ hometown.
Three months ago I received a phone call the day after Thanksgiving of 2013 in which I was notified of some scenes that were missing that needed to be shot. And off to Chicago I went. I was pretty excited. Not only was I going to go back to portray the character of Mayra which I loved, but I was also going to do it in a completely new scenario for me, SNOW!
Yep, I had never seen snow and traveling to Chicago to shoot three more scenes for the movie allowed me to go through this experience for the first time ever!! I was feeling like a little kid!
So here I was in cold Chicago shooting scenes that were supposed to be in warm Puerto Rico. Fortunately the scenes were shot inside.
(WITH DIRECTOR CARLOS JIMENEZ FLORES)
MI PRINCESA is a beautiful film which includes culture, traditions, love, beautiful images, friendships, music, family and the art of being able to forgive. It is amazing to me how I started shooting this film coming from a broken heart and finished it a year and a half later in love with an amazing man God was saving for me. His name is Fabian Alicastro, a Colombian singer/songwriter/producer who happens to have a song in Mi Princesa.
Things happen for a reason! Sometimes you have to go back home, to your roots, to your self in order to move forward. Trust in God that everything in life has a purpose and with love and faith you are going to be all right!
I want to share with you a teaser for MI PRINCESA.
This film will be premiering in Fine Arts, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico on June 17th, 2015.
If you want more information you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through my twitter page http://www.twitter.com/darlenevaz
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