When Stephanie Beatriz isn’t rounding up bad guys on BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, you can usually find her at home in Los Angeles — plucking away on her ukulele.
“I taught myself a couple of years ago and I am getting much better,” she tells me.
Stephanie — who plays tough and mysterious detective Rosa Diaz on the freshman Fox comedy — was born in Argentina, but developed a love of country music while growing up in suburban Texas.
The ukulele, she insists, “is easier to learn than guitar. Guitar is hella hard. Just to get your hand all the way around the struts… Ukulele, on the other hand, you could pick up one today and learn how to play it tomorrow.”
So far, the aspiring singer and musician is only sharing her new talent with a select few.
“Sometimes I record myself,” she says. “I have made a couple of covers for friends and sent them to them. It would be awesome some day to sing with other people and do it in front of a crowd. But it would make me so nervous. What’s weird is I am confident enough to step out on stage in front of people and perform a role, but I am not confident enough in my singing yet to go to an open mic night. Human beings are weird!”
Stephanie — who appeared last season as Sofia Vergara’s sister on MODERN FAMILY — shared more about herself and what’s next for Rosa in our exclusive interview.
Congratulations on the success of the show. Are people are starting to recognize you on the street?
No way. When I am not at work, I pull my hair in a bun, I wear glasses. I am never made up. I am in rock and roll t-shirts and tennis shoes. I don’t look anything like Rosa. I feel like her sometimes. But I don’t get recognized a lot.
Are you cool with it if they do?
Totally! It is a very visible job I have chosen, so if someone were to come up and tell me that they enjoy something that I did that would be so meaningful to me. That is a gift that someone is giving to tell you that you affected them somehow or made them laugh or feel something. That is the whole point of doing the job.
When you first read the script for BROOKLYN NINE-NINE could you sense just how off the wall this show is?
I think… I have been such a big fan of PARKS & RECREATION. And because I knew that world, I could kind of be in the world where BROOKLYN NINE-NINE was going to live. I think with [co-creators Mike Schur and Dan Goor], we are benefitting so much from them working on so many seasons of PARKS & REC and getting to know what that sort of office ensemble feel is like. And we are benefitting from them getting to stretch creatively into this world of cop hijnx and crime drama and stuff. In the initial audition I didn’t have a full script. But I got the sides [a small fraction of the script] and in the sides there was a reference to FARGO being one of the character’s favorite movies. And instantly I felt like these guys knew what they are doing because that is one of my favorite movies. It is sort of the same weird humor.
Have you filmed the post-Superbowl episode yet?
No. But I sense the writers are going to involve some sort of football something, but I could be wrong. Who knows? But I bet there is going to be a lot of shenanigans. That is the nature of the show.
Did you watch a lot of cop shows growing up?
I watched COLUMBO a little bit when I was a kid with my dad. But I have never been a big cop show watcher — except for THE CLOSER [which she appeared on]. My dad loves all the cop shows.
What did he think when you scored this role?
Both he and my mom were really excited. My parents have been super excited since I decided to become an actress. They were very surprised, but extremely supportive. They immigrated to the United States when I was 3. So they were kind of coming here to give my sister and I as many opportunities as possible because they had limited resources when they were younger. The fact that I have been able to create a living first in theater and now in television has been, for them, I hope that they feel like all the sacrifices they have made have been worthwhile. I think most parents want to just look over at their kid and go “Okay, you are doing good.” And I feel like they finally feel that way.
Did they think you were crazy when you wanted to become an actress?
I think they were a little bit nervous. I don’t think they thought I was crazy though because they had been watching me [act] since junior high at that point. I was really into cheerleading and drill team is a big thing in Texas when you are in high school. I was really big into that stuff. Then I switched it over to theater and they — especially my mom — was completely shocked. They were like ‘What are you going to do?” And I said “After school, I am going to move to New York and look for jobs in regional theater.” So they have come a long way. Two years ago I played a really major part. I played Isabella in MEASURE FOR MEASURE at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and they came and saw it and they were really blown away. Shakespeare was not really a part of their lives growing up, so I think they had extra pride when they saw their kid up there. They were able to understand it. They loved everything about it.
You moved to New York shortly after college to pursue theater. How did you support yourself?
I worked in a few box offices. I sold tickets to plays, so I was able to see a lot of plays for free. I was lucky enough to start working pretty quickly. I did a couple of children’s theater tours that were also pretty character building. Then I started working in regional theater. It worked out really well. I didn’t have to get a retail job until way later. I was horrible at waiting tables. I tried once in college and got fired the day I got hired. That was not going to be my scene.
What is it like trying to act around Andy Samberg?
It is great. Not only is he super creative and his mind is lightning fast with funny stuff. He is also really generous and kind and a lovely person to work with. And I think he is also a really great actor. I know a lot of people think of him as a comedian first but I think to be that funny there has got to be a sensitivity underneath. He is probably one of the most generous and grateful people I have ever met.
Any fun anecdotes from the set?
He likes to sneak up behind me and unholster my gun — unsnap it and then pull it out. It makes me so pissed because every time he does it it makes me feel like a bad cop (even though I am not a real cop).
Where is Rosa’s story line going?
I can’t say too much, but Craig Robinson from HOT TUB TIME MACHINE filmed a guest appearance last week. I am not sure when it is going to air. But he definitely has a huge crush on Rosa. Massive. She is not interested because he is actually a criminal who she catches in the beginning of the episode. Craig’s character is leading them to an even bigger fish so she has to spend a lot of time with him and he is really head over heels for Rosa.
So what is going on with Rosa’s love life?
I am just as confused about that! I would love to know. So far I know that she has got a boyfriend somewhere. We have not seen him yet. She is trying to keep him secret.
Do you imagine he is a tough guy?
In my head I see tattoos, but that is pretty much all I got. I don’t think Rosa is in any way ready for a real committed relationship, so even though she may have a boyfriend, they are probably not on the verge of anything like marriage. I think this is a woman that has a lot of issues and I think having any kind of relationship with someone with that many issues is pretty impossible. So I am pretty sure she cycles through them quickly.
What about you? Anyone special in your life?
I am happily dating my boyfriend. He is a very talented and prolific actor in the theater world.
You did a spot on Modern Family. What was that like?
It was great. They are a well-oiled machine over there. Everyone was super friendly and made me feel so welcome. I have tried to take that vibe to BROOKLYN NINE-NINE. Every time we have a guest star, I try to introduce myself and make them feel at home because it is hard to be a guest star on a show with an ensemble. It is like coming into a clubhouse where you are not a member.
Will you be back in future episodes?
I hope so. I would love to go back.
BROOKLYN NINE-NINE airs Tuesdays at 8:30 PM ET/PT on Fox.
Will you be watching? Let’s discuss in the comments section below.
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