Stephanie Beatriz Stands up and Stands out
It’s been said that you need to look to the past to create the future. When I sat down to chat with Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Stephanie Beatriz, it was clear that she not only knew where she was going, but that the best was still to come.
The Argentinian-born actress immigrated to Houston, Texas with her family when she was three years old. Her father was a chemical engineer by trade, but like many newcomers to America, he had to find work outside of his profession to support the family. “After we moved, my dad drove trucks, shuttle buses and school buses until he eventually retired,” Beatriz said.
Beatriz grew up with the awareness that her family resided in a place that was not their own. “There is a class divide that seems to exist. It’s hard to find the words to express what I mean, and what I’ve been thinking my entire life,” Beatriz shares. That ‘thing’ she intuitively felt from a young age was marginalization from society viewing her as an ‘other’. “As a child, I would look at picture books or watch television and try to figure out who everybody was. I would ask myself, where do I belong? Where do I fit in? Who can I be when I grow up? ,” shares Beatriz.
As she matured and continued to look to the world around her for an identity, she wasn’t satisfied with what the mainstream media dictated for people of her descent. “The images projected by the media made it seem like I didn’t belong on screen. And if I wanted to be involved, there were limited options. I would have to play the nanny, maid or gardener, never the doctor or main character who falls in love and lives happily ever after,” said Beatriz.
Eager to see a story about people who looked like her, she came across Sesame Street which featured a love story between the Latin-American couple, Luis and Maria. “I watched Sesame Street far beyond I probably needed to. It was comforting to me to see a Latin couple shown on TV. Seeing that meant it was normal and possible,” she shares.
Not wanting her or her family to stand out, Beatriz did what she thought would make her assimilate into her surroundings. “In high school, I joined the dance team and tried to fit in as much as possible. Then around grade eleven, I formed a new group of friends and started doing theatre, which changed everything,” says Beatriz.
Theatre ignited her passion to perform. While most Americans’ number one fear is public speaking, performing brought Stephanie a sense of freedom and inspiration. Growing up, expressing her opinions and ideas was a foreign concept, but acting provided an outlet. “Throughout most of high school I thought my opinions didn’t matter because I saw myself as an outsider. My mindset started to change in later years because of theatre, where I became really comfortable pretending to be somebody else. I expressed everything I felt through the characters I played. I was finally able to share the many ideas and emotions I had held inside for a long time,” shares Beatriz.
Her love for theatre was more than just a phase in high school. It began a career that led her to New York and eventually Los Angeles. Once she got a taste of acting, Beatriz never looked back.
Although, it took some time for her parents to get on board with her career choice. “Near the end of high school I told my parents I was going to study theatre. They balked and said, why don’t you be a lawyer? You’re so good at arguing. They really tried to convince me to change my mind for a few months, but eventually let it happen once they saw how set I was on pursuing acting,” she shares.
After graduating college Beatriz moved to New York City and performed theatre across America. While this experience built her initial confidence as an actress, she was eventually drawn to the big screen. Often times, life’s biggest successes are on the other side of the biggest risks. Beatriz’s journey to acting stardom demonstrates this principle time and time again. In high school, the risk to join a theatre class led her to her passion. As an actress, she took an even bigger leap. “When I decided to move to LA it was a really big risk. It was a huge gamble and I didn’t know what was going to happen,” says Beatriz.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is what happened. Stephanie would go on to land the leading role as Detective Rosa Dias of the 99th precinct on the Golden Globe award-winning show. When it comes to the impact the show has had on her, Beatriz is quick to recognize its significance. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine completely changed my life,” she shares.
Starting out as a screen actor after being successful stage performer came with a learning curve. “When I started acting on screen, I didn’t even know how to hit a mark on a set. It might sound ridiculous, but since I cut my teeth in theatre I focused only on knowing where the light was. Now, I feel much more comfortable on set and in my abilities,” shares Beatriz.
Beatriz has successfully transferred the authenticity she found on the stage to the big screen. She holds her own while acting alongside comedy heavyweights like Andy Samberg and Terry Crews, as well as the talented Chelsea Peretti and Melissa Fumero. Beatriz holds them all in high regard and credits them with a lot of her growth. “Watching Chelsea Peretti and Melissa Fumero perform on the show has been amazing. Not only that, but I’ve also seen them live out the challenge of being working moms. Learning through these experiences has shaped me to be so much more than when I started on the show,” says Beatriz.
A pioneer is defined as someone who storms the hill first and bares the arrows so that those who come after have a clear path. Beatriz is strongly aware of the pioneering actresses who came before her to pave the way. “It took people like America Ferrera and Eva Longoria to create the opportunities I have today. People who identify as Latina and have had leading roles on television made me feel like there was room for me in the industry,” she says.
Being aware of the history that has led to her personal success, Beatriz now looks for ways to make a better future. “It’s amazing to think that what I do brings people joy and causes them to listen to important opinions. They may not always agree with my opinion, but I feel honored to share my voice. It’s so important for me to talk about issues like LGBTQ representation in media. I also talk a lot about recovering from my eating disorder. I am thankful for the opportunity to connect and share knowledge because I know so many young men and women are struggling with similar things, but keep it a secret,” shares Beatriz.
The honesty that Beatriz brings to the stage is something that isn’t conjured up. It comes from a deep commitment to being real with herself and those around her. “I’m living as authentically as I possibly can. It’s who I am and it’s really amazing that I have a platform to share that authenticity,” she shares.
As a society, we are prone to labeling. But in the case of Stephanie Beatriz, being pigeonholed is not an option. By choosing projects like The Light of the Moon , she shows off her range and versatility. “I love doing roles that feel hyper challenging and almost terrifying. When reading The Light of the Moon I was really scared because it dealt with such a serious subject matter. I felt a responsibility to survivors and victims of sexual assault to tell a version of their story as honestly as I possibly could. I stayed up for a couple of nights wondering if I could do it, wondering if I could handle the material or if I was good enough of an actress to pull it off. Those are my favorite kind of roles because I know I am going to grow. You might not always succeed, but the risk of failure is worth it,” she shares.
In a moment of reflection, Beatriz offered something profound that fellow actress Chelsea Peretti had shared with her. “When you compare yourself to other people you are just setting yourself up for failure because you are forgetting how special you are. Each of our lives is miraculous in that their will never be anyone else exactly like you or I. Never in the history of mankind! That is so overwhelmingly beautiful when you think about,” says Beatriz.
As our conversation ended, Beatriz also shared a piece of advice for emerging actors. “For those who are just starting out, keep your eyes on your own paper. Work on yourself and your craft, however that manifests. If you’re a creative, keep creating for yourself. You are miraculous and special and your career is just waiting for you. You just have to keep going for it, it’s coming to you.”
Written by: David.Karuhije
Edited by: Elise Asanias