With her fresh success at the box office this weekend, Puerto Rican actress Nadine Velazquez granted us a one-on-one interview to promote “Flight,” dramatic film starring Denzel Washington. In it, she plays the Oscar winner’s lover who happens to also be a flight attendant. But what will most likely receive the most amount of chatter, during and after the film, is her prolonged nude scene right at the opening.
We’ll get to that later. Jump to our interview. While she walked her dog, I kept her company on the phone. Velazquez opened up on how it all started for her: “Acting was just a childhood dream, but I didn’t have a master plan.” In her college years she worked as an assistant to an agent, who certainly saw a sparkle in her and encouraged her to take some head shots. “When I got my headshots, soon I was able to book a couple of commercials, which were a confirmation that I could actually do something. I could do [acting] and be part of the industry,” she says with bravura.
Although she did other movies at the beginning of her career – “Chasing Papi” and “Biker Boyz,” both in 2003 – they weren’t the right roles to put her on the map. Enter television. “I’ve been in [the business] for 10 years and I didn’t want to go out for films for a very, very long time. It was because I felt like it’s something you need to break into slowly,” she says. “There are very few shots to gain credibility if you really want a film career, and I didn’t want to be premature.”
As soon as she felt ready and it felt right, she put in a call to her agent, and the roles just started pouring in. Soon she was appearing on popular shows like “Entourage,” “CSI” and “Charlie’s Angels.” Today most people recognize her for her role as the boisterous Catalina in “My Name is Earl” as an immigrant stripper/maid. The role caught the attention of some other producers who offered her even bigger roles such as – the CW’s comedy drama series “Hart of Dixie” as Didi Ruano – and FX’s comedy series “The League,” where she currently plays Sofia.”
The adult drama “Flight” is, literally, taking off. With its $25 million dollar opening purse at the box office, there is now big buzz on Washington’s performance and the film’s intriguing plot. Producer’s are now beginning an Oscar campaign for the film which Velazquez should be very proud of contributing to. This might just be the break she’s been looking for and she wouldn’t disagree.
Her aforementioned nude scene at the film’s opening, can only be described as… memorable. When the actress received the script, she knew what it entailed, but she didn’t hesitate because she trusted the players – Oscar winners Robert Zemeckis (director of Forrest Gump) and Denzel Washington (Glory, Training Day). Her response was… “let’s do this.” When she got there for the audition, there was no “revealing scenes” that were asked of her. “For the audition, I just had to convey the role of a flight attendant, inside a plane that’s going down.” she says. But for the actual shoot, she would have to bare it all, something I’m sure she contemplated on for a while. “Surprisingly I was very comfortable [being naked on set], there’s something about being nude, knowing that you are so exposed. There’s not a lot of dialogue in that scene, it’s just waking up and getting dressed. There’s just such a tone that you are naked and making it as realistic as possible.”
Perhaps the fact that Washington was a gentleman and a professional, helped. He called her the night before and invited her to dinner, in order to get acquainted, and have her be comfortable with him and vice-versa. Since she had never met before, this was exactly what the doctor ordered. Velazquez is happy with the outcome of the scene, “I think the director did a great job and I trusted him. There’s nothing malicious about it, and it’s not a sexual scene,” she says. In reference to future nude scenes, the actress believes that if it is a good role and it feels right, she wouldn’t turn it away. “If it’s a sex scene, I feel like I would need to consider who the director is and the actor I would be opposite to, and what happens in the scene and what my role in the movie is, in order to make the right choice.”
Despite being a Chicago native, her Puerto Rican parents who have a Taíno Indian and Spanish descent bloodline, taught her Spanish and she considers herself very much a Latina. When asked about which actresses are her inspirations and influences in her career, her response was: “I believe Penélope Cruz and Salma Hayek who are great examples of the immense possibilities in Hollywood, a universe where it’s not easy to have a Latina be the protagonist in a movie. But with perseverance and commitment I believe it can and has been done. They have paved the way for others and have become larger than life,” says Velazquez.
Next up for Velazquez is “Snitch,” not to be confused with Guy Ritchie’s unintelligible British gem “Snatch,” an action drama thriller where she plays Dwayne Johnson’s wife, Analisa. “Unfortunately a lot of our interaction and relationship has been cut from the beginning of the film. Basically in the film, Johnson’s character has two families, the second and most recent composed by my character who’s like a warrior trying to fight for their family and child when his son from his first marriage goes to jail and he’s trying to clean his name,” says Velazquez. The movie is slated to be released February 22, 2013. Later on next year we’ll also see her as the lead in “Aztec Warrior” a comedy where she plays Lisa, a strong woman next to fellow Puerto Rican and ubiquitous star, Luis Guzman, where he plays a retiree. “My character, runs a tire shop and I consider her to be the most normal in the group as she’s a leader and is well grounded, endearing and tough.”
As for what she like more, television or the movies, she says she will continue to appear in both as she has no intention whatsoever on just focusing on one. “I love working, I could work every single day. It’s my dream and I love it.”
Jack Rico, NBC Latino contributor and founder of showbizcafe.com.