Starkle Dream Up. Stephens College
« Back to Sc-Scene Archive

Brooklyn Nine-Nine star talks career, Stephens roots

June 2, 2014

Actress and Stephens alumna Stephanie Beatriz has found success in acting on stage and in film and television.
With a major role in the Fox hit Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which snagged a Golden Globe for best TV comedy series in January; a role in Short Term 12, which many consider one of the best motion pictures of 2013;and an upcoming role alongside some big-name co-stars, Beatriz has been rightfully deemed a “rising star.”
But she hasn’t forgotten her Stephens roots. For those tuning in to the Tuesday night hit comedy, don’t let her role as tough-talking Detective Rosa Diaz fool you. In real life, Beatriz is developing a reputation for being accessible, friendly and down-to-earth. We see why! The talented celeb was happy to take time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about her success.
Stephens: When we heard “Rosa Diaz” on Brooklyn Nine-Nine being described as tough and smart, we thought: "That sounds like a Stephens woman!"—even though she’s also described as “really scary,” and you don’t seem that way at all.
Beatriz: Actually, I can absolutely relate to her scariness. Do not cross me when it is snack time. Also don't cut me off in traffic.
STEPHENS: The show is obviously resonating with audiences. Congratulations on the Golden Globe win! You were stunning in that blue dress (and we loved the glasses) at the ceremony. Tell us what it was like to be part of such an amazing night—the 360 Glam Cam, being in the audience, being on stage—all of the details!
BEATRIZ: Thank you! It was fun, extremely strange and anxiety producing! We were all so excited to be at the event, and for many of us it was our first awards show. The Red Carpet part was very strange: Because I'm a newcomer and our show is still so new, many photographers and interviewers just had no idea who I was and skipped right over me! I didn't mind at all though and was simply trying to enjoy the moment. Once we finally got inside (from start to finish, the carpet took us about an hour and a half with photos, interviews and slow walking in high heels) and were seated at our table, the real fun began. I loved seeing my favorite actors and flipped when Meryl Streep walked by. The ceremony was so fun and flew by.
Once Andy's (Samberg) win was announced, we were all on cloud nine: he was so surprised! And when our category came up and we were announced the winners, we were so, so joyful. I had my glasses on at that point, so I could see the ceremony and ended up just running on stage with them on. Being on that stage felt so surreal: I was holding on to (co-star) Chelsea Peretti, who was standing next to me, for dear life. I was so, so happy that the work of (writers) Dan Goor and Mike Schur was recognized that evening. The characters and worlds they created swept the comedy categories—Amy Poehler won best actress in a comedy series—and they are so deserving of the recognition. Afterward, we were swept into the backstage area where we were interviewed within an inch of our lives! (By the way, Al Roker is adorable in real life.)
The best part of the day? That's a tie between the actual win and getting ready that morning! Fellow Stephens alum and my best friend [and Stephens alumna] Katie Mellinger is a professional makeup artist, and she flew out from New York City just to do my makeup!
Stephens: We love hearing that Stephens connection! You played a much different role in Short Term 12, which was an intimate movie. Even though we don't learn much about your character, “Jessica,” we still feel really connected to her in that she's a vital part of this community. What do you credit that to?
Beatriz: The credit goes totally to Destin Cretton, our director/writer. He worked at a group home for years as a day job, and his experiences there shaped the narrative of the film. He encouraged us to get to know the younger actors who populated the group home you see in the film. Between shooting scenes, you could often find many of the younger cast in my dressing room, hanging out and talking about music and making each other laugh. I felt really responsible for them and like a big sister. I hope a bit of that comes through in the film.
Stephens: It does! At what age did you decide to pursue acting?
BEATRIZ: Pretty young! In eighth grade, I was in a drama class at school. We had one big production each semester. I wanted the part of the ingénue, but it went to a particularly beautiful and popular girl. My short hair and very crooked teeth won me the part of the evil villain. I was naturally devastated until we started rehearsals, and then I just started FLYING. I was free to explore physical comedy, voices, timing, everything I was too embarrassed or shy to try before.
The day after the production, which the entire school attended, a football player who had never spoken to me before told me how much he liked my brother's performance in the play. SUCCESS! I had made people believe I was someone else! I had also fooled the cool kids into liking me. Granted, they didn't know it was me, but somehow it didn't matter. I was hooked.
Stephens: Which actors inspired you growing up?
Beatriz: Carol Burnett—I loved her show. I adored the entire cast of The Golden Girls. Tom Hanks and Robin Wright—I was devastated/sublimely happy after seeing Forrest Gump as a kid. And the voiceover work of all the actresses who played Disney princesses was a major influence; I am not ashamed to say that.
Stephens: That probably helped when you landed the role of “Cinderella” at Stephens! You enjoyed the spotlight in a number of lead roles during your time here, including “Miss Brodie” in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and “Chava” in Fiddler on the Roof. Do you have any “favorite” roles from your Stephens days—any roles that especially challenged or inspired you?
Beatriz: The Girl in Hot L Baltimore was such a special role in a very special production. [Theatre Professor] Rob Doyen and I spent a ton of time onstage together in that, and I thought it was so wonderful to see him play this sort of meek, shy and sad character. The Warehouse produced Rocky Horror Picture Show as a benefit, and I was lucky enough to be cast in that as well—such an amazing production and so fun. Very challenging for me; I had to dance and sing and stayed onstage the entire time as a sort of Greek chorus. As a freshman, a few classmates and I produced a play called The Real Queen of Hearts Ain't Even Pretty. That was fantastic because we put it up ourselves with support from The Warehouse Theatre and [Assistant Theatre Professor] Dan Schultz, who was an upperclassman at the time. About six of us pulled everything together ourselves. I loved that about Stephens; it celebrates and encourages an environment where you can learn to create your own work, which is so important for artists. So many times things are out of your control, and with that project we made all the decisions.
Stephens: You actually went into theatre after graduation more so than film or television acting. Tell us a little about your professional theatre background.
Beatriz: I moved to New York City immediately after college and was lucky enough to become a part of the union right away though a great company called Theatreworks/USA that produces children's theatre. After that, I tried to do everything I could to get to know people who could get me a job. [Stephens alumna] Becca Ayers introduced me to her agency and through them I booked my first regional theatre job, the role of “Marela” in Anna in the Tropics at the Pittsburgh Public Playhouse. Since then, I've been lucky enough to work at some amazing theatres: Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Yale Rep, The Mark Taper Forum, Hartford Stage, and most recently, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Stephens: How difficult was it to make the switch as an actor from the stage to the screen?
Beatriz: I was struggling a bit with the transition, but I took some great classes in L.A. about auditioning. I think it's really important to keep learning, to keep looking for answers. If I'm feeling lost, that's when I know I need to go back to class!
Stephens: You got quite a bit of attention for your role as Sofia Vergara's sister on the ABC hit Modern Family last year. What was it like to work on such a wildly popular series?
Beatriz: Fantastic. The cast was hugely welcoming and extremely professional. I learned a ton just watching how they worked.
STEPHENS: We’ll see more of you on the big screen this year. You play “Jill,” the best friend and roommate of the main character inYou're Not You, a film with some pretty big names, including Josh Duhamel and Hilary Swank. What was it like working with them and what can audiences expect from that film?
BEATRIZ: Hilary was lovely, extremely kind and very focused. I didn't get to meet Josh, as we were not in any of the same scenes. I'm looking forward to seeing the final version of the film myself! One of my agents (he's a total tough guy) saw it and said it emotionally wrecked him. I think that's a good sign!

Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need to download Adobe Reader.