Q&A Sessions: Marisa Ramirez

Q&A Sessions: Marisa Ramirez

by Luis Vazquez
03.15.2011

Marisa Ramirez has made a serious move in her acting career. She’s the only American on the cast of Starz’ hit television series, “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,” as Melitta, body slave to lusty Lucretia, played by Lucy Lawless. In an exclusive interview with nocheLatina, the “Spartacus” star reveals what she really thinks about nudity, why Latinos are far from equal billing, and how her husband played a crucial role in her life.

nocheLatina: Before you became a television star, what was your childhood like?
 
Marisa Ramirez: I am Mexican, American Indian, and Irish. I was born and raised in East LA. I was shy, but my mom took me to an audition at age five. I freaked out. I didn't want any part of it at all. When I was 12 somebody approached me in the mall and said I should model and gave me their card. Since them, I began working as a model. My mom took me to castings, but when I turned 15 she said, ‘Here's the map and car. Drive yourself to your own things. I'm not doing it anymore.’ So I did.    
 
nocheLatina: While working as a model, you also went to college. Was that a tough balancing act?

Marisa Ramirez: Earning money as a kid was great. It taught me a lot of lessons that kids don't get now because everyone is so involved with technology and playing video games. After high school, I started going to college, working as a model, and traveling a lot. I hung out all over Sydney, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Singapore. It was great.                                   

nocheLatina: Why did you pursue acting?

Marisa Ramirez: I was 18-19 and on my own. I didn't like being seen as an object, as a model. I was sort of a personality and I wanted to show it. So, I decided to pursue acting. My first job was hosting for MTV. I did a lot of little things on the channel. And something happened to my co-host. We were shooting and he actually was involved in an accident. The show went on hiatus at that point. Then I auditioned for ‘General Hospital.’                   

nocheLatina: You eventually chose career over college. Why?

nocheLatina: I never had the desire to stay in college. I was being pulled from classes. I had to pay my rent. I struggled with that. And a part of me felt my mom tried so hard to get me into it when I was young, so a part of me felt bad. That was one of the factors of why I chose my career.

nocheLatina: You made a name for yourself in soap operas. Did you think it would be enough?

Marisa Ramirez: A part of me thought I could stay with soap operas for the rest of my life. Its steady work and so fulfilling. You put on all of these hats and it was easy for me. I don’t know if I would go back to it now. The world has changed a little bit with all the reality shows out there.

nocheLatina: Talk about your character Melitta in ‘Spartacus.’

Marisa Ramirez: I was sort of called upon in the process. I knew there was nudity involved, but I wasn’t really comfortable doing it. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t turn down jobs. I like to at least audition. I was completely uncomfortable with it, so I spoke with my  husband about it. He was like ‘You have to go. It’s 'Spartacus.' See what happens. If you get it, I’ll be so proud of you.’

nocheLatina: I understand that you were interested in doing a period piece for some time.

Marisa Ramirez: I never auditioned for a period piece before. I always did a Mexican or Spanish accent. It’s like come on. I can also do a French and English accent. To have the opportunity to play this character was a dream come true. I felt people in the industry were seeing me in a different light. They couldn’t figure out my background. The nudity was tough because I never felt that I would ever do that in my career. For some reason it changed my mind. I’m not saying I’m going to do it again.

nocheLatina: Were you familiar with the ‘Spartacus’ series?

Marisa Ramirez: I had never seen it before. I saw ads promoting it like crazy. When I got the job they sent me the first season so I could prepare for it. It was very bloody. I tried to picture myself being a part of that. Honestly, I was a little confused as to how I got the job.

nocheLatina: How did you overcome your fears of doing nudity?

Marisa Ramirez: It’s never easy for me, no matter how much I talk myself into it. It’s something I will never get used to. I don’t ever want to get used to it. Then I might as well be working in a different industry, if you know what I mean. It’s scary. Its one thing to say lines and be a different character, but when you put your body out there for everyone to see it’s something that stays with you. However, I was proud of the way it was shot. I won’t look back and be embarrassed about it.

nocheLatina: Were you aware of how popular the ‘Spartacus’ franchise was?

Marisa Ramirez: I really wasn't aware of it until I did some research. It made me more excited. I have never been a part of something like this before. The people in New Zealand are amazing and generous people. The crew is awesome. I became close with my makeup artist, Franky. She felt like a sister to me. I made some friends there that I'm going to keep for the rest of my life. Lucy Lawless stood out. I remember her passing out chocolate bars to the cast and crew. It made me want to be a better woman and treat people like that. I am usually quiet and reading a book in the corner. She is graceful and working with her was very inspiring.

nocheLatina: What are your thoughts on Latinos in entertainment today?

Marisa Ramirez: I think there could be some improvements. A lot of roles are still the typical Latina with an accent who has three kids at home. I'm a woman of color. You don't need to know what color it is or pigeonhole it. We need more Latinas being portrayed as leading women, not just Jennifer Lopez. I can be Mrs. Smith, not just Mrs. Ramirez. I want to be able to audition for everything.

nocheLatina: What’s next for Marisa Ramirez?

Marisa Ramirez: I am part of a pilot series that the Lifetime network picked up called ‘Against the Wall.’ I play Lina Flores, an internal affairs detective who is five months pregnant and very hormonal. It’s very different from ‘Spartacus.’ I was in Toronto where it’s freezing and playing a pregnant woman. However, it’s part of my philosophy to always audition and keep working.

Photos courtesy of Russell Baer.

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