Go, Go, Go, Googie

Special Features   Go, Go, Go, Googie
 
A chat with actress Rosie Perez, currently playing Googie Gomez in The Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Terrence McNally'sThe Ritz, at Studio 54.

Rosie Perez
Rosie Perez Photo by Aubrey Reuben

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Playbill: This is your third time working with director Joe Mantello, after Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune and a Vagina Monologues benefit. What's it like working with him?
Rosie Perez: He doesn't really look at you while he's directing. He has his head down most of the time and he's listening. Once in a while he'll glance up. It's very smart. Because if it doesn't sound right, it's not going to look right. Being a musical person, that made sense to me. The rhythm of it.

Playbill: There are a lot of outrageous stereotypes in this play — your character, especially, but also a lot of the gay characters, and the Italians. Are there any challenges to playing that kind of a role?
Rosie Perez: Well, like you said, the political incorrectness is right across the board. That's one comfort. The way Latinos have been portrayed in the media — more so in film than in theater — has left quite a few wounds. So it's a challenge to not pay attention to that and yet respect it at the same time. My first course of action was to find the human being in Googie. I called Rita Moreno [who originated the role on Broadway in 1975] to ask for her blessing and to ask for her advice. And she said, "Two things: Have fun and find the truth in her. You just concentrate on Googie's heart. Because she's a real person, whether or not people want to admit it."

Playbill: Unlike Googie, you're a terrific performer. Are there secrets to playing bad on purpose?
Rosie Perez: Let the ego go. Because they'll be like, "Okay, no, that's too much on pitch. No, you're still on pitch." And I'm not doing anything! I guess subconsciously you want to be good and you want it right. But you've got to let that go. And, in a weird way, I'm finding that to do it bad, I have to do it good first. And then scale back.

Playbill: Did you know that, earlier this year, BET named you one of the 25 greatest dancers of all time?
Rosie Perez: No. (Laughs) I didn't know that. Playbill: You were number 22, just below Gregory Hines.
Rosie Perez: Oh, wow! Who followed me?

Playbill: Big Daddy Kane. You got it over him.
Rosie Perez: Wow. Wow.

Playbill: In the past you've dissed your abilities as a dancer. Do you still feel that way?
Rosie Perez: I think that I'm a very good choreographer in the field that I have chosen. But I never thought I was a good dancer. I never did. Some people say, "Oh, you're too harsh on yourself.' And I'm like, "No, I'm just a Virgo, I'm too realistic." So that's why I was saying, "Wow." Maybe they're seeing something I'm not.

Playbill: Ever thought about doing a musical?
Rosie Perez: I would love to. I performed [on Broadway] in The Play What I Wrote, and I had so much fun doing that. I think if it stayed in the realm of comedy I would do a musical in a heartbeat. I don't have the vocal abilities to sustain a serious musical. Let's just say Les Miserables wouldn't be my first choice. I wouldn't inflict that upon the audience.

Andy Buck is editor of Playbill Magazine: The Insider's Guide, a new monthly publication offering theatre features and comprehensive listings of New York City shows and restaurants. This interview appeared in the September 2007 issue.

Rosie Perez and Kevin Chamberlin, with (under the bed) Terrence Riordan and Brooks Ashmanskas
Rosie Perez and Kevin Chamberlin, with (under the bed) Terrence Riordan and Brooks Ashmanskas Photo by Joan Marcus
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