On Fox’s hit comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine – which hits the UK next week courtesy of E4 – Stephanie Beatriz plays hard-nosed, no nonsense Detective Rosa Diaz, someone you definitely wouldn’t want to upset when she’s putting on the cuffs, but off camera, Stephanie couldn’t be sweeter! With a string of memorable guest appearances on shows such as Modern Family and Southland and a successful run in theatre, Stephanie is definitely an acting force to be reckoned with. She took some time from her busy schedule to sit down with TVWise and talk to us about her new show, what it’s like to work alongside Andre Braugher and Andy Samberg, her guest roles on Southland & Modern Family and more.
WARNING – The following interview contains mild spoilers that our UK readers may wish to avoid.
TVWise: When you first got the script for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, what made you decide to play Rosa Diaz?
Stephanie Beatriz: There was no full script, I had just received sides. You don’t see an unapologetic, female bad ass a lot. I can think of so many male characters that are just bad ass and that’s just who they are. You don’t need any background, you don’t need any explanation. You just accept the fact they are a bad ass. A lot of times for female characters, you have to have a backstory as to why she became a bad ass, there is qualifying that happens. With this character, there was no qualifying of the character. The writers were just balls to the wall and said let’s go for it. Let’s make her mean and tough and a loose cannon and you don’t see that often and I loved that about the character.
TVWise: I read that you always wanted to play a detective?
Stephanie Beatriz: Yes that is true. I’ve always wanted to play some kind of cop. When you have a gun on your hip, even when it’s a fake one, it still makes you feel pretty cool.
TVWise: With an amazing cast that includes Andre Braugher, Andy Samberg and Terry Crews, were you intimidated your first day on set?
Stephanie Beatriz: I was not intimidated, I was nervous. I wanted to make sure that I was on point and doing the best that I could do. In television, you show up, you don’t know who these people are and you hope that you can connect with these people. One of the most amazing things about working on Brooklyn Nine Nine is that everyone from the top down is treated equally. Andy is number one on the call sheet, but he’s just genuinely a really nice guy and treats everyone with an equal amount of respect. That can also be said about Andre and Terry. You watch these guys do their work and you know why they are so successful. They are so focused and they want everything to be better all the time. So, I was nervous the first day, but as the week went on shooting the pilot, I stopped being nervous and started focusing on watching them. At that point, we didn’t know if anything was going to happen with the series, so I thought I better get it in right now and take this master class from Andy, Andre and Terry, so it was kind of fun.
TVWise: How much are you like Rosa Diaz in real life and how do you differ from the character?
Stephanie Beatriz: I would say that there are things that I am pulling from. I use this example a lot, but I think it’s very true. LA traffic really can show you who you are in those deep dark moments of the soul. When you are alone in your car and there is no one around to judge you and you act out in horrible ways. I’m pulling from those places that we all have, when you are dealing with horrible customer service and things like that. I’m just trying to live my life and these people are in the way being idiots. That, I think, everyone can relate to. Honestly, I feel in my own life, I try to be very empathetic towards most people and I think Rosa is missing that empathy gene. One thing we have in common is that she lives by a code of honor. There is a reason why she became a cop. Deep down she has a real true sense of what’s right and wrong. It may not always follow what’s in the books, but she really believes in what is right and what is wrong. I think that is true as well. There should be a code of honor in which you should live your life and I try to be the best possible person that I can be at all times. I don’t always succeed, but I am always trying.
TVWise: The show has a very diverse cast but that the diversity is not a factor on the show. Where you conscious of this when you decided to take the role?
Stephanie Beatriz: Totally! For me, in the past I’ve done a lot of theatre. In the theatre world, the casting can be a bit more flexible. Sometimes you are cast for your ethnicity. I’ve done a lot of Shakespeare and the ones that I have been involved with, it wasn’t really an issue if the actor was black or Asian or whatever. Sometimes the ethnicity is important to the storyline and that is always very helpful. If it illuminates something in the story that is meaningful to me, than that is awesome. On this particular show, the people behind the show wanted it to look like a real New York precinct. So they thought what that would look like and it looks like most of America which isn’t one color. A lot of different people make up the United States which is pretty great. I am Latina, but I am also an American citizen and for me that is the biggest part of who I am. I grew up in the United States and I feel American. I feel enormous pride on the 4th of July. My parents came here and worked real hard and got their citizenships and then my sister and I became citizens when we were in high school and that was a really big deal to us, but at the same time, I don’t think about it all the time. You do sometimes, but not always and I think it’s so smart of our writers. Even our writer’s room is very diverse and fantastic and I just think that’s how they see the world and they want that world reflected in their show.
TVWise: Andre Braugher is known for some heavy dramatic roles and his being involved with a comedy was an instant draw for me. What’s it like working with Andre and has he passed any of his acting knowledge on to you?
Stephanie Beatriz: He is so fun and fly! He is the coolest dude ever. He is so laid back and relaxed. He is very focused on the work. If he doesn’t understand something or isn’t sure how to attack a scene, he asks a lot of questions and strangely enough, it’s kind of not normal for television work or at least what I’ve seen in the past. He is so curious and just wants the story to be as honest as possible, even though it’s a comedy. So, in that way I love watching him and how he interacts with other actors in scenes, the directors and showrunners. He’s eternally curious and that’s probably what makes him so good.
TVWise: You were already a fan of Andy Samberg before you joined the cast. What’s it like working with him?
Stephanie Beatriz: He’s awesome! When they told me I was screen testing with him, I was so nervous. I’m a big Lonely Island fan! Not only is he super talented and exceptionally driven, but he’s also a really genuinely nice guy. It’s really great to be around him. The Golden Globe nomination that he got, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.
TVWise: How often do you guys just crack up while shooting? It must be a very funny set.
Stephanie Beatriz: We all enjoy each other’s company a lot. Most of the time when we aren’t shooting, we are texting each other or hanging out. Melissa and I each lunch together a lot. During scenes it’s a challenge sometimes to keep it together, so it can be hard to keep it together, but what a great challenge to have at work. Everyone on the show is hilarious.
TVWise: What do you think sets Brooklyn Nine-Nine apart from many of the comedies on TV today?
Stephanie Beatriz: I think something that we touched on already, the very diverse cast is definitely one thing. Another one is, I think just the mix of what it is, and it’s just a weird little beast. It’s a comedy set in an office where you have all these extremely different personalities trapped in a place together. And on top of that, you have the cop stuff. The little missions they go on each episode. Sometimes it’s a little more cop like than other times, like there’s more chasing or a murder involved. The mix of these two things is something like I’ve never seen before. There aren’t that many comedy shows that appeal to both men and women.
TVWise: In the mid-season finale, Detective Boyle took a couple of bullets to save Diaz. Do you think this will change their relationship?
Stephanie Beatriz: I think it will affect their relationship. I think it was probably pretty intense for Rosa to have that feeling were she wasn’t equipped to protect herself in that moment which I think was shocking for her, but just the fact that he did it was like wow. I don’t know what is going to happen. The crazy thing about being on a series, you don’t know where it’s going. So each script I get, I just throw myself at it. I mean, I thought I knew what I was doing, but I guess I didn’t. You just have to be ready for whatever direction the writers want to go and I think for Boyle and Diaz, it’s going to take some time. If those two were setup on a blind date, it would end with her crushing his soul, but because they are in the same work environment and they are colleagues, she’s got a soft spot for him and I think that will develop over time. That soft spot probably makes her slightly uncomfortable, but I think all things that make us a bit uncomfortable are things we need to pay attention too. She’s definitely curious as to what the feelings really are and she definitely has dropped the boyfriend bomb a couple of times, so we’ll just see what happens.
TVWise: I remember first seeing you on what one of I think the most underrated cop series in history, Southland. What was it like working on that show?
Stephanie Beatriz: It was great. I’m very glad that you saw that episode. Everyone was very welcoming, in fact, I remember thinking when we started the pilot, if we actually go to series, I need to be just as nice as the folks on Southland. It’s very hard to do a guest star on television. The cast doesn’t know who you are. They are busy and have a lot on their plate, they are struggling with lines and rewrites and they are just focused and have to be focused on their stuff. When a series regular is kind and nice to you as a guest star, you always remember it and they made me feel like a part of the team.
TVWise: What was it like working with Regina King?
Stephanie Beatriz: Awesome! She is so cool! She was very relaxed the whole time and very kind. One of the scenes in the interrogation room, I hit my head on the wall, sort of improving and she cracked up during the rehearsal. After the rehearsal, she told that I was funny. That was just gold to me, I’ll never forget it. Southland was such a good show and thankfully, it’s on DVD and we can always watch it and share it with others. That’s the great thing about film and television, we can catch it and if it doesn’t go forever, we still have it.
TVWise: You also had a memorable appearance on the hit series Modern Family. What was it like working on that show?
Stephanie Beatriz: That was very fun. Again, a very friendly cast and great group of people. It was very fast, I was there for two days and then I was done. I definitely had to leave my vanity at the door. Those were some crazy costumes they put me in. They were some very unflattering costumes, but perfect for the character and I had no problem wearing whatever if it’s right for the character and story.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs on Fox on Tuesday nights at 8:30/7:30c. The series premieres in the UK on E4 on Thursday January 16th at 9pm.