Ana Ortiz has played many characters who remain with us long after we turn off our televisions, like Hilda on Ugly Betty and Lydia on Hung, to name a couple. In her newest role on the Lifetime show Devious Maids, the actress gets a chance to play someone very different from the characters she has played in the past. We spoke with her about the challenges she faced portraying this character, representing her culture, and how she handles the criticism the name of the show often gets.
What do you love the most about your character, Marisol?
Ana Ortiz: What I love the most about Marisol is how different she is from anyone else I’ve ever played. My character history is very loud and crazy. Marisol is understated and very calm and cool, but underneath she is like an ailing volcano. I think that is what initially attracted me to her. I haven’t had to build a character like this in a long time and it was hard for me. It was really difficult because Hilda, my character from Ugly Betty, came to me so easily. I knew her so well, I kind of was her (laughs). Marisol has been a really exciting challenge for me.
What kind of research did you do to prepare for the character?
AO: I didn’t know anything about her when we started. Mark Cherry likes to keep his cards pretty close to his chest (laughs). He doesn’t want to tell you anything about the character you are playing. As far as Marisol, she’s still such a discovery for me because her whole thing right now is solving a mystery. We don’t get to see much of her back story. We get to see who she is in the present. For example, how she is such a mama bear and a very loving friend. She’s kind of like “by any means necessary.” She is going to do whatever she has to do in order to solve the crime. She doesn’t reveal a lot about who she is. One of the girls mid-way through the season does finds out who she really is.
How does working on this set differ from other sets that you’ve worked on?
AO: It differs in a lot of ways. First of all, there is a strong Latin female presence. It’s like being home. I love it, but I know it had to be sort of weird for everyone else to see us because we are five really alpha bear women (laughs). The atmosphere on set is really fun. The actresses who play the maids and the household people really raise the bar. They are so talented. These actors are at the top of their game and are bringing it. Everyone really cares about the show and the characters. When you do shows based on a novela you just have so much room to play, and because you have such good actors it never goes off into crazy land.
Do you ladies hang out off set?
AO: We hang out all the time. For me Judy Reyes, who plays Sonia, is probably one of the best actors I know working. I had trouble finding Marisol. There were scenes that were hard for me to work on and Judy is the one I would go to to help me with scenes. She’s so giving, smart and talented. We run lines constantly in the hair and make-up trailer. It’s beyond fun.
What do you think is the most captivating thing about the show that will have people coming back week after week?
AO: I think there’s a lot of elements. The stories and the character development. All of the characters have such a crazy arch this season. If I wasn’t on the show I would definitely watch it. These maids are so unique.
How do you combat the critics who say the show is too stereotypical?
AO: I’m not really interested in combating them because I understand where they are coming from, so I can’t get mad at them. I am really welcoming of the conversation. I think anytime you will be talking about diversity or the lack there of in television is a good thing. I am also welcoming of it because I believe that this show is not what they think it is. It is not caricatures. I understand you don’t want us to be called maids, but they are incredible women with incredible lives. Just because a woman is a maid doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve to have their story told. It is also the reality of being a Latina in the United States. If the show is successful, it’s only going to open up more doors. We have Eva Longoria producing and two Latin women writing for the show. Eva is going to be directing next season, so we’re not just in front of the camera, but also behind the scenes. We’re running it and we are also the moral center of the show. I think the more faces of color you see on the TV the better…period. We feel a responsibility to our culture. We aren’t going to do anything crazy. I just hope people watch and then let’s keep talking. Mark Cherry listens to Eva a lot. He really respects her. People should tweet and give us ideas, but don’t yell from the mountain tops that you’re mad because of the name and never watched the show. Watch it and then talk to me about it. Anything else I really don’t have time for.
Are there any similarities between you and Marisol?
AO: Marisol is so difficult for me because she is actually a lot like me. It becomes that weird line of am I playing a character or am I playing myself? There are a lot of similarities. We’re both mothers and I’m pragmatic like her. Marisol is passionate, but not impulsive. I’m the same way. It’s weird to play a character you find so similar to yourself.
If you could describe the essence of the show in one word, what would it be?
AO: The Spanish word sabor, which means flavor. This show has a lot of new flavor that people have never seen before.
What’s you favorite color?
What’s your favorite pastime?
AO: Spending time with my children and traveling.
What’s you favorite getaway place?
AO: Puerto Rico
What’s your favorite TV show?
AO: Nashville, Smash and America’s Next Top Model.
Who are your favorite musicians?
AO: Prince, Marc Anthony, and Mariah Carey
What’s your favorite motto or mantra?
AO: I was raised on the belief that if you have your family around you then you have everything. I learned this from my grandmother. I also live by the three-day rule. Whatever happens to you in life, whether good or bad, you can’t react right away. You have to give yourself three days before you react. This rule has saved me numerous times!! (laughs)
Watch Ana Ortiz as Marisol every Sunday on Lifetime (Channel 252) at 10pm ET/9pm PT.