Melissa DuPrey on Starring in Natasha Rothwell’s Present

Melissa DuPrey is an actor, comic, producer, musician, and playwright with roots in Chicago and Puerto Rico. Critically acclaimed for her work in theater — together with 5 full-length solo performs that spotlight the intersections of diasporic Blackness, queerness, therapeutic, liberation, and sexuality — Duprey now performs the Boriqua BFF reverse Natasha Rothwell in Hulu’s upcoming collection “How To Die Alone.” caught up along with her to debate her newest character, Tamika, in addition to Afro-Latina illustration in Hollywood. As she places it: “The way in which we inform tales as Latina folks, the way in which that we maintain house, the way in which that we fuse tradition and cooking and music, that is our storytelling.” How do you outline your id?

Melissa DuPrey: I am Puerto Rican and I am Black. I used to be raised by two very loving Puerto Rican mother and father with deep roots in each Puerto Rico and Chicago. Humboldt Park is the place I developed my id, the place I developed my voice, and the place I’ve cultivated neighborhood for a really very long time. I do not suppose folks know sufficient in regards to the material of our tradition as Puerto Ricans in Chicago. We do salsa and Motown. We’re very embedded within the Midwest tradition of simply being down-to-earth, and now we have a really particular blueprint.

“We are going to live on whether or not or not you make room for us.”

PS: How a lot had been you uncovered to Puerto Rican tradition whilst you had been raised in Chicago?

MD: My mother and father by no means spoke Spanish at residence; my abuela took me to Puerto Rico, and that is how I discovered Spanish. That is how I discovered about Puerto Rican tradition. My mother and father taught me about Chicago. We ate Jimmy’s hotdogs and we went to steppers golf equipment. They had been born on the island, however my dad has a Chicago accent and my mom raised me on Teena Marie and Anita Baker. Being Puerto Rican was the inspiration, not the backdrop, however I used to be raised in a multicultural neighborhood. I had a really lovely upbringing — my mother and father gave me comedy, wit, and a push for training. In addition they taught me I’m a wealth of chance.

Picture Supply: Lori Sapio

PS: How did you get your begin in performing?

MD: I used to be a theater main in school, and I am a classically skilled artist with eight years of Shakespeare below my belt, however there weren’t plenty of areas for somebody with my intersections till I discovered the all-Latina theater ensemble Teatro Luna. I’ve cultivated neighborhood in Chicago for a really very long time, and I used to be inspired to do solo exhibits, which I would by no means written earlier than. Over time, I developed a 45-minute piece, which turned “SEXomedy” — a hypersexual, rumpus, ruckus comedy. My mentor is John Leguizamo; my mentors are those who do standup comedy and theatricality and solo artwork. So, I took a comedy writing class and a standup class to make it even sharper. I used to be given a chance to carry out a set in entrance of 300 folks utilizing an excerpt of my solo present — and it was actually humorous. That is how I began making a reputation for myself.

PS: What have you ever discovered from John Leguizamo and his profession?

MD: Within the binary dialog round race in America, the Latina dialog doesn’t get centered. John Leguizamo was the primary theater individual I noticed utilizing comedy to flip racial stereotypes on their head. Earlier than I even noticed “Freak,” I understood what he was doing on a unconscious stage. It was the primary time I noticed my narrative, infusing soul meals and Black music into coming-of-age tales about being younger and Latino within the metropolis with immigrant mother and father. And his present got here on after “In Residing Coloration,” so he was a revolutionary at a time when Black programming was actually saying one thing by means of satire and comedy.

PS: How did you make the leap from theater to tv?

MD: I landed just a few theater gigs, and that acquired me illustration. I auditioned for pilot season after pilot season and by no means booked something, so I stayed in Chicago writing solo exhibits and performing standup.

Finally, I booked a one-line, one-day, costarring position on the final season of “Empire.” I would been making an attempt to get on the present for years. I used to be like, it is the final season and my final shot, and I am simply gonna do what I need. So, I mentioned my line after which I ad-libbed a Spanish rant. The director beloved it a lot that he saved it in my scene with Gabourey Sidibe. Then my one-day position was changed into an eight-episode recurring position. They’d by no means had an deliberately Afro-Latina character on the present. That was the primary time I spotted I’ve the ability to alter the narrative.

PS: And the way did taking part in an deliberately Afro-Latina character open doorways for you?

MD: My mom and I used to look at “Gray’s Anatomy” religiously, however I ended watching the present when she died. The monologues had been so fantastically written, and we acquired to witness Black and Brown girls like Sara Ramirez and Chandra Wilson say these genuine and highly effective phrases. There isn’t any purpose I ought to have even landed an audition as a result of they solely rent LA locals, however I did, and it was a mother-daughter narrative. I auditioned on a Wednesday, booked the position by Friday, and needed to be on set by Monday. I drove for 2 days by means of the mountains from Chicago to LA, and I felt my mom’s presence with me. She is working onerous as an ancestor for me. Taking part in Dr. Sara Ortiz on “Gray’s Anatomy” for 2 seasons was enormous within the sense of with the ability to symbolize for Afro-Latinas, as a result of after we see ourselves on TV, we consider we have made it.

“I’ve to claim my id as a Black Puerto Rican girl.”

PS: What frustrates you about being Afro-Latina in Hollywood?

MD: In Hollywood, I am what they name ethnically ambiguous, as a result of they do not know what they’re in search of. They do not journey the world. They do not know that anyone strolling round Chicago would take a look at me and say, that is a Puerto Rican lady proper there. I’ve a reputation that individuals wouldn’t peg as Latina, so I’ve to claim my id as a Black Puerto Rican girl. And I exploit my voice in a really explicit method.

I am not white. I am not Black sufficient. I am not a white-presenting Latina, so I do not even slot in inside my very own folks. There are Black Latinas on this business doing unbelievable issues, like Zoe Saldaña, Gina Torres, and Ariana DeBose — and extra unbelievable expertise coming. We have at all times been right here, we have at all times existed, and we’ll live on whether or not or not you make room for us.

PS: What excites you about your newest position on “Learn how to Die Alone”?

MD: I acquired pulled into this new mission so fantastically; Natasha handpicked us. She has such an amazingly particular voice to lend round Blackness, being a lady, and being labeled as plus-size. That is her present and she or he’s saying, “We want you and what you symbolize,” as a result of she is aware of that girls like me exist.

I am honored to carry an genuine voice to Tamika. We’re having the identical conversations onscreen that you’d have together with your homegirls. Tamika will say, “Are you aware you are divine? Are you aware you are lovely? Are you aware any man must be on his knees begging to have you ever?” She’s larger than life. And it is described as that Lizzo-style confidence the place you exist, not even unapologetically, however gloriously. I am already seeing how among the language is altering, how they’re leaning extra into utilizing Spanish and being Afro-centric. All my jewellery is Caribbean, and I am Black in Spanish, you already know?

PS: What nonetheless wants to alter with regards to Afro-Latina illustration in movie and TV?

MD: We’re dropping lovely exhibits, like “Gentefied,” “On My Block,” and “One Day at a Time.” Our exhibits do not get the respiratory room to do what has by no means been completed earlier than as a result of we’re not courageous sufficient to [embrace] artwork that defies the established order. If we’re not centering the counternarrative, we’re by no means going to revolutionize tv and humanize the lived experiences of the worldwide majority. I take into consideration the present “Atlanta,” there was no mannequin for that. There isn’t any different “Atlanta.”

We’ve got to have persistence, now we have to have funding, and now we have to have folks with imaginative and prescient. I believe what Natasha is doing is revolutionary. It is simple for a present to get pigeonholed when a Black girl is on the helm, however this can be a genre-bending and narrative-bending present. She shouldn’t be the primary, however she is considered one of few, and she or he is doing extremely inventive work in such a beautiful, fantastically human method.

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