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December 2004
Spanglish: An Interview with Paz Vega

Spanglish: An Interview with Paz Vega

By Todd Gilchrist

Paz Vega's name is one you don't yet know, but with her star-making performance in the upcoming James L. Brooks movie "Spanglish", that's all about to change. In the film, she plays a proud Mexican mother who moves to the United States to take care of her daughter (played by newcomer Shelbie Bruce) and winds up working for a dysfunctional Southern California family (played by Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, Cloris Leachman, Sarah Steele, and Ian Hyland). In this recent interview with blackfilm.com, Vega describes the process by which she herself came to the states, learned English, and began her takeover of Hollywood.

You and Shelby, who plays your daughter, seem to have a good rapport with one another.

Paz: She has a natural way, she's a kid and she's great- she's a fantastic little woman and actress. It was very interesting to work with kids. I never worked with kids before and it was very interesting. Sometimes, you know, kids get tired and blah, blah, blah and I would say Œshh, shut up!' Like a mother. ŒShow some respect!'

Other than the language, what made this process different than filming in Spain?

Paz Vega: To work in another language?

No what were the differences of doing a movie here and doing one in Spain?

P: Oh, the differences. Living in another city and not knowing anybody, sometimes I feel alone and it's difficult. But in the film, on set, it's the same. I just have to learn some lines, cause of the English.

You were actually learning English while you were doing the film, right.

P: Uh huh.

What was the best way for you to learn English?

P: When I was shooting I just talked with people, because I didn't have time to have classes after the shoot, it was impossible. Now I'm taking a class here in LA, with a teacher. And talking, it's the best way. Watching TV. Now I understand, in the beginning I watched TV and I couldn't understand.

You still live in Spain?

P: Yes.

And you're just here for this? Do you come to LA often?

P: Oh, yes, yes. Now for the press junket. I'm learning EnglishŠbefore the movie I'd never been here, just ten days for a vacation with my husband, but I'd never been here. But now, in the last year, I spent more time here than in Spain. I was here for one year.

Was it difficult for you to play a different kind of Latina, somebody from Mexico, not Spain? Did you have to study Mexican culture?

P: No because the Spanish and Mexican cultures are very similar. The Latin cultures are the same. What I had to learn was the accent.

You speak Castillian?

P: Yeah, Castillian, with the zzzsŠ

Do you ever turn down drinks when they're sent to you in a bar, like your character does?

P: Drinks? Here in LA? You know, I didn't have time to go out. But if someone invites me, I'll accept.

But you're married.

P: Oh, but that's no problem. Why not? OK, I'll drink coffee. I practice English. Oh, my husband came back, OK (laughter)

How familiar were you with Adam and Tea before you were working on the film and what was it like to work with them?

P: With Adam the work was funny, really really funny. The mood and the crew on set was always great, because this movie is a comedy and all the cast, they are so funny. Adam, you know, is funny, all the time joking and making us laugh. Tea, she's fantastic, she, in the movie, every time cryingŠbut not, she's amazing, like a clown, hilarious. Um, Cloris is the best. She has a lot of energy. To me, it's ironic.

What's your version of the story about your husband that she was telling earlier?

P: Oh, no! It's a private story! (laughter)

Have you been married since before you started acting?

P: No, I have been married for three years.

Is he another actor?

P: No, no, no. He's not.

How do you work so well with children?

P: It's interesting, at the same time it's difficult. Somebody in Spain said that you should never work with kids or with animals because it is very, very hard. And this movie, kids and animal and it was great. No problem. I loved working with kids because the energy is great.

Do you have kids in your life now?

P: Yes, cousins. Now, many friends of my generation are pregnant or have kids.

But how much time do you spend with their young kids?

P: Every weekend, for example, go to the pool, with the kids in the pool..yeah weekends. Sometimes. Weekends.

Do you understand Flor's insistence on preserving her culture even though she was in another country?

P: Yes, of course. I think it is important to maintain your personality, your roots, very important. In my case it's very important. And I have a Latin or European lifestyle, whatever you want. The interesting is to mix this culture with another culture and not cut things out.

She was resisting to thisŠ(can't hear) for six yearsŠ

P: Yeah, many people. I had an the opportunity to meet many women from Mexico, living here for 13 years, she doesn't speak English. This is the extreme. But I think, here for example in LA, the minority is very big, it's not a minority. It's normal that people everyday talk to Spanish speakers.

What do you like best about America and what do you like the least?

P: Ay, America, I like the spirit. Because American people here believe in something. I like that spirit.

And not like?

P: I don't know, I don't know. Well, for example, the fast food it's terrible. it's not the food because here the food can be great, but the normal, fries, (can't understand), when you are here you have to think, no I don't want to eat that.

Another young woman came from Spain not too many years ago. Penelope Cruz, she came here and because very much an American actress. Now are you looking to do that, to follow that or are you going to make this movie, go back to Spain?

P: I don't know. This is my third Hollywood movie. And I'm reading very good scripts and I'm very open to proposals.

Are you afraid of that kind of exposure, I mean, PC fell into the fame trap in a way, are you afraid at all of what that does to people at all?

P: No, no, I don't worry about that because I don't doŠwhat I like is to live in spain and work here, it's not mineŠI think now is just the plane, is just work those hours, sleep and that's it, when you wake up you are here. I would like to maintain my home in Spain.

What are your plans for the holidays?

P: Some place in central America. Costa Rica for the holidays. Vacation and that's it. With my, my birthday.

When is that?

P: Jan. 2.

You don't have family and the holidays together?

P: This year it's very difficult because everyone is working. My mother is working in Barcelona with my sister. My father is in Sevilla, my mother in law is in Šit's likeŠand this year I said, just bikini, towel and that's it. Oh and coconuts.

What do they do in all those different places, what work?

P: My sister is in the theater. My mother was in the same company. My father is a (can't hear word) and he can travel, he will travel to Barcelona. Yeah.

Their names?

P: My sister is Sara, my mother is Paz, like me and my father is Manuel (this is not clear, guys), and my husband is Orson, like Orson Welles.

Is he British?

P: Venezuelan

How did you meet?

P: In vacation, three years ago in an island in Spain. It was love at first sight. And he's great.

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