Hi Erica, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’ve been well. We’re taking it day by day. Life has been a bit nuts all over but we are keeping our head above water so very grateful.
Prior to finding yourself in the California Institute of Arts – did you always want it to be an actress or were you rather drawn into this world?
Yes. An elementary school teacher of mine suggested my mom take me to a children’s theater audition because she noticed I was very theatrical during reading in class. She did and though I was flatly rejected from my first audition, my mom pushed me to give it another shot. Once I set foot on a stage, I sort of never looked back.
Having found some pretty big success on Broadway – how does these theater background influences your whole work as an actress?
I honestly don’t know how anyone comes to this profession without working on stage. It’s a master class in being in the moment and really the adrenaline of not being able to break. You’re there. The audience is there. You can’t yell cut. It sort of forces you to be where you are. That has been a major influence on me in all stages of my career. I’ve had some spectacular failures on stage and once you fall flat on your face on stage and get back up again – you kind of feel you can do anything.
Has it been easy for you to transit from theater to TV and film?
I remember my first audition for a TV project I was projecting to the back of the room and being very big and theatrical and actually, it was Felicia Fasano, she was so kind and sort of gently said – “that’s really great but you’re not on stage right now, the camera is right on your face. ” I laugh about it now. I was so big but that note made me go… yes, of course and I booked that role thanks to her not laughing me out of the room and giving me another shot!
Speaking of which, let’s talk about Long Gone By – what was the audition process like?
There wasn’t one. I had worked with the director on a Facebook web series as a producer. He actually went to film school with my husband and he wanted make a narrative film and knew he wanted to work with me. He wrote the movie with that in mind and cast me in with really no read at all. We did audition a lot of people for the role of Issy and ultimately ended up casting my niece to play the role.
What was it what draw your attention the most about the flick?
Initially, it was the desire to play a strong and complicated woman. Men always get to play complicated roles so it was sort of fun to get to step into the role of a good woman forced to make challenging decisions. Gradually, I dropped in a bit more to the connection between Issy and her mother. The bond between mother and child and the desire to do anything to make sure your children are cared for, it’s a powerful motivation.
As an actor, sometimes its much harder to play a rather restrained character that still delivers and comes as a powerhouse performance that shocks and strikes the audience, which I personally believe you did in here as Ana – how did you personally go on doing this? Especially coming from a theater background where you have to be much expressive.
That’s really kind of you to say. Thank you. Over the years, I have worked on being a bit more dropped in. I think theater acting is definitely bigger and more expressive because you have to play to a huge house but the concept is basically the same. Be where you are and tell the truth as best you can. The biggest hurdle for me is the imposter syndrome that has sort of plagued me my entire career. The feeling that I don’t belong. Once I took a breath and let myself be there, it all just happened very easily.
Did you draw inspiration from some personal experiences?
This project was particularly easy for me to connect to because my own mother worked so hard to get to where she is today. She clawed her way to a career and took care of 4 small children, largely by herself and did it was so much grace. I think I tried to connect with that part of the story. I have two kids so just trying to ground myself in her humanity and her maternal instincts and just let the rest go.
Things like a mother whose willing to do everything for her daughter it’s easier to visualize – but how did you go on working the much criminal aspect?
At the time, I tried to approach as a woman who has very little options and very little choice and is maybe making questionable choices but her motivations are pure and her desire not to hurt anyone are at her core. She’s sort of forced into this situation through no fault of her own. It was hard at first for me to imagine taking that route but I tried to justify it by saying, look, she is going to pay the ultimate price here and she tried everything else until she felt there were no options. When it’s suggested to her that this is a possibility, it’s an act of desperation.
What would you call the most challenging aspect of playing Anna?
Fighting the urge to break down constantly. I was very affected by this and honestly there are so few roles for Latinx women that it’s always gratifying to get to play a complicated woman but it’s also exhausting because there is so much trauma being explored and very little joy. That can be challenging.
When and where can people catch the film? It premiered on HBO Latino, is streaming on all HBO platforms and can be seen on iTunes and Amazon.
What else is happening next in Erica Muñoz’s world?
Very excited about launching an initiative to help Latinx actors with visibility. Also working on producing a film and anxiously awaiting the world opening up again.