Stephanie Beatriz’s alter ego Rosa Diaz enlivens the Golden Globe-winning sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine every week. She’s a tough, get-to-the-point detective with sharp one-liners that unnerves her co-workers while endearing her to detective Charles Boyle (played by Joe Lo Truglio), an awkwardly smitten co-worker. When one speaks to Beatriz, however, she is quite different—charming, friendly, and as witty as Rosa without the edge. There is a lovable side to Diaz that is extracted from Beatriz’s own personality, as the Aquarian learned when we spoke to her just prior to the beginning of the new season.
I understand that you’re a trained Shakespearean actor?
Yes. I did go to college to study theater, and then I was lucky enough to do a lot of classical theater in my professional career.
What has been your favorite role in the theater?
My favorite role is from an American classic—Maggie in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. That’s one of my favorite things that I’ve ever done. All those [major] roles—Maggie, Brick, and Big Daddy—are dreamy, dreamy roles.
Does your classical theater training help you to maintain your composure and not crack up on the set of Brooklyn Nine-Nine?
I would say it definitely helps. It’s all happening live, so you’re performing in front of an audience. Not only are they there—number one, you don’t want to embarrass yourself—but if you think about it, theater has become this really big deal. It’s not something that you do on a regular basis. It’s like a night out to go to the theater. Broadway shows are expensive tickets, so as a performer you think to yourself, “This is somebody’s event.” As a performer I want to do my absolute best that I can every night for them because I’m going to do this again this week, but this person is probably never going to see this play again. When you think about it that way, you never crack up laughing. It’s not an option. It is really good training for [a sitcom].
I will say though that once in a while to crack up at something somebody else is doing, when it’s in a good moment—you don’t want to ruin a take—sometimes you can crack up at the end of a take and it’s so joyful and such a great release. There are so many funny people on this show. Yesterday I was doing a scene with Melissa Fumero and Terry Crews, and [with] the two of them together I was dying laughing, and I was in the background. Luckily I could release the laughter at the end of each take—it was just so funny. It would be too hard if I didn’t have that pressure release.
Let’s talk about your recent movie, Short Term 12.
Yeah, it’s on Netflix now! Short Term 12 was written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who is an amazing writer-director, and the film won the jury prize at South By Southwest, which is how it started getting a little more buzz. It’s a really great story about this girl Grace, who is played by Brie Larson. Brie plays a counselor at a housing facility for young adults who are “troubled.” They’re kids that can’t be in foster care because they’re either too violent or need more psychiatric care. They’re in this home that is supposed to be short-term, girls and boys, all teenagers. They all go to school there and also have therapy there, and they have these counselors that are there with them 24/7 to make sure that they’re not hurting themselves or other people. Brie’s character Grace has a really deep connection with quite a few of the kids—one in particular, a young woman who is struggling with abuse—and it makes Grace reflect on the abuse that she herself suffered.
It’s gotten amazing, amazing reviews. It sounds sad, but it’s uplifting and fun and funny. It’s not maudlin and is such a great story because it’s hard to watch, except it’s not hard at all. You get swept up into those people’s lives so quickly that it’s not one of those movies that you have to sit through to the end of it. You don’t want it to end. You want to see more about them. You want to make sure they’re all okay because you fall in love with them. I have a very small role in it, so I feel comfortable saying it’s amazing. It’s not due in any part to me.
You lived in New York but made the transition to L.A. What was that like?
I was ready. When I did move to L.A., it was the right time for me. I wanted something a little slower. I just can’t keep up with the pace in New York, that heartbeat is the real thing. Everyone’s just moving, moving, moving towards the thing that they’re chasing, and it doesn’t fit me anymore.
New York and L.A. both have their benefits. But New York is getting outrageously expensive, whereas L.A. is still somewhat affordable.
L.A. is totally affordable. You can live within your means. It’s amazing. Compared to New York, what I was able to get for where I live…it’s like a different world because space is so limited in New York.
I do have to say that the traffic in L.A. drives me nuts. I only really enjoy driving in that city at night.
I have to say that the Uber phenomenon has exploded in the last year and a half. It’s been really great for that because if you don’t want to drive, you just call an Uber, get in, and it takes you to that fabulous restaurant. You don’t have to park—call an Uber when you’re done and go right home. And you can have a glass of wine with dinner.
How affordable and how safe is that?
It’s totally affordable. It’s just like taking a cab in New York. You don’t want to do it every night of the week, but you could budget it in. If trying a new restaurant across town is important to you and you don’t want the hassle of driving for 40 minutes or an hour, it’s totally doable. It’s super safe because you call them on your phone, so there’s a record of your call, of where you are, who your driver is, everything. The service is not bad actually.
I did have a driver who was kind of shifty. He was fine, but he wanted me to look up how to get there on my phone. I asked if something was wrong with his GPS, but he wanted me to tell him how to get there. I was sitting in the back of the car thinking, “If I wanted to figure out how to get there, I would’ve driven myself.” So I told him, and as we were driving there, I realized he was not always checking his blind spots. I got kind of nervous. It’s kind of weird to tell a stranger that they’re not checking their blind spots. It’s your life [in their hands]. I went, “Sir, do you need help checking your blind spots? I notice that you’re not really checking them.” He was like, “No, no, I’m checking them, I’m checking them.” Afterwards, I wrote Uber a note that this wasn’t my usual experience, and they wrote back within a day [and apologized] and gave me a coupon for another ride. Very nice.
That’s when your inner Rosa Diaz can come out.
She doesn’t come out very often. In real life, I can’t bring myself to be rude most of the time. Sometimes it happens, but most of the time it hurts me to be rude to someone else because you never know what is happening with them that day. It might be a pain in your ass, but you just have no idea. It’s just better to err on the side of trying to be nice than exploding in somebody’s face and them saying, “My dog died this morning, so thanks for being a bitch.”
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Sunday nights at 8:30 p.m. on Fox. For more information on the show, go to fox.com/brooklyn-nine-nine. For more on Stephanie Beatriz’s 2013 film, ShortTerm 12, go to shortterm12.com.