Monday, April 25, 2011

Betcha Didn't Know...?

Some of the most notable names from the dawn of film and television are of Latino descent. Here are some of them.

In this edition, some Latinos who have often played by and are often assumed to be strictly Caucasians.

Jamie-Lynn Sigler (1981- ) is an actress and singer. She is best known for her role as Meadow Soprano on the HBO television series "The Sopranos." Born in Queens, New York, U.S.A., to a Sephardic Jewish father of Greek and Romanian parentage and a Cuban mother. She grew up in Jericho, Long Island, New York, and began acting and singing at age 7. In addition to her role on "The Sopranos," she has played Belle on Broadway in Beauty and the Beast. Film and television credits include playing Heidi Fleiss in the USA television movie "Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss," Wake, Extreme Dating, Lovewrecked, Homie Spumoni, "Entourage," "How I Met Your Mother," "Saturday Night Live" and "Ugly Betty." In 2001, she released a pop album called Here to Heaven, which featured pop songs, of which three were in Spanish.

Fred Armisen (1966- ), born Alfredo Armisen in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, U.S.A., is an actor, comedian and musician best known for his work as a cast member on "Saturday Night Live." He moved to New York as a child. He was born to a Venezuelan mother and a German-Japanese mother. He attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City before dropping out to begin a career as a rock drummer. He began his career in 1988 when he moved from New York to Chicago to play drums for the punk rock band Trenchmouth. In the 1990s, he played drums with the Blue Man Group in Chicago. His television appearances on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," as well as work for "Crank Yankers" and "Adult Swim" led in 2002 to a role as a featured player on "Saturday Night Live." In the 2004 season, he was promoted to a repertory cast member. He has landed several minor and supporting roles in comedy films such as Eurotrip, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Deck the Halls, The Ex, The Promotion, The Rocker and Confessions of a Shopaholic. With Carrie Brownstein, he is the co-creator and co-star of IFC sketch series "Portlandia." He has played numerous recurring characters on "Saturday Night Live." Some of his impressions include political figures such as Barack Obama, Hugo Chávez, Vicente Fox, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Barney Frank, George H.W. Bush, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak and NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg. He has also impersonated celebrities such as Martin Scorsese, Desi Arnaz, Corbin Bleu, Sam Waterston, Joy Behar, George Carlin, Howie Mandel, Liberace, Larry King, Penny Marshall, David Lee Roth, Gene Simmons, Lawrence Welk, Paul Lynde, Randy Newman, John Oates (of Hall and Oates) and Ice-T.

Ian Gómez (1964- ) is an American actor best known for his comedic TV work, the most notable of which are his series-regular stints as Javier on "Felicity" and Andy on "Cougar Town." He was born in New York, New York, U.S.A., to to a Puerto Rican father and a Russian Jewish mother. His father was an artist and his mother was a dancer. On "The Drew Carey Show," he played Larry Almada, a co-worker of the title character at Winfred-Louder. He has also worked with Drew Carey on the show "Whose Line is it Anyway?" On "Curb Your Enthusiasm," he played the "bald chef," who the main character (Larry) hired to cook in the restaurant he co-owned. From 1998-2002, he played Javier Clemente Quintata on the hit WB show "Felicity." He has numerous film and television credits. He is married to actress-writer Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame; the two can be seen together in the film Connie and Carla. They have a daughter.

Carlos Alazraqui (1962–) is an actor, stand-up comedian, impressionist and voice actor. He is best known for his role as Deputy James Oswaldo García on the Comedy Central series "Reno 911!" His voiceover work includes the role of Bobbi Fabulous on "Phineas and Ferb," Denzel Q. Crocker and Juandissimo Magnífico on "The Fairly OddParents!," Rocko on "Rocko's Modern Life," Lazlo in "Camp Lazlo" and Jonathan Weed on "Family Guy." He is best known, however for being the voice of the Taco Bell Chihuahua. He was born in Yonkers, New York, U.S.A., to Argentinian parents. Not only did he play Deputy James Oswaldo García in the mockumentary series "Reno 911!" for five seasons (2003–2008), he played the same role in the series' spinoff film, Reno 911! Miami. He has numerous film (including voiceover work for animate films) and television credits.

Joanna Kerns (1953- ), born Joanna Crussie de Varona Smith al estilo latino in San Francisco, California, U.S.A., is an actress and director best known for her role as Maggie Seaver on the family situation comedy Growing Pains from 1985-1992. Born to a Mexican-American father and an American mother of Irish heritage, she was a competitive swimmer and gymnast. Her older sister, Donna de Varona is a famed Olympic gold medal swimmer, who won two gold medals in the 1964 Olympics. Their aunt is silent film actress Miriam Cooper. She got her start in show business as a dancer before turning to acting. She attended UCLA and majored in dance. It was here where she saw an advertisement for a Gene Kelly production called Clown Around. She nabbed the part and dropped out of college to move to New York. Afterwards, she won parts in the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of Two Gentlemen of Verona and Ulysses in Nighttown where she was directed by Burgess Meredith. In 1972, she moved back to California and landed a job as a backup dancer at Disneyland and started going on auditions for TV commercials and steady acting jobs. During the late 1970s and early 1980s she turned heads and started making a name for herself in guest spots on many televisions shows that included "The A-Team" "Starsky & Hutch," "Laverne and Shirley," "Three's Company," "Hill Street Blues," "The Love Boat," "V," "Hunter" and "Magnum, P.I." as well as many commercials. She auditioned for and booked "Growing Pains" in 1984. During her time on the television show, she also acted in the television movies, "The Nightman," "Those She Left Behind," "Blind Faith," "Shameful Secrets" and "No One Could Protect Her." At the conclusion of the series, she turned to directing as well as acting. She has directed episodes of television shows including "Dawson's Creek," "Titans," "Scrubs," "Private Practice," "Psych," "Grey's Anatomy," "ER," "Ghost Whisperer" and "Army Wives." Feature film appearances include A*P*E; Girl, Interrupted; and Knocked Up. Her last name comes from her first husband Richard Kerns. She is currently married to Marc Appleton and has a daughter.

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