The moderator of the event was Bel Hernández, founder and publisher of industry publication Latin Heat. The chat took place at Hollywood Casting and Film, located in the heart of Hollywood. Among those in attendance were HOLA members from New York, HOLA members from California (including a former HOLA executive director), several HOLA awardees and many Friends of HOLA.
Bel and Marlene spoke about her beginning as a Cuban-born and Union City, New Jersey-raised child of immigrant parents and the eldest of three daughters who were all named after actresses (she was named after Marlene Dietrich) and how when she first experienced the footlights on stage in a school play as a ten year old, she knew she had to be an actress. However, she did not act on this desire until twenty years later (when her daughter and "best production" Giselle Rodríguez Forté was 10 years old). In between that time, she owned and operated a video store for six years (before the advent of Blockbuster Video).
She spoke on her studying, getting her first union gig (a commercial) and later becoming one of the founding members of the LAByrinth Theater Company. She starred in and co-produced the film Lena's Dreams (also starring David Zayas and Judy Reyes) and then moved in 1999 to Los Angeles to further her career. After doing two recurring roles on television series, she worked with Tony Plana at the East L.A. Classic Theater.
After venting her frustrations over the stereotypical roles she has gone up for (the Latina maid, the weepy mother) and still being asked where she is from (which is illegal under federal law), she also spoke on playing those characters if they had depth. She later worked with directors J.J. Abrams and Tyler Perry. She also went as far to say that the Latino community needed a "Latino Tyler Perry" and that person hasn't fully materialized yet (although director-producer Robert Rodríguez comes closest).
Bel asked her about working with Cynthia Cidre (the showrunner of the TNT series "Dallas") and her character Carmen Ramos. She fell in love with the character after reading the script and finding the character to be well-rounded and filled with humor, inner strength and resolve.
After the discussion, there was a question and answer session with a packed house of those in attendance. Forté gave her advice to a mother whose teenage daughter was interested in acting, as well as why she never "auditions". ("I don't go to do an audition; I play the scene. I go there and I play the scene. If I don't get the role, I at least was able to play the scene at that moment.")
Also, Marlene spoke of the importance of HOLA, which she credited as being invaluable and extremely important in her career. Bel added that she was quite pleased that HOLA has arrived on the West Coast and that the time is right for a unification of Latino performers nationwide, including a fully national directory of talent.
HOLA would like to thank many people for the enormous success of this event, including Delta Air Lines (whose kind sponsorship enabled HOLA to travel to Los Angeles), NALIP, Hollywood Casting and Film, Latin Heat, Fredonia Productions, Milly Bigay, Javier Márquez, Mónica Delgado, Sunny Vachher, Marco Páez, Octavio Marín, Louis Perego Moreno (Tío Louie), Beni Matías, Marisa Sarto, Miguel Mejía, Laura Patalano, Ayanery Reyes, Oliver Mayer, Bel Hernández, Marlene Forté and all those in attendance.
[Photos in this blog are by Marisa Sarto. To see more photos of this event, plus photos of the "unofficial official" afterparty, click here.]