In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
As Detective Rosa Diaz, Stephanie Beatriz is the no nonsense, hardass character on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. But as anyone who’s talked to her—or seen her appearances in movies like Short Term 12 or the new Pee-wee’s Big Holiday—can attest, that’s not her, but a testament to her abilities as an actor to transform. The Argentine-born actress doesn’t have a thing for knives, as far as she lets on, and she’s more likely to extol the virtues of Dolly Parton than she is to revel in mashing some scumbag’s face into the pavement. The A.V. Club found out how into Parton she is—plus a few more tidbits—when we asked Beatriz our 11 Questions.
Stephanie Beatriz: “Why do you think people are so surprised when they meet you and you’re nothing like the characters you play?”
The A.V. Club: Your actual speaking voice is very different than Rosa, for one.
SB: I don’t know where it comes from, but if you are watching something or listening to something, you really want to go on that journey, and I think people just buy into the journey. They see an actor outside of the world that they were into that actor in, and it’s sort of discombobulating. I think that that’s probably what it is.
Even as an actor, there’s people that you see and you’re like, “Holy shit, it’s weird to see them at Target,” or whatever. Do you know what I mean? That’s usually more like, “It’s weird that she’s an actual human being that breathes and has to use the bathroom,” especially when I think about Reese Witherspoon or Meryl Streep or somebody like that. But I’m not on that. With me, people are like, “Why don’t you sound like Rosa?”
SB: Kitten. Kitten. Easy. Kitten. Soft, cuddly, also terrifying.
AVC: And it’s an eternal kitten? It would never age into a full cat?
SB: Oh yeah. It would be like Clifford, the big red dog, but a kitten that never gets older and is super cute and cuddly. Adorable.
AVC: It could also mess someone up if it needed to.
SB: And it can bypass all traffic, yeah.
AVC: Why those three? Or four.
SB: All of them have really great female protagonists except for maybe Bullets Over Broadway. But when I watch Bullets Over Broadway, I think of it as not quite the male character’s journey. Even though it sort of is the male character’s journey, I think of the female characters much more often.
All four of them exist in their own little world. I love stories that exist in this amped-up, personal world—sort of like Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, actually. That world really only exists inside that movie, but what a wonderful little world it is. I love movies that do that.
AVC: Mean Girls has become this whole quotable trope.
SB: Totally. It’s part of the cultural language now. “You go, Glen Coco.” Before that movie, what does that mean? Nothing. “Danny DeVito, I love your work!” Oh my God, all of it.
SB: As a kid, I really, truly believed that if you swallowed a watermelon seed, something really bad was going to happen.
AVC: Like one was going to grow in your stomach or you were going to become part watermelon?
SB: Something was going to grow, but where was it going to go? Where were the tendrils going to come out? It was going to be really bad. It wasn’t going to be a tidy situation.
AVC: Same thing with cherry pits?
SB: It was specifically watermelon seeds. As a child, when you’re eating watermelon, it’s so easy to accidentally swallow one because you’re a little monster and you’re gobbling down delicious, cold slices of watermelon. Versus a cherry where, even as a child, you were probably okay enough to eat around the cherry pit. You could probably do it if you had a modicum of manners.
AVC: Whereas watermelon—
SB: You’re just a little barbarian scarfing your way through it, accidentally eating a bunch of seeds in the process and then staying up all night thinking about whether there was going to be a tendril growing out of your butt.
SB: Oh, that I’m married! I think that’s so funny. Wikipedia says I’m married, but I’m definitely not. Wikipedia says I’m married to a good friend of mine, actually, which is extra funny.
AVC: And you’ve never been married to that person?
SB: No, I’ve never been married to that person. He’s great, though. He’s a really wonderful actor. We acted together in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. He was Brick. He’s fantastic. He’s playing Hamlet this year at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. But we’re definitely not married.
AVC: Maybe you don’t remember. There could have been some sort of Las Vegas thing.
SB: Yeah, no. No possibility.
SB: I pretty much stick to very safe situations. Weird stuff, for me, is not that weird. I guess if it were other people, they’d think it was weird. I eat nutritional yeast. And sometimes I take clay shots to help pull toxins out of my body. I eat weird L.A. food, so I guess that’s probably weird in other people’s eyes.
AVC: What’s a clay shot?
SB: You know an alcohol shot? This is a shot—different health food stores will have different ones, but it’s basically a shot of different types of dirt mixed with water, so you literally taste and feel the clay. Then you ingest it, and the idea that the type of dirt in the clay is supposed to help with your blood stream, digestive track. It’s a very hippie-dippie thing here in L.A., and it’s very much something I’ve done.
SB: I was kind of a late bloomer on that one. I think the first concert I ever went to was maybe a Five Iron Frenzy concert or something when I was in high school. I didn’t really go as a kid or anything.
AVC: You don’t hear a lot about Five Iron Frenzy these days.
SB: No. That was a very specific era of time when Five Iron Frenzy was really hitting it big.
SB: I’m glad to see on a first-hand basis how both Andre Braugher and Andy Samberg work. They’re both pretty esteemed in both of their fields, respectively—comedy-slash-dramatic acting work. And I’ve gotten to be witness to their work daily and have been a collaborator in our work together. That’s been the most astounding thing, to do that on a regular basis. It’s really the opportunity of a lifetime.
AVC: This one might tie into attending that Five Iron Frenzy concert.
SB: Yeah, totally. I’m not necessarily embarrassed by it, but looking back at the clothes, I can see that this was not my most shining fashion moment, that period of high school where I was definitely what I consider “straight edge.” I wore JNCOs and little boy’s T-shirts that I found at the Goodwill and Vans and arms full of what we called “candy,” which were plastic bracelets. I wore a lot of ball chain necklaces, cut my hair super-duper short—it was, like, Halle Berry short. I was really rocking a very distinct look at the time.
AVC: Do you know Natalie Morales from The Grinder? When she did this interview, she also said she went through something similar with tiny shirts and JNCOs.
SB: Oh my God. We must discuss this the next time I see her. That’s funny. We probably would have been good friends in high school.
SB: Yes! When I was probably in junior high, maybe right before junior high, I stole a Maybelline lipstick that was tangerine-colored and I wanted it so badly but I did not have the money for it. I just slipped it into my pocket and walked out of the Wal-Mart and that was it. I remember I put it in a drawer and it just sat there because I was so afraid to wear it because it was this beautiful, bright tangerine color that I was sure, if someone asked me about it, I’d burst into tears, “I stole it! I’m so sorry!” So I could never wear it.
SB: Well, I almost met her—Dolly Parton. Somehow I managed to get in to go see her sing at Rockefeller Center—You know how they sing for the Today show there? I got tickets to that and then, on the way in, they funneled us to this little tiny hallway and she had been doing an interview. She was maybe an arm’s length away from me. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t speak because it was Dolly Parton and I’m such a big, huge fan of hers. I couldn’t say anything!
AVC: What could you say?
SB: I know! For Dolly Parton, it would just be, like, “Thank you for existing.” How do you even like—“Thank you for being amazing and incredible and saving millions of lives through your incredible work magic”? I was just trying to be normal.
Bonus question from Rick Springfield: Do you believe Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole shooter in the Kennedy assassination?
SB: Oh lord. I do not have a strong opinion one way or another. But, if given more time, I think I would get very into researching my own research about it.
AVC: What do you want to ask the next person, not knowing whom you’re asking?
SB: What’s one major change that you could make in your daily life that could affect either the people around you or humanity in a good way that you don’t do? And why? Something that you know you could change about your life or your daily whatever that would benefit either you, the people around you or the world, but you don’t do? And then why don’t you do it?
AVC: Do you have an answer?
SB: Mine is not always recycling my plastic stuff. Sometimes I don’t do it either because of laziness or I’m like, “I don’t have enough time,” but honestly, most of the time, I do have time to rinse that out and put it in the recycling.
It’s weird, the minute you ask yourself that question, you start doing the thing that you weren’t doing. Because you’re like, “Oh shit, it’s not really that hard.”