Hot New Actress Has Fun With Dick And Jane
Written by Jon Minners
This holiday season when Bronx residents go to the movies, they may be surprised to see a familiar face. That’s right, the always stereotyped borough I call home continues to push past the “Bronx is Burning” stigma plaguing the Bronx since the late 70’s and 80’s when one of its’ own, Gloria Garayua, does her hometown proud by being featured prominently in Sony Pictures’ highly anticipated Christmas season release of Fun with Dick and Jane starring Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni.
“This is really a beautiful film; I was excited to be a part of it,” the young Bronxite mentions when thinking about the movie’s release this week. “To be part of a film with actors of the caliber of Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni; they were great to work with. Seeing myself on the big screen is totally weird, but when I saw my image up there with Jim Carrey, it is then that I realized that I came a long way. It’s a good feeling; a big accomplishment.”
But it all started in the Bronx, where the young Puerto Rican actress grew up on Fordham Road and University Avenue, attending Tolentine elementary school at the church where she also later volunteered her time. Garayua believes she always had an aptitude for acting, taking part in musical productions at school from the very start all the way until her high school years at St. Catharine’s school. When she decided to pick a major at Long Island University, acting seemed like the right choice to make.
“When I was younger, I wanted to be a veterinarian or a pediatrician, but I decided to try acting; I liked it and I was good at it,” said the humble and delightful actress, who says she felt inadequate in her first year at college, watching her classmates already enter the school with a number of professional credits underneath their belts. “But I trained and got better and ended up doing a lot of theater in New York.”
A true actress, Garayua crafted her trade in various on and off-Broadway, regional and national tours of productions, but did not have her Equity card and ended up not getting paid well for several jobs and working for free on several occasions; leading her to work four jobs at one point just to pay the bills. At one job, while looking online for various acting posts, she noticed a casting notice in San Diego looking for a young Latina who could pay the piano for a play entitled Two Sisters and a Piano. “I remember thinking, this is never going to happen, but I figured it was just a stamp and an envelope, so why not just send it out,” she said. “Three callbacks later and I landed the part."
The Bronxite ended up packing a suitcase and two boxes and heading to California where she did the play before moving to Los Angeles. Actresses commonly demonstrate their talent by acting in a showcase and Garayua was no different, actually going above and beyond to prove herself and receiving an agent within two weeks as a reward for her persistence. “In New York, it is so competitive and I couldn’t get an agent to sign me,” she recalls. “I did an agent with 30 other actors; it was a seven-day long intensive workshop from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and I was one of 30 actors to land an agent.”
Theater has really been good to Garayua. She recently a part in the Mark Taper Forum adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, which opened on November 19, but movies and television were lying in wait. Last year, in a miraculous moment, Garayua booked her first audition attempt for the part of Blanca, the nanny of the couple played by Carrey and Leoni in Fun With Dick and Jane. “I guess the stars were just aligned,” she said. “It was a great experience. Jim Carrey was so great. He really welcomed me when we officially met. He said, ‘you’re Gloria – you’re hysterical.’ Isn’t that cool?”
Working with Carrey was a great experience, according to Garayua. “I did some improv scenes with him that were really intense,” she said. “He is just so great to work with. People expect me to say that he is a ham, but he is really very cool and easy to talk to between takes. He’s not the kind of actor that cannot be bothered. He is very approachable and he made it very easy for me to fit in.”
Since her experience with Fun With Dick and Jane, Garayua has also been seen on NBC's Joey; HBO’s Six Feet Under, FX’s The Shield; Lifetime’s Strong Medicine and ABC’s NYPD Blue. But Garayua’s star is shining brighter than ever right now, as Fun With Dick and Jane opened nationwide on Wednesday, December 21. The film, a remake of the 1977 classic, starring George Segal and Jane Fonda; follows Dick and Jane who are in love and living the American dream--until one day it becomes an American nightmare. When the company Dick works for becomes involved in an Enron-like scandal and he takes the rap, Dick and Jane are forced with the prospect of losing everything. After playing by the rules and getting burned, Dick has an idea: If stealing was good enough for his boss, then it's good enough for him. Using his newfound skills, he and Jane decide to exact hilarious revenge and teach big business a lesson.
“I really enjoyed my role,” she said. “I play Blanca, who becomes more than a nanny to Dick and Jane’s children. I become part of the family, sort of adopted by the family. I am not a stereotype and I was proud of that. They didn’t write her that way. They made her a well-respected character that Dick and Jane turn to for advice. When they start robbing, they lose sight of what is important to them; their son and I step in and become a surrogate mother.”
Although the film appears to be an uproarious comedy, Garayua states that the film is very heart touching; even containing a scene where Carrey cries, showing a very tender side, which she believes will give the audience something to really identify with. Those that see it will have much more to see when the DVD is released next year. A number of Garayua’s scenes were cut out along with a number of other stars to fit the director’s vision of the film, a decision Garayua agrees with, but those scenes will most likely make the bonus features of the DVD.
Now that one movie has been completed, Garayua plans for the future, taking part in pilot season for future fall television projects, hoping to land a movie that will force her to change physically to meet the character’s needs, a la Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby and a possible return to New York. “I would love to go back and do theater in New York,” she said. “I miss the energy of New York and when my family came down here for the premiere of the film, I got really teary eyed when they left.”
Although she loves being independent and loves living in Los Angeles, Garayua has fond memories of the Bronx and is proud of her upbringing, looking to give back now that she has made it. “I want to be a role model,” she said. “It means so much to people when someone from their own neighborhood makes it and when someone from a minority makes it. There are young girls who want to be in the industry and they can see me; someone who isn’t super-thin or super-fat, who use perseverance and persistence to make it. It’s the only way to go. I want to represent the Bronx in a good light; do the best work I can and hope I inspire people along the way.”