Interview with LAURA GÓMEZ | LIFE is PLAYFUL and FUN
We, human beings, are inherently filled with joy and happiness. As children, we are endlessly curious about the world. We are completely aligned with our emotional and physical state of being. We spend our days dreaming and we never consider the possibility that we could not accomplish our dreams. As we grow older, we become more influenced and focused on our environment, we learn responsibilities and often forget how playful and fun life can be. However, the source of pure appreciation which inspired us as children is always within us. Hence, we always have the ability to reconnect with our inner source and see the world for its infinite potential.
Laura Gómez is an accomplished actress, writer, and director who works in the United States and the Dominican Republic. She tells us, “I attempt to approach the work as a child pretending to be a superhero. Sometimes as adults we lose that playfulness, even punishing ourselves by being too self-critical, and so in those hard times, I try to remember how joyful it all used to be when I was a kid, and consciously go there every time I can.”
In this exclusive interview, discover Laura’s passion for storytelling and inspiring outlook on life…
Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Laura Gómez?
Laura Gómez is a determined, passionate, smart and complex woman who loves her artistic path although at times is at odds with an industry that confuses craft with marketing and a society that pressures women and limits our possibilities with impossible conditioning, so while navigating all these contrasts I try my best to enjoy life to its fullest.
Originally from the Dominican Republic, you moved to the United States at the age of 21. In what ways do both cultures inform your sense of identity?
I do have two cultures which I welcome and embrace. My upbringing in the Dominican Republic during my formative years brings this lively, intense, passionate side, while the other half of my life in New York has brought me the gift of awareness when it comes to the world and its beautiful diversity. I’m also as critical of both places as I am loving of them. They both have taught me a lot about the many phases of my life and my personality.
You have acted in both the Dominican and American entertainment industries. How does the experience of navigating between both of them has added to your professional and personal growth?
It has always been my dream to establish myself professionally in the U.S. and then have New York and Santo Domingo as my base. It took many years for that to become a reality. I mean, lots of sweat, tears and almost giving up acting before I booked Orange is the New Black which opened the doors for me, including the industry in my own country. The experience here in the U.S. is that it takes longer to find roles that are not too stereotypical while in the Dominican Republic I get to play around and interpret characters a little bit more out of the box. The film “Sambá” where I played a Boxing gym owner made it to the Tribeca Film Festival and I just finished shooting a very promising film called Sunshine where I interpret the role of a sexual worker who is in charge of her own path. It’s all very exciting because it was always my goal to work in both the U.S. and Latin America.
You are well known for your portrayal of Blanca Flores on Orange is the New Black. The seventh and final season of this wildly popular show premiered on July 26, 2019, on Netflix. How does it feel to be closing this chapter of your career?
It’s been a bit surreal but I am so grateful to have been a part of this wonderful universe created by a woman, the visionary Jenji Kohan. I have learned so much about my craft, a very flawed prison system, the TV industry and now that it’s all over I feel quite privileged to have played a role in amplifying the topic of immigration while portraying a character that had such an amazing growth in her storyline and her arc throughout the show to the point of becoming a fan favorite this season.
In the beginning, Blanca is misunderstood. Yet, it is revealed that she is really incredibly intelligent and cunning. She transforms emotionally and physically through the show and becomes a strong presence in the prison. Can you describe your process in becoming Blanca and how your approach has changed over the seasons?
The physical transformation happened with the help of a wonderful hair and make-up departments, not to mention utilizing all the years of movement and dance classes to help physicalize her, and then we have amazing writers who eventually were “making music” for us, so I’ve interpreted Blanca Flores with the same playful approach throughout all the seasons, letting my temperament come out through her experiences.
Blanca is also very resourceful throughout the series. From hiding the cellphone to manipulating Bennett and starting a peaceful protest among the inmates. What do you think drives Blanca to persist in being a true tour-de-force when the prison environment is so oppressive?
I think Blanca is a force of nature and kind of a rebel with a sense of justice, which is just in her blood.
The sixth season of Orange is the New Black ended on a dramatic and emotional note when Blanca was unexpectedly taken into ICE custody when she was finally released and reunited with her boyfriend Diablo. Immigration is a prominent topic in American society and there is a lot of controversy surrounding it – what was the process of taking on telling this story from your professional and personal perspective?
That finale, as well as season seven, were pretty intense on a personal level. I simply allowed the current climate and the reality that I see around me take over. I trusted the writing and used my own anxieties around these issues to confront what this character is going through. I think we all knew we had a huge opportunity and a responsibility to do our best to communicate this harsh and sad reality we’re living through.
You will be seen in a number of upcoming film projects in the Dominican Republic, including the film Sunshine. How does it feel working in your home country again?
I mentioned it before with excitement because I think writer/director Juan Bisonó made a magical film. Sunshine is a type of movie that has not been done in Santo Domingo, from the story to the unique cinematography by Dominican native Sebastián Chelin. Not only did I work in my country again, but we actually shot the entire film at night time next to the beach in the beautiful town of Las Terrenas, a place I personally believe has seven lives. It was a wonderful experience, a bit surreal. Makes me want to continue my journey of splitting my time and work between the U.S. and DR.
You have a background in acting in several plays, including Doña Flor and Her Two Husbands and The House of the Spirits. Do you bring any aspects of your experience on stage to your on-screen career and vice-versa?
For sure. The approach to the work is the same, the main difference is the medium, screen or stage. I like bringing the discipline of the theater to film and TV, and there’s a relaxed state that you acquire when working in a show for a long time that I try to maintain on stage and so on.
WRITING AND DIRECTING
Now, you are directing a feature and a short film in the Dominican Republic which you also wrote. How was your desire to expand your presence into writing and directing born?
This interest showed before OITNB came to my life, from a feeling of frustration regarding my acting job. I love acting but I think sometimes it can be a very passive space to just wait for the work to happen, plus looking for validation in a business where rejection is the name of the game can be very damaging to your sense of self. I remember vividly one day I was sitting on my couch feeling sad about yet another role I didn’t get, and a friend telling me if you’re gonna be depressed every time you don’t get a part is going to be a long sad journey. I decided I had to start writing. Directing came later on, after getting a grant a the Carolina Foundation in Spain and being surrounded by filmmakers creating their own work. It got the bug going, and when I came back to New York, I quit my day job and used part of my savings to attend film courses at NYU and fund my first short To Kill a Roach.
After the sixth season of Orange is the New Black premiered, you began a series on your Instagram page entitled #ImmigrantStoriesByLauraGomez, which features the stories and successes of immigrants. How does it feel to you to learn about these stories while also uplifting other people?
I mostly feel inspired and positive about the horizon. It came organically and it felt like a small act of resistance to the demonization of immigrants we have been seeing these past three years. Being an immigrant myself, I’ve always found diversity to be beautiful and this is my way to use my platform and pay homage to that fact.
Every Saturday morning, you publish a personal essay on a variety of different topics pertaining to your life. How do you use the process of writing to nourish your creative spirit and inner awareness?
I write essays to try to make sense of certain experiences in my life, and come to terms with personal dilemmas. I usually like to write about personal stuff and deal with my struggles in a public forum because I also think it’s a way to feel less alone. The more we discuss a problem, the easier it becomes to resolve. I try to write every week, but while working on projects I take breaks in order to create enough content for it. This is a fairly new project as well, so I’ll be taking it back again in September and keep doing it as episodic periods.
Acting often requires talents to inhabit the lives of characters who are going through incredibly difficult circumstances and challenges. Do you have a practice to stay positive while portraying these types of stories?
I’ve got to admit I have a very strong support network of friends and family that keep me grounded and help me navigate the difficult moments in my life. I also have a very good therapist at the moment, which at times is as difficult to find as a boyfriend or a good apartment. It’s crazy because I resisted therapy for so long but now I can’t imagine my life without it. I feel it’s like digging deeply into your soul and it has helped me a great deal deconstructing society’s conditioning while living in a place as intense as New York which can also be very challenging, because it’s a pretty hectic city where you can ironically feel pretty lonely. But I have my chosen family, which are my friends and a lovely theater community that keeps me sane.
Are you involved in any charity organization or humanitarian cause you would like to mention?
I am not involved with just one specific organization but I do gravitate towards social causes and actively participate in events that involve Human Rights, which includes the I Stand with Standing Rock movement, Migrant Freedom, being a faithful ally of the LGBTQ community, Women’s oriented organizations and events, and of course I consistently show my support through my work. I like to write for women and people of color and enjoy working with diversity all over the board.
The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is The Essence of Joyful Living. How does Joy during the creative process affect your own experience and in consequence the final manifestation of your actions?
Joy is the base of it all. I attempt to approach the work as a child pretending to be a superhero. Sometimes as adults we lose that playfulness, even punishing ourselves by being too self-critical, and so in those hard times, I try to remember how joyful it all used to be when I was a kid, and consciously go there every time I can.
When you hear: “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words from the Abraham-Hicks teachings, what is your take on such a statement?
Abraham-Hicks’s teachings remind me of Alejandro Jodorowsky who has been instrumental in my process of growth and evolution these past few years. Two dear friends of mine and myself have a special communion with him, but sometimes I can be a little bit cynical, because it’s not always as easy as it sounds, and yet I am aware that this is mostly because of societal construct and that, on the contrary, the mind is very powerful indeed. I’ve been very lucky, so I should say these words truly resonate, it just doesn’t always happen on a straight line or in your terms, and that’s totally ok.
Header Photo Erika Morillo