Alyssa Diaz talks with ATM on her roles in ABC’s The Rookie, Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico, Showtime’s Ray Donovan, and film Parallel.
ATM: How do you like being a regular role on ABC’s The Rookie?
Alyssa: Well, I really enjoy it. It has been a real eye opener experience for me. The training has been really fascinating. We go down to the range to shoot guns. I have to arrest people. I did a ride along for research. This was a really interesting experience because I got to be in the car when they were arresting someone and learn the motivation of PT officers and how selfless they are. And how they really do care about people and the community. It has definitely been a life changing experience for me. I see officers in a different way and it is nice to have this experience to bring to the show and be able to humanize these officers and what they go through on a day to day basis.
Alyssa: It was more about, “Oh God, I do not want to get a ticket.” Or being afraid of getting in trouble. By playing this role it really shows me how much they are here to help us and how much they want to foster a relationship with the community. I did a ride along with a female Sergeant and she has created an outreach program with kids in the community. She created football games and reading programs. She really built her trust with the members of the community in the police department, which is remarkable.
ATM: What are some themes that are in this show?
Alyssa: Being a woman. Being an ethnic woman in the police department. 20% of the department is females and 80% are men, which is a big component. Also, how political it can be to get ahead and how much your life is at stake. As a training officer, you do not have a regular partner who has been on the job for a long time. You get a recruitment straight out of the academy. This is the first time they are hitting the streets. It is not the same from the book smart aspect of it. Also, it is really about how they work on the street and how they are in the moment. My character gets assigned a rookie named Jackson West, whose father is a commander of the internal affairs. He creates a stake for me because I am trying to work my way up to be a detective. At the same time, it might be political because this is the commander’s son. If he does not do well, then this looks bad on me. What happens during the show is that there is a shooting and he freezes. Not only is he putting my life at risk, but his life is also at risk, and the general public’s life is at risk. It is really taking all these things into account and really knowing how to move my way through this.
ATM: What does this say about ethnic women working in male dominating environments such as a police officer? How does your character continue to show the empowerment of women on this show?
Alyssa: What is wonderful about the show The Rookie is that the cast is diverse. We have three actresses that are playing officers and one actor that is a captain. It is really about standing your ground and having tenacity.
ATM: On Narcos: Mexico, explain your beginning thoughts on the script.
Alyssa: I was fascinated by the character because I have always wanted to play a real-life person. This was a good experience for me. I was able to speak with Mika Camarena about her experience in Mexico and what this journey was like for her. She lost her husband. He was tortured and killed in Mexico. She was pregnant, had kids, and this was before technology. I wanted to know what this life was like for her. It was an eye opener experience for me. Also, to see how strong she was both intuitively and internally. And to see what she really gave for her family. It was very inspiring. It was also great because I got to have conversations with my mother for research. I am not married, and I do not have any kids. I talked to my mom about what her experience was like as well. It was a great bonding experience for me to see how important it is to see how it is to be a mother and how much one gives for their family. It is really special.
Alyssa: It is the selflessness and love. It is being the family rock and being the glue that keeps everything together and running. Also, being the voice of reason. Knowing when to let go of things and when to say something.
ATM: What surprised you in terms of what a woman could or could not do during that time?
Alyssa: They were undercover. In the story, in the show, where he gets kidnapped, she really steps up to the plate and she demands that the DA investigates. She is not afraid anymore and she speaks her mind for the family to fight and for her husband. Everything is on the line. This is all that matters. To get through each day is for the kids, the family, and for her husband.
ATM: Let’s move on to Ray Donovan. What is it about you that keep playing wife roles?
Alyssa: I do not know if there is a wife vibe to me. I add a lot of weight to the women I have been playing. They are very grounded. The complexity of being a wife and a mother. With Ray Donovan, she is a Luchadora, a female wrestler. She is able to juggle this. In Narcos: Mexico, she is living an undercover life. It has been a very maturing experience for me with stepping into this stage.
ATM: In playing these wife characters like on Ray Donovan, how does it influence the complexity of the male characters?
Alyssa: This is a really good question. It is really being layered and being in tune with what is going on with them. This is what I find. Also, being able to balance their feelings. If there are moments of doubt, then it is about being the inspiration. If there are moments of anger, then it is looking for understanding, and looking for truth.
ATM: Why was your character originally attracted to your onscreen husband?
Alyssa: She could see they both came from a place of hurt and a place of love. This is what drew her to him. Also, this innocent, honesty, and softness of him as a man. She came up in an environment that was very harsh and to be able to feel safe with a man that generally loves her for who she is. This is what drew her to him.
ATM: Your character in Ray Donovan has a strong, dominate, and hardcore personality, how does a woman character like this portray love when taking on a macho persona in a marriage?
Alyssa: By being honest and fighting for this person. I know that when I love someone so much I will do anything for them. All women are strong, we are just in different ways. She is not afraid to tell someone off because her love is so great for her partner.
ATM: Your role in Narcos: Mexico and Ray Donovan have to do with family. What does family mean to you outside of playing these roles?
Alyssa: Family to me means roots. The roots of a tree submit you into your people and your tribe. People who are there for you when you need them. People who will tell you the truth. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I am very grateful that the people in my family are here. I am very close to my family. Even friends become family. We are here to lift each other when we are down. We are here to talk sense into one another. We are here when you need love. This is what family means to me.
ATM: What is a scene on Ray Donovan that still sticks with you today?
Alyssa: The most powerful scene is where he proposes to Teresa at the boxing ring. I was not expecting to have this reaction. It was not planned, and it was very much in Teresa. The fact it was such a surprise and being able to have this discovery was such a pleasure for me as an actor.
ATM: Let’s move on to your film Parallel. What does Parallel as a title mean to you?
Alyssa: It means the different realities of the ways our lives could go. I am fascinated by it and knowing our life is comprised of all these little moments. And maybe how if this moment did not happen and maybe it would have led to another moment in a completely different path. It is about these different possibilities and kinds of lives we could lead just by making certain decisions.
ATM: Do you think this film speaks to the consequences of adventure?
Alyssa: There is always going to be an effect from whatever cause is made. It is just about if your intention is good. If the intention is good, then the effect in my mind is good. If it is bad, then you have to own up to this too and take responsibility for your actions.
ATM: Do you believe us having dreams while asleep is us dabbling into a multi-universe arena?
Alyssa: It is quite possible. I am still open to all those things. I also think a lot of it is self-consciously giving us information on how to better lead the lives we have now. This is an interesting way to look at it. You could be doing something to go down the wrong path. Dreams provide us with these insights to go learn and look deeper than the surface of what something is.
ATM: Do you feel like you would do good in a comedic role? If so, then why?
Alyssa: I think so. I am pretty goofy in my day to day. This is another type of way. There are different types of vulnerabilities. It is one thing when you are emotional to show this truth. When you are funny it is a different vulnerability you get to show. I would definitely be open to exploring this in my work.
ATM: Let’s move on to your organization called I Am Now Me. How does this title relate to a young woman’s sensibilities?
Alyssa: I named it “I Am Now Me” because it is important to be who you are. Growing up, especially with all this social media, people put a different mask on. When you are just yourself and you are content with who you are. This is where the magic is. I co-founded it with a friend. We wanted young girls who are at risk between the ages of 13-17. It was for them to own who they are as women and giving them the tools, I wish I had when I was this age. It is about being able to express yourself creatively with writing or singing. Also, owning who you are as a person and not letting the world put a label on you or try to fit into a box.
ATM: How does your organization give an at-risk teen a second chance with their self-esteem?
Alyssa: It gives them the chance to see other women speakers. It gives them the chance to see women who have gone through difficult times and have made their way out of it. It gives them a role model in this way and a mentor. It gives them someone to believe in. It is really important to have someone believe in you when you want to do something big. And to know that anything is possible, and it does not matter where you come from. The actions that you take in the present is what matters.
ATM: How do you feel your soul is evolving with your recent shows?
Alyssa: Understanding that patience and the power of unconditional love. It is easier said than done. Also, not taking anything personally is a big thing. Just being a service. How can I service instead of trying to get something out of it?
ATM: What would you say to the woman you were when you took that New York acting job?
Alyssa: I would say be you, to play, and explore unlimited possibilities. It is really about connecting to myself and to other people to the story. It is not as complicated as it seems. Always be consistent. This is the biggest thing. When you are an actress you go to these auditions, you get a callback, and maybe you will get it. I believe in the power of consistency. Whenever you give 100%, you have to let go of the outcome. Eventually, it will pay you back. This is with whatever discipline. Even if you are just baking cakes, just do your best and put care into it.