By Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez
Patricia Rae, who is of Colombian ancestry, was born in Manhattan and spent her childhood in Queens. As a child, Patricia was monolingual Spanish at home, but learned to speak English by watching Sesame Street. Patricia by her own admission was a talkative precocious child, who used her humor to deflect nontraditional (read) artistic behavior. Two of her main influences growing up were Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball.
Her journey into the acting world began in elementary school. While in fourth grade, the drama teacher noticed her and recommended she be cast in the musical “Oliver Twist”. She moved to Florida in her teens experienced some culture shock but with the support of the Drama club in High School was able to find a successful and comfortable niche in acting. Rae earned a series of awards in regional and state wide competitions with her drama troupe. Patricia went on to study at the prestigious Lee Strasberg Institute Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute.
Rae has worked diligently for well over two decades, learning and dedicating herself completely to her craft before seeing any commercial success in her acting career. Patricia lived much of her professional life on the East Coast where she worked in theatre, commercials, sketch comedy, independent film and TV. Her first experience on a film set came with her first professional job securing a co-starring role opposite Don Johnson in the (1984–1990) hit TV series “Miami Vice”
After years spent in New York, Patricia moved her family from New York to Los Angeles in
search of that “breakthrough” role, quickly landing that role of a lifetime in “Maria Full of Grace”. Her performance as Carla, a pregnant Colombian woman living in a tiny apartment in New York with her family, earned Patricia an Imagen Awards nomination for “Best Supporting Role”.
Rae’s dedication proves that acting, beyond being a business, is most importantly an art. With a prolific resume, she has appeared in features films such as “Swimfan”, “Nightstalker”, Detachment” (opposite Adrian Brody). On Television she has worked on many series including, “Blue Bloods” with Donnie Walberg and Jennifer Esposito, a recurring role on “Chuck” playing the infamous “Bolonia“, “The Mentalist”, “The Closer”, “Life” and “The Chicago Code”.
She’s currently penning her memoir on acting entitled “How to Make It in The Middle”.
Patricia’s stage credits include the one-woman show ‘Under Construction’, which was a one woman show, that Rae wrote, based loosely on her childhood. ‘The Making of Patricia Rae’, which premiered at the ‘Stella Adler Conservatory’ in ‘New York’, ‘Zoraida’, ‘Mickey & Roger’, ‘Late One Sunday Night’, ‘Latin Lives’, ‘Faade’, ‘Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie’, and ‘The Seagull’. Patricia is a member of the Elephant Theatre Company in Los Angeles, where she won a Backstage West Garland Award in 2008 for best ensemble performance in “In Arabia we’d all Be Kings” produced at The Elephant Theater.
Rae’s creative dexterity extends beyond her dramatic chops. She is also an accredited Power Flow Yoga teacher. And is specialized in Yoga for Scoliosis and Back Care – an issue close to her heart, as her daughter Sage, was diagnosed with the condition.
Herald de Paris Deputy Managing Editor, Dr. AC, took a break from hanging out with Global Rock Stars, and spent some quality time talking to the breakout actress who has everything it takes to become the next big thing.
AC: Tell us about growing up, I am told that you were alone much of the time and learned English via Sesame Street, how does that experience inform your work even to this day.
Being first generation Colombian American meant my family could not teach me English. I learned my language skills from TV. I spoke Spanish until I got to Kindergarten. Sesame Street was a great tool for the children of immigrants, it taught them to pronounce properly.
AC: In elementary school you are said to have used humor to deflect bad behavior? How true is that? Examples? Do you still use this technique?
My mother was working, so my maternal grandmother, Lillian, who ran a boarding house, was my primary caregiver. She was a strict Catholic disciplinarian. I had a smart mouth. I got a lot of spankings. I was asserting my American identity. I wanted to be American, so from an early age, I was already pretending… to fit in.
AC: Who has been your inspiration?
I draw inspiration from my grandmother; the immigrant experience in “Maria Full of Grace”, the unwavering Catholicism in “The Big Wedding”. I have her to thank for my morals and my humbleness. So the spankings worked! I got in trouble in school for talking. My father was silly. He made people laugh. I like to be silly. I love the sound of laughter. Especially my daughter‘s. I love to make her giggle. I need to make people laugh.
AC: How were you discovered to play Oliver twist in Elementary school, what was your first performance like? Do you sing?
I do sing. I was doing a funny monologue in the 5th grade class show. The drama teacher saw me, and asked me to replace an actor for the school production of “Oliver”. And that was it. I never wanted to get off the stage again!
AC: When did you decide to be an Actor, How did your family feel about this decision?
I always wanted to be an actress. But not until school, did I realize it was a profession that I could study. My family never questioned it, they knew.
AC: Why did you move to Florida in your teens, How was it different from New York?
Tell us about the High school drama club and the statewide competitions.
We moved to Florida in my early teens. Big culture shock. I had never been exposed to so many white people. NY was very ethnic. I had no idea what Red Necks were. Thank God for drama class. I found my place where I fit in and was able to excel. Being in the drama club taught me discipline and exposed me to theatrical literature. In 11th grade, I participated in a national acting competition with my schoolmates. We did “West Side Story”. A week before the competition, I was attacked by a German Sheppard. I danced and sang with stitches in my right leg. I was very determined.
AC: Tell us about the Lee Strasberg Institute, what did you learn there, how did that experience inform your work over the years? Would you like to teach acting someday?
Wow, nobody has ever asked me about Strasberg… The Lee Strasberg Institute made me run to therapy. They teach emotional recall. Sense memory. I started digging up dramatic memories from my past, to use in class and realized I was screwed up, and needed to deal with it. I have learned to memorize emotions, without using real events. It is less stressful. I do teach acting. I coach students for on- camera auditions.
AC: You worked on the East Coast for many years knocking on doors, tell us about the good and bad about those days?
When I first started in NY, I had a casting director tell me that I would never work in commercials. That same person cast me in a commercial years later. You have to learn not to move on– if you want to work. I feel that casting people respect theater actors more on the East coast. LA is mostly about contacts, and looks. Talent is secondary.
AC: What kinds of jobs did you do to support yourself and family along the way?
I have waited tables, bartended, hostessed, coat checked, painted houses. Now I teach Yoga between gigs. Produce. And write my memoir…
AC: What lead up to getting your first break with Miami Vice, how did that level of success change you? Good and Bad memories of the show?
Miami Vice was my first professional job, and gave me my union card. I had never been on a set before. Philip Michael Thomas was very friendly. He rubbed my feet. But that’s all. Lol.
AC: Why did you leave New York and move to LA did you experience culture shock? What kind of gigs did you book in LA?
I left to work more, and I did. I booked “Nightstalker” and “Maria Full of Grace” within a month of being in Town. It was very lonely and I had to struggle to make a life for the first two years. NY was my home. LA is home now. You have to search out the culture in LA. New York is culture.
AC: Maria Full of Grace? Some say it was a role and a performance of a life time what are your thoughts on the film?
Mary was… everything. It was my first lead role, in a pivotal piece of material, which would change my career. I gained a lot of respect in the community. And I still benefit from it.
AC: What is one of your most favorite roles, aside from “Maria?”
I really enjoyed playing Bolonia on “Chuck” for NBC. I made good friends on that set. And I would love to be a series regular on a show.
AC: What is your favorite acting platforms, stage, screen, TV? Why?
I am from the theater. I enjoy the process of rehearsals, and working from start to finish. Movies and TV are not shot in sequence. I am finding that as I mature, I gravitate more towards film and the permanence of it. My work is getting more subtle and detailed. I love that. I would love to do a period piece. Work in Europe. And work with Pedro Almodovar.
AC: Tell us about your new film The Big Wedding, and some of the A Lister’s you are working with?
Working with Diane Keaton and DeNiro has been a high light in my career. Diane was mesmerizing. I was so lucky to witness her process. She is childlike in front of the lens. DeNiro is a legend. Period. I was blessed. This movie is going to give me international exposure. And hopefully a new level of success. We shall see.
AC: Would you like to do more of the Romantic Comedy thing? Could you do a straight up comedy?
I would love to do more comedy. I am usually cast in dramas. But I think I’m funny.
AC: What are some of the industry misconceptions about you?
One of the big misconceptions that will come from the success of “The Big Wedding”, is going to be that I don’t speak English. Ha!
AC: Tell us about your work with Power Flow Yoga, what is that, how does it help people.
I was always drawn to yoga as a way of opening my instrument. I have incorporated relaxation exercises from Strasberg, the vocalizing, and melded them with yoga stretches and breathing technique. It keeps me focused and in tune with my spirituality. I approach every character from their humanity. My daughter Sage was diagnosed with Scoliosis as a teen. I didn’t do much with that information, until I started teaching yoga two years ago. I began to research postures that benefit the spine and came across an Iyengar based Yogi named Elise Miller. I have since then taken a 20 hr. course with her on Scoliosis and back care. I use her method to help my students with back pain.
AC: Tell us about Sage who just graduated from College?
Sage is my heart. Because of her I strive to be a better person. She is a talented painter. And a fine film editor.
AC: What would you tell a young person about devoting their life to acting?
For me a NO just means– not right now. Never give up. Prepare. Be patient. And make your success.
AC: What do you hope your legacy will be? How do you wish to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as a compassionate person that brought a smile to your face, and a tear to your eye.
Follow Patricia on twitter: @thePatriciaRae