What do Salma Hayek, Kate del Castillo and William Levy have in common? The Latino actors cut their teeth on telenovelas only to later to make a splash in English-language productions. Now it’s Angelica Celaya’s turn. After about a decade of telenovelas, the Arizona native born to Mexican parents makes her crossover debut on Thursday night’s Burn Notice. Celaya plays Angela Flores, the girlfriend of a weapons technology smuggler whom the CIA ends up using as an asset. She talked to Miami.com:
“Burn Notice” is your first foray into English-language TV. How was it different?
It is my first time to be on screen in my native tongue. I was a little nervous because the ambience is different. It’s a different genre so you have to step it up or tone it down, depending on the situation. Since I’m so used to improvising and memorizing in Spanish, it’s like I’ve got a chip in my head. On a novela you shoot out 30 scenes per day. On Burn Notice it’s eight if you’re lucky. One is not better than the other, it’s just different. It’s more of a rush with the telenovelas.
Were you a fan of the show?
I’d seen a couple of episodes, but my mother is a huge, huge fan. She said, ‘Oh my god, mi hija! Give [star Jeffrey Donovan] a hug for me!’ She was so proud and happy. This is one her shows that she religiously sees.
What do you think of the proposal to scrap production here and move the show elsewhere?
The crew and everybody around here loves the fact that you can wrap it up and get a bite to eat at Coco Walk. That’s the thing about being by the ocean every single day that puts you in a positive mood, like you’re working, but you’re on vacation.
How do you feel about the opportunities being offered for Hispanic actors in English-language TV?
I think [networks] are understanding that there are Latinos in the U.S. who are born into two cultures. We grow up going to the movies, and seeing Burn Notice, seeing Seinfeld. We love our comedies, we love our series and we love our novelas. That’s who we are. I think they are finally grasping that we want to see ourselves on screen, too. Not only in Spanish, but in English, and represented in a way that’s not a typical Latino.
How can telenovela actors make the transition?
Take classes with people who only speak English and have the market sensibilities. It’s homework; they’re different genres.
Some have criticized Sofia Vergara for her role in “Modern Family,” claiming that she’s perpetuating negative stereotypes.
We’re talking about someone who won an Emmy! A character that is so hilarious that makes it the No. 1 show for ABC. I think her role of being loud and overdramatic — it’s the role that she was born to do. I enjoy her character; she has comedic chops and comedy is not that easy.
You met your boyfriend [Rafael Amaya] on Telemundo’s “Alguien Te Mira,” where he played a serial killer.
I really loved the way he handled that knife! He’s a lot of fun to work with. He’s a genuine, good person. I’m the type of person where if I don’t admire the person, I can’t fall in love. When it comes to working long hours on the set, he’s the one making jokes and pulling pranks.
Rafael also participated in one of the most expensive telenovelas to date, “La Reina del Sur,” around $10 million. Do you see a trend toward bigger budgets?
Definitely. All these series are being done because there’s a demand. Telemundo is airing El Patron del Mar, one of the largest productions in Colombia. The actors are not your typical novela actors, and they are capturing audiences everywhere because of the story, the acting, how it’s being shot. Telemundo is also putting out El Senor de los Cielos, with Rafael as well, about one of the biggest drug traffickers in Mexico. It’s the first real story being done by Telemundo, which I think is taking that next step to giving Latinos here what they want, which is that feeling that it’s in Spanish, but with that general-market touch.