You may know her as Rosie Falta in Devious Maids, but Dania Ramirez's own life is as interesting as that of the character she plays. When her parents left the Dominican Republic to seek a better life in the United States, baby Dania stayed in her home country with her grandmother. She joined them in New York when she was almost 10. The actress, 35, has had roles in The Sopranos, Heroes and Entourage.
Was it strange for you when your parents left the Dominican Republic, or were you too young to notice? "I was six months old. So there was a point in my life when I was younger that I didn't understand why my parents weren't there. They were always present by making calls and trying to make it back once a year. Once they were established and legal and had a base they could ask for us to get passports to come and join them [in the US]."
Your parents worked hard to make your life better; did that put pressure on you to succeed? "For sure, for sure. When you don't come from money and nobody in my family was in the [entertainment industry], you are dealing with people who have given up their lives to make sure that you have a better future. I got into the entertainment world and started modelling when I was 15. When I told my parents that was what I was going to do for a living, it was very shocking for them. I was very smart in school, I had straight As and was going to graduate high school at 16 and start college. My dad wanted me to be a lawyer because I was very opinionated. [Acting] was not a career path they understood or one that they thought [would provide] a better future for myself and my family. I ended up getting kicked out of my house when I was 16 and I went off to college. When they actually saw that I was getting some kind of stability as far as having a career in this business is when they started coming around."
You have 20-month-old twins - do you worry about them growing up in a privileged environment? "We keep it very humble at the house. It's undeniable, of course. You want to give your children better than what you had and make them feel like they have everything. But I think there is also a lot of value in making them work for things and allowing them to see other places. My grandmother still lives in that small town in the Dominican Republic where I grew up, without running water or electricity. There is an aspect to life that I don't ever want them not to see. It just makes you a better human being and gives you a wider perspective and understanding of life."
Explain how Devious Maids does not play into stereotype. "It is about creating these three-dimensional characters. The show is about these women, not what they do. It's about the friendships, the relationships, the struggle. Rosie is dealing with immigration and having to leave her child behind, which is something I really related to. I was playing it from my mother's perspective and how hard that must have been for her. I think we have tapped into telling these real human stories rather than [just] a Latin story. That is when stereotypes happen, when you are separating a culture and putting them into a box. That is something Devious Maids does not do."
The New York Times
Devious Maids airs on Star World every Tuesday, at 6.55pm.