Every family has a screw up, a successful one, a favorite, a disappointment. Nothing Like the Holidays may feature a Latin family but they’re all the same. A rarer experience may be a Hollywood starlet coming home. Vanessa Ferlito plays Roxanna Rodriguez, a struggling actor whose family makes a really big deal of the bit parts she plays on TV shows.
CraveOnline: How did you meet and bond with your "family" costars?”
Vanessa Ferlito: We were really not up for rehearsals. Like how do we do this right now? In the lounge of the condominium. Like can we save that for the day? But I was in Jay [Hernandez]’s face. I was always in his face. No, I mean after when we were hanging out, I pushed myself and I wanted to be his friend. I did. I think he’s awesome. I wanted to be his friend.
CraveOnline: How are you at salsa dancing?
Vanessa Ferlito: Oh, god. I’m not. I know like the two step. That’s it. And Luis [Guzman] was like, "Come on, why you keep doing that?" I was like, "Who do you think I am? You think I take classes? I don’t know."
CraveOnline: Did you relate to the struggling actor character, waiting for the phone to ring?
Vanessa Ferlito: It was a different process for me. I was a club kid. I was on the cover of New York magazine and discovered like that. It was one of those stories that you’re like, "Oh, I know the story, here she goes." The sleeping in the car, but it really was. This is unbelievable that this is even my life because I come from so far, not even close. I can’t even believe it, so no.
CraveOnline: What do you mean club kid?
Vanessa Ferlito: I was a famous club kid in New York. We used to put parties together. This club called Life and they did an eight page story on us as if it was brain surgery. You would think what we did, why are we on the cover of this thing? Anyway, thank God for that. From there, it was that time. It was like ’98, clubs were in, it was like that time and they were psyched for us. They always wanted the club kids to do a cameo in the movies, so that’s how it happened. I was like, "Oh, yeah, an agent, sure, I’ll go out." The first thing I went out for was The Sopranos and I got it, so that’s how it happened. I hate to say it like that because I wait for calls now. I’m still waiting for calls, but my path was a little different when it came to the business.
CraveOnline: Do you ever bring your problems home to the family?
Vanessa Ferlito: No way. I stay away from the holidays as far as that. I do not bring my stuff. My aunts are all crazy so there’s always a drama involved there. I torture my mother with all my problems, that poor woman.
CraveOnline: Now that you’ve made it, does your family really overhype your stuff?
Vanessa Ferlito: For a while it was like that and I just felt really uncomfortable only because I don’t think of myself like that. I don’t want to be the spotlight. Around my people, that makes me feel a little weird sometimes.
CraveOnline: What is their favorite thing to talk about?
Vanessa Ferlito: They ask me about other actors. What bothers me is when they say, "I read Us Weekly. Is that true? Do you believe she did that?" And I’m like, "I’m not that actor. You’ll never see me in that. They don’t want to know what I’m doing. I live a quiet life. I’m not dating anybody famous. They don’t care about me. I have no idea if that stuff is true. Don’t even ask. You shouldn’t even be reading that." So they’ll ask me stuff like that. And I’m like it’s so not like that. I have no idea. "Is she really infertile?" You know, they say she’s going for fertility and I’m like, "That’s so f*cked up that they go there with women like that. That’s such a personal [thing.]" Stuff like that they’ll ask about actors. They love to know about that and also some people, even older, want to get into the business now. They say to me, and I’m all for a dream, they’ll say, "My father never let me, or grandpa. Do you think I can now?" I just lead them in the right direction. I have no idea what’s going to happen. You know how Hollywood can be, it’s not nice at times.
CraveOnline: Do they have scripts they want you to read or do?
Vanessa Ferlito: People have scripts. You know, I still live in my neighborhood. I live in Brooklyn and the same neighborhood, so I don’t really get star treatment like that. I’m still Vanessa from the neighborhood. My parents own the shop and I’m there all the time, that I worked in when I was a teenager. I have a child from my childhood sweetheart. I’ve kind of stuck to my [roots]. I left, but I never really left.
CraveOnline: What’s your family holiday like compared to the movie?
Vanessa Ferlito: The food, they’re all loud. My mother’s here with me. Can’t get rid of her. She is. She’s down the hall. Can’t get rid of her.
CraveOnline: How did you get involved with the film in the first place?
Vanessa Ferlito: I just had my baby. It was the first script that I’d read since Death Proof and I was like, "Wow, this is so different from my last." I was getting a lot of thrillers and scary movies after that, like a ton of them. I always get scared. I can’t read scripts. I’m scared, scary movies and stuff. So this was like the perfect family movie, nice ensemble, not too much pressure with the newborn. I was really excited. I went on tape. They were all in L.A. I went on tape and I got it from the tape.
CraveOnline: Did you ever have problems with ethnic typecasting?
Vanessa Ferlito: The funny thing is I’m not even Latin. I was constantly getting Latin roles and I was like, I even was nominated for an award and I was like, "Let them know at the NAACP, the first white woman. Let them know I’m totally grateful but I’m not Latin. I can’t do that. I play Latin." It was The Undefeated and then 24.
CraveOnline: You’re Italian, right?
Vanessa Ferlito: I’m Italian but I play so many. I’ve played Texan in Man of the House. Shadowboxer, I was American. There was a point where I was constantly, I had to say no because I had to switch it up a little bit. It was like come on, how many times am I? I’m not even Latin.
CraveOnline: Are Latina’s upset with you?
Vanessa Ferlito: No, I never really get slack for it because in the business, if you have dark hair and features like I do, you’re considered ethnic. They’re playing Italian. Jamie Lynn Sigler is not even Italian. She was on the most famous, she was in The Sopranos. So they’re mixing everything. You know what? The work’s far and few between, man. If it’s good, no matter what the nationality is, I’ll play Chinese if you want me to. If you want me to do it.
CraveOnline: Do you prefer TV over film or do you care?
Vanessa Ferlito: Well, TV like 24, now that was like really fun. But CSI obviously, you know I quit the show. I couldn’t, the procedural thing for me, at the time my head was not there. I love doing film. I love traveling. I love the two month or three month thing but I’m open now to TV. I’m at a different place in my life. With the child, absolutely, I have mouths to feed. It’s true. Stability. I get anxiety these days. I’m like oh, my kid, I want to make sure he has a great life and private school’s so expensive. Money was never an issue for me. I was just happy to be able to be creative and release some of this madness in my brain. Like wow, I finally found a place for myself. I never knew what I wanted to do with my life. I was like maybe I’ll work in the shop. I didn’t know.
CraveOnline: What kind of shop was it?
Vanessa Ferlito: It’s a hair salon. I even went to hair school. I have a license. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was like what am I going to do? I went to college for a year. That didn’t work. I went to hair school. I bartended. I did a million things so now with a child, I feel like I need to give him a great life. I’m always worried about being broke again.
CraveOnline: Death Proof now exists as its own extended movie. How do you like that version?
Vanessa Ferlito: I was really upset when the lap scene was [cut]. I was like, "What?" You really can’t question Quentin. I was like, "Um, a little rumor…" I had no idea until the premiere. I was so upset. I was like, "How do you take that out?"
CraveOnline: Did you know they were planning to restore it?
Vanessa Ferlito: For DVD sales or Cannes which I missed because I was pregnant. I felt like I worked really hard on that. I really love that dance. I had such a good time and then when it cut, I was like… I had no idea until I arrived at the premiere.
CraveOnline: But it was part of the joke.
Vanessa Ferlito: I know, but maybe if they would have cut it in the middle or something. It was just out. I don’t know, but he’s a genius. You don’t question. That’s just how it is. That was his vision but I was, honestly, I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t in.
CraveOnline: What are you working on now?
Vanessa Ferlito: I’m not working right now. I’m doing this and after this I did two films. I did Madea Goes to Jail, Tyler Perry movie. It was crazy. And I did a cameo in Nora Ephron’s Julia and Julia with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. So right now I’m just relaxing.
CraveOnline: What kind of role in Madea?
Vanessa Ferlito: I play a prostitute and I go to jail and I meet Madea. It’s actually really good though.
CraveOnline: Is it a Latina prostitute?
Vanessa Ferlito: No. I’m like white trash. It’s actually really good. You know, that guy is a machine, man. I was not schooled on that man. I was like, "Tyler Perry?" I read the script, I was like, "I’m not, this is not even." He is a machine. He’s kind of a genius. His movies make a ton and he bangs them out. He’ll come into work at eight o’clock. You’ll think you’re going to be there from eight to eight. Three o’clock, he’ll be like, "Oh, I got a phone call, I gotta go. Shut it down." Three o’clock, the whole thing would be shut down. Who does that? I was like, "Really?" It was crazy.
CraveOnline: What Christmas gift are you giving this year?
Vanessa Ferlito: I’m not giving gifts this year. I told my whole family, don’t buy me a thing. Buy for my son. There’s too many of them and it becomes complicated. I told them not to spend money on me either. Just get for my boy, if you want to get something at all. I’m going to get my son a truck though. He loves cars. He goes vroom. I’m going to get him this Cadillac hybrid truck. He’s going to be psyched.
CraveOnline: Just starting to walk?
Vanessa Ferlito: He wants nothing to do with walking. He wants to crawl. He’s a little crocodile. It’s faster. It’s just faster. He’ll take a couple of steps and he’ll fall and then he wants to walk. He’s not interested. He talks a lot though. This boy copies everything. At 14 months he says everything.
Vanessa Ferlito: Yeah, I have to watch what I say. It’s true, so true.
CraveOnline: But he can climb and ride?
Vanessa Ferlito: He’s a climber. He goes up the steps real fast but he doesn’t want to [walk]. He’s not into it. I don’t rush him. I’m like, "When you’re ready, my boy." I never want to let him go.