Stephanie Beatriz is best known for playing Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Detective Rosa Diaz, a terse, guarded badass who’s rarely seen without a leather jacket. Fans will likely be surprised and delighted to watch her play a bubbly, unicorn-obsessed young woman named Candy in the new comedy Half Magic, directed by Heather Graham.
In the Half Magic, Candy becomes fast friends with two other women (Graham and Angela Kinsey) after they attend a female empowerment seminar. Candy, who dabbles in magic, teaches the other women how to cast spells to help their love lives, their careers, and their own confidence. We're excited to premiere an exclusive clip from the film here:
BUST called Beatriz to talk about making a comedy centered on friendship between women, sexism in Hollywood, and her own experience with witchcraft.
I interviewed you when your movie, the drama The Light Of The Moon, came out a few months ago, and this movie is so different. What was it like on set?
It was really fun. The three of us [Beatriz, Kinsey and Graham] got to be really good buddies. As an actress, I’m lucky because in my career, I’ve been around a lot of women who are not necessarily in my age group — I miss that a little bit on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, because the other women are roughly my age. It was so nice to be around Angela and Heather, who are a little bit older than me and have had amazing careers and amazing lives. In that way, I think my character really reflected what was happening to me at the time: Trying to watch and gather wisdom from these two dope-ass women that I got to be around every day.
Your character is so different from the way people have seen you in Brooklyn Nine-Nine and the Light of the Moon. What was it like to play someone who’s so happy and bubbly and obsessed with unicorns?
It was really fun. When people are like “whoa, you’re so different in this movie,” sometimes I want to reply with that gif of the guy that just says “acting.” Because we’re all in such a reality TV world, we expect that the characters or the people we see on TV are going to be just like they are in real life.
For me, it’s really fun to play characters who are extremely different parts of my own personality. Weirdly, Candy is probably closest to who I am in real life — I’m a pretty positive person. I actually dyed my hair pink right after I had the audition because I was like, “I’m probably not going to get it, so I’m going to do this cool, fun thing with my hair,” and then Heather was cool enough to let me keep it for the movie. It’s also really fun to play a character where you know that girl, or you know yourself: when you were in your early 20s and just so naive about love, you really thought everyone had your best interests at heart.
Candy is really into witchcraft. Is that something you’ve explored yourself?
Oh yeah, honey. Latin American culture has a long and storied history [with witchcraft]. I’ve always been interested in Santeria and Brujeria, and I know very few Latino people who don’t have some sort of, you know, “I don’t put my shoes on the table, I don’t ever put my purse on the ground.” I have a million candles in my house for a million things, I’ve got a very bad collection of crystals, I’ve been known to cast a spell or two with groups of friends — it’s something that’s part of my life and that I believe in a sort of loose way. I think magic and witchcraft should be respected, for sure, but I think it should also be accessible to anyone who is interested in trying to harness their own energy and channel it in any way, shape, or form that they want to.
What sort of spells have you cast?
This is the best one: I was working in theater and I was living in Oregon. I was about to move to LA and I didn’t have a car — I had been saving and saving and saving and I had X amount of money, and it was not a lot. I was scouring Craigslist every day, looking and looking and just coming up empty handed. And then I had dinner with a friend, Tanya Saracho, who’s writing a show right now called Brujas, and she’s the showrunner of Vida on Starz. She was like, “Light a candle, light a candle! You say exactly what you want, you write it down, you pray for it, you light a candle.” I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna do it.” I went home and I wrote down, “Reliable car, Honda Civic, under 10,000 miles, under $6,000.” I was like, “There’s no fucking way this is gonna happen,” but I needed it to happen so badly, so I lit a candle and I sat there and thought about what I needed and how much I needed it, and literally the next day I’m looking at Craigslist and there’s a blue Honda Civic for $6,000. I think it had 7,000 miles. It was an old person’s car who had passed away, and I got it. That shit works.
Both in Half Magic and in the Light of the Moon, you’re working with a first-time woman director. What was that experience like on Half Magic?
It was incredible. Heather’s been working in this industry since she was a teenager. She’s worked on so many different kinds of things with so many different people. For somebody like that to be running a set, she knows exactly how to communicate to people, she knows exactly what she wants, she knows exactly how to keep the momentum going on. She’s so gentle and loving and fun with actors. It was cake, it was so fun.
I know you’ve have talked about wanting to direct, what did you learn from her?
The main thing I think I came away from, both on the Light of the Moon and Half Magic, is that if you have a director who empowers everyone on set, who makes everyone feel like they are creating something together — whether it’s heavier like the Light of the Moon or fun and light like Half Magic — if you create the sense that everyone on set is important, if you know everyone’s name, if you treat everyone with respect, and if you’re kind and generous, then everyone on set is going to have a better time. And that to me is everything, because I got into this to play pretend. it’s fun and joyful, even when it’s hard. That’s something that can sometimes get lost, and it hasn’t gotten lost for Heather at all. If anything, everywhere she goes becomes a little more joyful because she’s there.
A lot of this movie deals sexism in Hollywood in a very satirical way. Was that something that drew you to it?
Absolutely. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I am a woman of color, and one thing that stood out to me when I moved to Hollywood is the way that my specific ethnicity is often portrayed is so ridiculous. It can be really depressing at times to read a script and see that the Latina character is a prostitute — not that there’s anything wrong with sex work, but I don’t want to be regulated to just that story. I want to play lots of different stories. Yes, a story about a sex worker can be really interesting, but is that the only story I’m allowed to play because of the color of my skin and the assumptions made about me because of that? I think that as women continue to push themselves or be helped into positions of power, the stories that we’re telling are changing to be more reflective of the myriad possibilities that women have in their lives. We don’t have to be limited to just the way that we’re viewed by men and the male gaze. I think that the more the female gaze is shown, the better for all of us.
Half Magic is in select theaters, VOD and digital HD this Friday, Feb. 23.
images via Half Magic
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