Rosie's Outlook

Jonathan Zeller

It's fair to say that Larry David, the man behind Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, is known more for comedy than mystery; but that's changed in the lead up to Fish in the Dark, his Broadway debut. Oh, sure, the play itself is a comedy, but plot details have been very scarce. Essentially, all we know is that it's about a death in the family.

When we talked to star Rosie Perez—the unmistakably New York actress known for her roles in movies like Do the Right Thing and White Men Can't Jump, and more recently for her turn as a cohost on The View—at the play's rehearsal space, we thought we might find out more.

What can you tell us about your character, Rosie? “That she's in the play,” she says. That's certainly good news for ticket holders. “And she's Latin,” Perez adds. That's it!

Despite being tight-lipped about the plot's details, Perez can't contain her enthusiasm for her home borough or for her collaborators on the play. For more on her favorite Brooklyn spots, the difference between acting on stage and screen and Larry David's distinctive lunch habits, read on.

Fish in the Dark will play at the Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th St. Previews start February 2; the play opens March 5. You can get tickets right here on our website.

How is rehearsal going?
Really, really good. Everybody's off book. Once in a while someone will yell “Line,” but we're in good shape.

What made you want to be a part of this project?
Larry David. [Producer] Scott Rudin, [director] Anna Shapiro. The script—the play, I should say. Check, check, check, all of the above.

This is Larry David's first time on Broadway. What's it been like working with him?
Every day, I am so impressed by Larry. Seriously, he is bringing his “A” game. When I tell people that, they say, “Really?” The man is a billionaire, and for good reason. He is a hard worker.

So he acts like just another guy; he brings his lunch pail every day?
His work ethic is so strong. And, yes, most of the time he brings his lunch from home.

Oh, that's funny. He literally brings his lunch pail.
Yeah. Someone goes, “Do you want to order?” And Larry says, “No, I brought my lunch.” And we all look at him and it's, like, Tupperware. And on the Tupperware it says “lentils.” [Laughs] I think people should know that he's a sweet guy. Weird, but sweet.

Unlike Larry, you have been on Broadway before. What appeals to you about doing a Broadway show, as opposed to film or television?
It's a different skill set that you have to go to, and for me it's more fun. It's about the camaraderie of the company and the audience. I love the audience; I love when they're into it. I love their response, whether I can make them cry or laugh. It just makes me very happy inside. It's what makes me tick.

How do you build that camaraderie you're talking about?
Theater people are different. You don't have a trailer to go and be alone. The company is sink or swim, so everybody is on board and raring to go. For me, I don't make an effort to make a connection. I make an effort to give 150% as a participant in the company, and that's when the connections happen. They happen organically, out of respect for one another.

You know, I'll see an actor with whom I've done a movie and say, “Hi, how are you? Nice to see you. How have you been? How are the kids? La, la, la.” For someone I've done a play with, I'll say: “HIIIIIIII!” [opens her arms wide]. It's like, oh my God, what we've been through. It's such an enormous experience, and for me it's so much more impactful. I would say the exceptions to that rule are three films: Fearless, The Take and White Men Can't Jump.

You're a native Brooklynite—what do you love about the borough?
It's weird when people ask me that. It's kind of like you're asking someone, “What do you like about home?” So what I like about it is that it's home for me. It's not a trend that I ran to. It's not a fad for me. It's home. It's part of who I am and who I always will be, and there's a comfort in that. One time I was hanging out with Marisa Tomei's mom and her grandma, and, you know, she's from Brooklyn. Her grandma says, “Why do you still like Brooklyn? They pull in the sidewalks after 10 o'clock.” So I laughed and I said, “That's why I like it.” It used to be—it's not as much—a small town. We're the outer boroughs, you know? [Andrew] Cuomo recently said that they're called the outer boroughs for a reason—because we're the people who were outside. You know, Brooklyn used to be the fourth-largest city in the world. And when the Dodgers left, it seemed like something happened to that spirit. But it's still there. Even with the gentrification, it's still there. It was difficult for me, at first. Gentrification was a very hard pill to swallow.

What made it tough for you?
The biggest change is the number of people on the streets; that's weird to me. It was kind of like Mayberry. I used to be able to go out of the house and take the garbage out or check the mail in my pajamas. Now I go out and go, “Oh!” There are all these people going back and forth.

If someone's visiting New York City, what's a place you would recommend to them from your perspective as a local?
Oh! I just did this for the campaign for the Democratic National Convention. Yes, I am an original Brooklynite who actually wants the DNC to come to Brooklyn. Shirley Chisolm was from Brooklyn! It's just historic.

It's difficult, because the things that I used to love have changed. But there are some that haven't. Like Car Barns Hill. It's now called Grover Cleveland Athletic Field, but for years it used to be called Car Barns Hill because it was a barn for cars.

I would walk to Grover Cleveland [High School] every day, and we would go and hang out on the cement bleachers on Car Barns Hill. And when you hang out there on the cement bleachers, the wind is pure because it overlooks the water. You can see the Chrysler Building. At night, you know, it was just so wonderful. Fantastic. And on a really hot summer day, you could go up on the top, top bleacher, and the wind is just [makes “whoosh” sound]. That's amazing to me. 

Valentino Pier in Red Hook, it just brings back so many memories. I went on a date there. All the date wanted to do was make out with me, and I kept saying, “Look at this wonderful view of the Statue of Liberty! Oh my gosh, I have dreams!” You know, he's going, “Oh my God, she's such a cornball.” I'll never forget that, you know.

And Red Hook, even though that's been gentrified, is still kind of the same. Actually, what they've done along the waterfront, I think they've improved it. It looks really pretty. I love walking there. Have you ever gone behind Ikea?

Yeah, it's great. It makes you feel like you're on vacation if it’s on a nice day.
Exactly! My friend Chris Frankel and I—in the summertime we would get, like, a bottle of wine and some other stuff and pack a lunch. They have these lounge chairs—it's permanent, you can't move 'em—and we would just lay back and sunbathe. There would be nobody there, in the middle of the day. We would watch the cargo ships go by. It's just a beautiful thing, and most people don't know about that.

And Vinegar Hill, now they call it DUMBO. Patsy's used to be there, and now they call it Grimaldi's. [Ed.'s note: Patsy Grimaldi's excellent pizzeria Juliana's is also down there.] Even though it's very crowded, I love to go down to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. It's just awesome.

In Manhattan, maybe because I am a borough chick, I just love looking at the water. On the FDR Drive—especially down on the Lower East Side—you can watch people play baseball or tennis, and you can watch the cute men go back and forth. Or on the West Side Highway. I think people really forget that we are surrounded by water.

Also: Marine Park! They have a gated community there. We used to lie all the time to get in. I'd go, “Yes, um…246. I'm going to, you know, the Barbarinos.” They'd go, “OK.” Someone would tell us who lived there. It's really beautiful there. It's just so gorgeous. That’s a beautiful day trip. I haven't been since [Hurricane] Sandy, though.

You're the artistic chair of an organization called Urban Arts that brings in big-name artists to help educate kids who otherwise might not have those types of opportunities. Why is that important to you?
We service Title I kids. [Ed.'s note: Title I is a government program that gives financial assistance to schools with low-income students]. I was once a Title I kid, and it used to hurt. It was beyond insult when teachers would have such prejudice against me that I wasn't as smart as the other kids, just because I was poor.

We don't only provide arts; we don't only provide finger painting. We also provide arts education curriculums that help kids comprehend what they need to learn in school and help them comprehend the Regents exams.

I said this in a speech one day, and it's become the organization's motto: what separates a privileged child from an underprivileged child is opportunity. And if you give a kid an opportunity, they will rise to the occasion. I see it every time. All these kids, you can see in their eyes, “Pick me! Pick me!” Even when they're not looking at you and their body posture has the pretense of “Oh, I don't care,” or, “Oh, I'm nothing.”

We moved into Los Angeles now, we're trying to continue to expand and, yeah, that's my heart.

Before we wrap up, do you have anything else to say about the show?
Last comment: Anna Shapiro is a badass.

When you say “badass,” what do you mean?
Not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good. I hate to quote Run-DMC. You take someone on the level of Larry David, and [Anna] just came in casual, confident, laid back, and took control of the room. It was like, wow, look at that. Everybody fell in line with her. Because she wasn't demanding it. She was kind of like, “You want to get on this gravy train with me. Let's ride.” That's badass to me. And I have a lot of respect for her. I really do. I love that I'm working with her.


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