Rita Moreno, 88, Actress, Producer

Rita Moreno, 88, Actress, Producer

Rita Moreno, 88

Title: Actress, Producer 

Puerto Rican-born star Rita Moreno was the first Latina to achieve EGOT status by winning all four major entertainment awards: an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for portraying Anita in the 1961 movie “West Side Story” and plays a new role in the Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation of the original 1957 Broadway musical, planned for release in 2021. A veteran of the PBS children’s shows “Sesame Street” and “The Electric Company,” Moreno also starred in the TV reboot of Norman Lear’s sitcom “One Day at a Time,” which bounced from Netflix to Pop TV. The show will get new life when CBS begins airing the series’ fourth season on Oct. 12.

Why not retire?
I would rather eat glass. I love what I do. Why would I stop doing what I love and, incidentally, get paid for?

Do co-workers seek out your experience and knowledge?
(During production of the new “West Side Story”) one of the fun parts was the kids (in the cast) would ask questions about the original movie, and suddenly the room would fill up, and it was so much fun. They had big eyes when I would tell them something, and they would say “Wow!” It was so sweet and charming.

Is Hollywood a better place for an actress of color in 2020?
It is a whole lot better. It’s not good enough. I remember in my very early days at MGM, I was a youngster, I was literally 17 when I signed a contract with them. I would say hello to people, and they would just turn their heads. You were invisible, you know. That stays with you. That’s the kind of thing that sent me into psychotherapy. I thought so little of myself, and that had already started when I came to this country. As a youngster, I was already called all kinds of terrible names. I just wanted to be a movie star, and I remember thinking if that’s what I have to do, put up with this kind of thing, that’s what I will do. But it made me a very emotional and angry person. You’d be surprised how often I still have to deal with that problem now.

Are you happy with your career at 88?
It’s not like people are knocking my door down. They’re not. A lot of (organizations) want to honor you — the most recent was the American Film Institute — which is wonderful, but that doesn’t get me work. That just makes me a very awarded actress.

What do you do for fun?
I had a marvelous loft apartment in Marina del Rey while I was doing “One Day at Time,” and that’s where I was living on and off for the last four years. I decided I was tired of paying rent for a place where I don’t stay, so my daughter (packed up the apartment and sent the belongings to her home in Berkeley). I am up to my (rear end) in boxes. I have really sequestered myself during the pandemic and I am redoing the entire house. I’m having the time of my life.

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