A funny thing happened on the way to casting for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the ensemble sitcom about a
Fumero, the daughter of Cuban immigrants, read for the part of an overachieving, by-the-book cop. As for Beatriz, who was born in
The two won the roles, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine went on to become a hit, earning two awards at the
Fumero says the characters are detectives who happen to be Latina, but that's not the direct focus. "That blows my mind, it's so ground-breaking."
Breaking cultural ground was never the intention of Brooklyn Nine-Nine writers
"They just wanted to write a good show with good characters and have those characters be real, well-rounded, fleshed-out people," says Fumero. They wanted Fumero and Beatriz on the show, and the two were Latina, so they made the characters Latina. "There wasn't an agenda. ... I'm almost more proud of that than even the fact that it's such a diverse cast."
Beatriz agrees: "They're interested in writing for an audience that wants to see real world reflected on television."
The roles of Rosa Diaz and Amy Santiago are the type Beatriz and Fumero have been dreaming of and working hard for all their lives.
FROM STAGE TO SCREEN
Beatriz had some early exposure with colorblind casting in her
The feeling of belonging was new for Beatriz, a member of an immigrant family facing challenges in their new home. Beatriz's father, a chemical engineer in Argentina, had to switch to driving trucks when he brought his wife and toddler-age daughters to the United States. "It was much more difficult for my father to find a job, probably because of, you know, societal prejudices against someone whose degree came from
But the many adjustments only made their parents more resourceful and supportive of their daughters. Her father now drives a bus for students learning English as a second language; her mother teaches Spanish. "It was important for them to have my sister and I really follow our hearts," Beatriz says. So her parents let her focus on theater throughout high school and at
After graduating, Beatriz worked with
She credits her work in theater with helping her keep in tough, taciturn character during hilarious scenes with
When she's not in character, though, Beatriz is bubbly and quick to laugh. "I am very different from Rosa, although she's definitely one of my shadow selves," Beatriz admits. "(Rosa) cares about people, but she doesn't have time for BS. There's too much else going on."
Her character's mysterious background allows Beatriz to add her own touches: She thought Rosa would ride a motorcycle, so she started carrying a helmet onto the set and has even signed up for lessons in case they let her film a scene on one. "If Rosa rides a bike, then I should know how."
In addition to motorcycle lessons, Beatriz wants to return to the place where she found herself, her high school theater department. "I really like talking to teenagers about the industry. ... I wish someone had been able to do that when I was in high school; I had so many questions about the way things worked, and I didn't even know who to ask," she says. "Especially for young women, it's a really tricky world."
Her character would likely agree, though probably wouldn't add a cheerful, "It would be really fun for me!"
FROM SOAPS TO LAUGHS
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is filmed in
Fumero describes her parents as practical: Her mother was a hairdresser who became a stay-at-home mom, and her father was a math teacher who now works in a jewelry store in
"I was always performing," she says. When her parents took her to Broadway musicals starting at age 10, "I remember looking at the stage and being like, 'That. I want to do that.'" Her parents sacrificed what they could to add acting classes to their daughter's new obsession.
Their support was validated by an acceptance letter from
Their faith in her drove her to succeed, and mere hours after her final exam, Fumero got word she'd won the role of
In addition to gifts and bragging rights, she also gave her parents a son-in-law:
Her soap opera alter ego became pregnant, though, as well as becoming a model, getting attacked by her stalker, finding love and then leaving her husband to run off to
Fumero hired a coach and spent time at The Groundlings, the legendary sketch comedy troupe and school in Los Angeles, where
The results are great timing and a subtle step beyond playing straightwoman to Samberg's funnyman. "I have a very cartoony face," Fumero says of her expressive reactions to Samberg's lines. "When you're acting with Andy Samberg, you definitely have to be on your toes and ready for anything. ... It's very challenging and super fun, and you feel really good and proud at the end of the workday.
"This whole cast and this show has made me grow so much as an actor and as a person," she adds.
While Fumero can't say where her character on Brooklyn Nine-Nine is headed, she has hopes the show will be an influencer on television. "We want to see Latinos do more than be the maid, gangster or drug dealer. I know Latin people; they're not like that. Hopefully people start writing and producing shows that reflect that. The views of Latinos (are) much more diverse. There's a lot of us.
"It sends a message," she says, "without actually sending a message."