to step into the role of directing this monster!  I think he's going to create a whole new
generation of fans!  Not like it needs it...but this will jump-start it again!  I am thrilled to
be part of it all.  Hell...I have my own Star Trek uniform on the Paramount lot with my
name on the tag!  That's pretty cool!”  And I am so jealous of her (wink).  

With my confidence in Forte restored that the new Star Trek franchise is in good hands, I
turned my attention to one of the other more impressive credits on her resume.  It was a
little known film when it was released by HBO in 2002, but it propelled the career of an
ingénue actress named America Ferrera.  Real Women Have Curves was an important
film because it is one of the first scripts brought to screen that entirely represents and
realizes the Latino culture without the Hollywood stereotypes that have often
commercialized and victimized Latinos in film.

I asked Marlene about her experience on Real Women.

“Real Women was one of my favorite movies I've worked on!  Patricia Cardosa (the
director) was great and America is my little bon bon!  We both auditioned at the same
time.  We both kept being called in...and we both made it!  I didn't audition for the role I
got.  I auditioned to be America's sister.  Patricia met with me, and then I didn't hear
about it for along time.  Then I got the call, and got offered the role of “Ms. Glass”.  I loved
it!  I wanted to be part of this movie in any role and I told her at the meeting!”

I asked Marlene about how she saw the future of Latino film and with the advent of
projects like the increasingly popular New York International Latino Film Festival, which
has hosted the premieres for such films as El Cantante and bolstered the careers of
many Latino notables, if there was a future for the Latino market to succeed.  “I do think
we need more Latin themed everything!  We are a huge buying power, and in the end,
that's all the sponsors care about.  Look at the Lifetime Movie I did with Judy Reyes and
Ana Ortiz.  We had great numbers!  I think the ‘powers at be’ are finally seeing the
potential to make money with us!  And in this country, isn't that what it's all about?”
“Acting is my job, not my hobby,” boasts Forte.  “I started a little later in my life time.  I
had a child to feed...so I attacked it!”  The Cuban born Forte approached all her facets of
her life with the same ferocity!   Even when she was deciding on which direction her life
would take, movies were never far off of the agenda -- the enterprising young woman
opened her own video store in West New York, New Jersey, and as luck would have it --
the store’s exteriors served as a set piece for the legendary Robert Altman’s production
The Streets.  Her passion seemed to pursue her every opportunity, and when at thirty,
Forte decided the time was right to pursue her career in acting she made sure she gave
it all she had.

“Everyday...still, I do something for my work.  Something!  Send a picture, make a call,
visit my agents, read the trades!  I love what I do, but it is my job!  I think a certain
amount of luck is always involved in anything, but you have to help your luck along by
being very active in your life!”  Forte didn’t bank on luck -- she hit the pavement running
aligning herself with the LAByrinth Theater Company and continued to master her craft
as a production assistant; taking any job, big or small, silly or serious -- to make ends
meet and expand on her resume.  Eventually, her hard work paid off and Marlene
landed herself an agent -- the Holy Grail of an aspiring actors career.  Some would
remark the rest is history, but in fact it put Forte on the path she had clearly expected,
and being a Latina has only served her in the end.

“Being Latina was my way in!  I speak Spanish well, and that was ‘my foot in the door’!  I
made most of my money in Spanish commercials at first.”  She did of course play those
roles often offered to Latin actresses -- the weeping mother, or (worse) strippers.  But
Marlene persevered and eventually surrounded her with a team that believed in her
talent and ability -- and began to shape her career.  “It's not always easy.  Especially
once the casting directors get to know you.
www.ambiente.us  MARCH | MARZO 2009

The Working Latino Actor | AMBIENTE looks at Marlene Forte
By JC Alvarez

As wonderful and alluring as the call of stardom is, Hollywood can be a cold and
unforgiving environment especially to the countless of “ethnic minority” actors that hope
to follow in the footsteps of some of the big screen’s biggest legends.  It’s not too
difficult to get caught up in the magic of Tinsel Town even now as we come to the end
of the award season phenomenon, we’re reminded of the glamour that seduced us to
the magic of the cinema in the first place.  Those icons that made us want to enter a
darkened room and allow us to escape the frivolity of our own meager existence; those
icons like Clark Gable, Katherine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe.  Latinos
eagerly waited the landmark moment when Rita Moreno took her winning turn in West
Side Story and set the example for a generation of aspiring Latino actors.  And in recent
times the landscape of Hollywood has continued to change allowing actors Denzel
Washington, Halle Barry, Cuba Gooding, Jr., to name a few examples carve a new
niche and break through the ceiling.

Still as far as Latinos have come in film and entertainment, the stereotypes are there,
fortunately it has done little to deter young talent that is prevalent and overflowing and
fortunately, continuing to set a standard.
Among those breaking
through to continue to carve
the niche, tear down the
ceiling and battle the
stereotypes is the lovely and
talented actress Marlene
Forte.  Her acting resume has
paired her with the casts of
such hit television series as
ORDER (to name a few) and
she has also worked with
notable Latinos like George
Lopez and America Ferrera.  
This summer Marlene Forte is
about to boldly go where
few have gone before
joining the cast of the
upcoming blockbuster
reboot of Star Trek directed
by JJ Abrams.  

With her career moving at
warp speed I chatted with
Marlene on her past, present
and future and what has
come through and through is
that in order to succeed,
Forte has had to seriously keep her focus on her career...her eye on the goal.
Eventually I got seen and got the job.  So, even after you've proven yourself, sometimes
it's hard to get seen for something different.  I don't think that happens just to Latin
actors.  Once Hollywood sees you a certain way, it's really hard to break out of the mold!”

Marlene does admit that she has encountered some resistance in Hollywood.  
“Everyone wants to put you in a box!  ‘Oh she's a dramatic actor’ or ‘Oh, she's a
commercial actor’ or ‘Oh, she's a good crier’...whatever it is, you have to fight to stay out
of any box.  I'm an actor.  I can be what ever you want me to be!”

Upon researching Marlene and her career, and looking over the various shots that
encompass her portfolio, one thing about this talented woman is clear -- she is quite
stunning, a unique beauty even amongst a culture that is defined by it’s vanity and
attractiveness.  I wondered if it ever hindered her from getting the roles she pursued.  
Humbly, Marlene admitted, “I usually don't play the glamour roles.  I think because I
started later in my life, I never thought myself that ‘beautiful’.  I try to show up as the
character -- if that character is a lawyer, then I dress like that.  If she's a mom -- I dress
like that!  I try never to think about what I look like.  It's the kiss of death for an actor…to
be so self-aware.  I try not to look in the mirror much.”

Every actor approaches every new challenge as if it was the first and Marlene Forte is
about to step into legendary status when she joined the cast of this coming season’s
most hotly anticipated film: the JJ Abrams re-imaging of Star Trek starring Chris Pine
(as James T. Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (as Mr. Spock) taking over for the roles made
historic by William Shatner and Leornard Nimoy.  As the devout fan that I am, I can
understand the enormity of stepping into something like Star Trek...its part of the
American lexicon.  I wondered if Forte was prepared for it all...

“Oh yes, Star Trek!  I have a red dress.  What does that mean?”  Obviously, Forte isn't
abreast of the unfortunate fate of most of the characters that have sported red shirts on
the original series.  “I loved working on this thing!  It's history!  The new cast is fantastic
and JJ Abrams is a young genius.  I can't think of anyone better
What it is all about is indefinable!  Hollywood changes with the tide and as the tides
turn, as roles increase and diversify, minorities gain more momentum...after all we live
in a world now where Slumdog Millionaire has as much of a chance at a victory as a
maniacal villain from The Dark Knight.  So who’s to say that Latinos won’t have their day
in the sun?  It’s certainly inevitable -- it’s not as if we haven’t been on top before; Latinos
aren’t the new Black!

“I love good work!  But we have many that have past before us -- Lolita Negron, Dolores
Del Rio, Sonia Braga, Carmen Miranda, Desi Arnaz, A. Martinez, Anthony Quinn and
Raul Julia...many, many pioneers.  But I also love the women who have taken the bull by
the horns and started producing...Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek.”  And then there’s
Marlene Forte, who continues to champion along in her role as actress, writer,
producer, innovator.  “We can't sit around and wait for people to hire us.  We must do for
ourselves, too.  I believe we need to to it all!  Write, produce, and move it forward -- that
is why I stay in forward motion!”

Momentum.  Like Forte, in order to fight the good fight, you have to keep going forward or
like in Marlene’s case warp speed ahead!

Marlene Forte will be seen in the upcoming Paramount Motion Picture release STAR
TREK, this summer and she rejoins the cast of Tyler Perry’s HOUSE OF PAYNE
reprising her recurring role of “Rosalita Hernandez”.

CLICK HERE for more J.C. Alvarez

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