Brooklyn Nine-Nine actress Stephanie Beatriz on being 'lucky and fortunate'

Stephanie Beatriz as Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Detective Rosa Diaz.
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Stephanie Beatriz as Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Detective Rosa Diaz.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Rosa Diaz is quite possibly the grumpiest detective on television. She rarely smiles and isn't keen on small talk, making friends or revealing personal information. 

Argentina-born actress Stephanie Beatriz has been playing the police officer since the series began and describes her character as "a tough cookie".

"She's definitely a specific archetype, like the tough cop, and that includes men and women who have played those kinds of roles," says Beatriz.

The cast of American cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
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The cast of American cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

"She's very grizzled (and) tough and thinks everybody is wrong until they prove themselves innocent."

On the phone from Los Angeles to promote Brooklyn Nine-Nine's fifth season, Beatriz sounds far removed from her grouchy alter-ego.

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She is chatty, good-humoured and happy to talk about her family and her acting experience before Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Beatriz, 36, grew up in Texas with her parents and younger sister who is a graphic designer. 

During her 20s, she spent a lot of time doing theatre work and when she landed the part of Rosa, she had limited television experience.

"I had been living in New York for a while and just wanted to try my hand at film and television because I had never done any of it before," she says.

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"So I moved to LA around 2011 and did one guest star (role on television) and then I just started auditioning for pilots in pilot season. Brooklyn came around in my first year here. I was very lucky and fortunate. It was just the right timing for me. It was the second pilot that I booked."

Like many aspiring actors living in Los Angeles, Beatriz had been barely making ends meet.

"I was teaching workout classes at the time," she says. "I had $200 in the bank when I booked Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I was a struggling actor for sure. Brooklyn really changed my life."

Beatriz, who has appeared on Modern Family as Gloria's sister Sonia, credits much of her success to her parents and the support and encouragement they gave her when she was growing up.

She immigrated to the United States from Argentina with her parents when she was two years old.

"I would say I grew up not wealthy," she says. "I never really wanted anything because my parents are definitely hard workers and provided for me and my sister very much. 

"But my family was never in a position to save money. It was always, 'Just make it through the month and make it through the year and make sure the kids are fed'.

"My parents came to the United States because they had in their heads the American dream. 

"When they figured out it might not happen for them, it was very important for them to make it happen for their kids."

When TV Guide spoke to Beatriz, Hurricane Harvey had just hit Houston, the city where her parents live.

"Many of my friends are in shelters," she says. "I'm very lucky that my parents are still in our home, in their apartment. I feel so much gratitude that they're doing well and doing OK. 

"I just feel so grateful for a lot of things in my life. One of them is Brooklyn Nine-Nine." 

For those who haven't seen it yet, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a comedy series set in a New York police station. The show's star is Andy Samberg who plays the quick-witted but immature Detective Jake Peralta.

The role has elevated Samberg to A-list status.

"He has a specific gift for making other people feel joy and laughter," says Beatriz.

"I'm good at delivering a joke but I don't have the gift that Andy has. Very few people, I think, have it."

The show has become a global hit, but Beatriz says it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the series has such a worldwide following.

"Everyone that I know is working in the film and TV industry in some capacity, so it's easy to forget we have a large audience," says Beatriz.

"But I will say ... the last time I visited London and Paris was quite fun in a lot of ways but one of the fun things that happened was that I kept getting recognised and that doesn't usually happen for me. 

"That was kind of eye-opening for me. I thought, 'Oh this show is actually really popular all over the world'."

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, season five starts Thursday September 28 on TVNZ Duke.

 - TV Guide

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