Latin Times Interview with Actress Ivonne Coll,
one of the first Puerto Rican actresses to cross over from the Latin world to Hollywood.
By: Victor A. Padilla
Latin Times: Ivonne, please tell us about your family and where you come from.
Ivonne: First I want to say “Saludos para todo mi gente!” I am Puerto Rican. My mother was Rosita Mendoza, a very famous award winning hair stylist and Platform Artist back in the 60’s and 70’s. She was a teacher to new hairstylists and came out of the mountains of Calle. At age 9 she got on a bus to the next town over, “Caguas” to get Coffee in a little Café y un señor le dice, “Que hace una niña linda esta hora de la mañana por aqui?” My mother replied “Buscando trabajo, Señor” Y el senor le pregunta, “Usted sabes cuidad niños?” Mi mama no quieria nada de eso, pero dijo “Si”. The man and his wife were Venezuelans and owned a beauty salon where my mother began working and learning about being a hairstylist at the age of 12.
My father didn’t raise us because my parents were divorced when I was two years old. So I didn’t see him after that. We stayed in Puerto Rico and he went to New York. In 1988, I had come back home from filming up in New York, and I ran into my father at Las Plaza Americas in Puerto Rico. We established our relationship and I was able to meet my brothers who are all wonderful.
Latin Times: What inspired you to become an Actress?
Ivonne: I was cast in the God Father 2 at the age of twenty-two. I was a singer named Yolanda from Cuba, when Francis Coppola came to Puerto Rico to find places for filming. One day I went on location and Al Pacino was there. I had never seen Pacino in my life and they were doing the scene where Michael gives Fredo a Sicilian Kiss. When I saw that scene I said to myself, “I want to be an actor.” It inspired me because it was an extraordinary scene. I saw Al Pacino later at the Actor’s studio and he remembered me from the Cuban Scenes in God Father 2 and he said, “Well you’re in the right place if you’re here to be an actress.”
Latin Times: Tell us about Jane the Virgin?
Ivonne: I am currently working on Jane the Virgin in its third season where I play Jane’s (Actress Gina Rodriguez) grandmother which I am proud to have the part. I am also training with the Director on Jane, shadowing her to learn producing.
Latin Times: What is your favorite Latin Food and how do you like your Cuban Sandwich?
Ivonne: I like Cuban Sandwiches, but what I love is Asopado with some mofonguito adentro. MMMM.
Latin Times: Are you working on any upcoming projects?
Ivonne: YES, I am producing a short film, that I am also acting in. This film is about an undocumented immigrant woman. This will show the other face of the coin where I am not playing an abuela. I am going to put it in the film festivals. It’s a 10-minute short, so let’s see what happens!
Latin Times: You love your native Puerto Rico, why?
Ivonne: I go to Puerto Rico to see my sister and to take care of my mother’s house. I fix a lot of things at the house so I’m able to contribute to the local workforce and give someone work. I was going to retire before Jane the Virgin but, here I am.
Puerto Ricans are reinventing themselves and there is a new wave of young farmers that are growing food and selling it at the farmer’s market. Another young group that invented growing food without water through compose. One group invented a way to get electricity to everyone and it would only cost the government eight cents a day. The Puerto Ricans that are staying, struggling, despite the conditions are patriots of the Island. Puerto Ricans must reinvest in Puerto Rico, it should be an obligation.
Ivonne: My mother, I go no further, my hero, my inspiration, and it’s very hard now that she is gone, because I have to remind myself she is not here, but she is my devotion and my Puerto Rico, an incredible race of people. Hasta el Aguacate.