By Darlene Donloe
When you talk to actress Dascha Polanco, it’s clear she’s a strong woman who is proud of her Dominican American heritage.
She talks confidently about her culture and doesn’t pull any punches, regardless of the subject matter.
A beauty who is comfortable with her brown skin, big thighs and full, natural lips, Polanco is a steady working actress (Orange Is The New Black) in an otherwise unstable, unpredictable industry.
Her latest project is the romantic comedy, The Perfect Match, set for nationwide release March 11.
The movie is about Charlie, played by Terrence J, a playboy type who is uninterested in commitment. He likes to play the field and is proud of it. His best friends, played by Donald Faison and Robert Christopher Riley, bet him that if he commits to one woman for one month, he's bound to fall in love. Charlie accepts the challenge. In walks Eva, played by Cassie Ventura. She’s smart, confident and beautiful. Unbeknownst to Charlie, she has her own agenda, which throws the lifelong bachelor into a tailspin.
Polanco plays Pressie, who is married to Rick (Donald Faison) one of Charlie’s best friends. Pressie is desperate to start a family and has little patience for Charlie’s shenanigans.
Polanco appeared in last year’s Joy, starring Jennifer Lawrence and in The Cobbler in 2014. She’s also appeared on several television shows. But she is best known for playing the character Dayanara Diaz on Orange Is The New Black. I recently caught up with Polanco to talk about the movie and her career.
Q: What do you want for your career?
DP: I want to be able to be as versatile as Meryl Streep.
Q: As an ethnic actress, do you feel like you’re pulled in one direction?
DP: I want to work on being picked for being pulled in many directions. Opportunities are opening up, but I want to open up other opportunities. It’s important that we focus on real problems.
Q: Are you good at giving advice to others?
DP: I’m great at giving advice. Honey, live your life. I’m honest. You have to be prepared for things not to go your way. Be responsible for your actions. Pressie is real. She’s married and going through something women really go through. It goes to show you sometimes a wrench can be thrown your way. There is a level where you have to embrace the differences and accept them and collaborating with them.
Q: Donald Faison plays your husband, Rick.
DP: Donald is great to work with. He’s a real genuine person.
Q: Pressie seems to know what she wants in life. She’s the kind that would go after what she wants and that would included her man.
DP: I never understood women who had a list of what they want in a man. Love overcomes all of that. Love makes all the standards go out the door. The emotions and feelings - nothing else matters. It’s a balance to everything in life. Investing in changing someone else is not how we function as people.
Q: You don’t seem to have a problem embracing your curves.
DP: I’m still working on my issues. I put up a guard to protect myself. It’s a work in progress. Face your reflection and say, ‘I love myself.’ It has to come from you. My ultimate message is ‘I have to work more with loving Dascha. So many external factors have affected how I love myself. I don’t love myself enough. Every morning I try to face and look at the possibilities. I have big thighs. Then I think to myself, ‘There are people that don’t have legs.’ It’s a mental process.
Q: You have a lot to think about and consider.
DP: For the most part, it’s a process. I love the art. I’ve been popular. Fame is not what I’m doing it for. I’m still part of me being true to me. This is where I’m from. I’m grateful. I have to protect myself. Not everyone has good intentions.
Q: Your show, Orange Is The New Black, has won some awards.
DP: The beauty of Orange being rewarded, we were rewarded with a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Award. Orange set a trend. There is a lot more casting in other shows for diversity.
Q: Are you looking to branch out in your career?
DP: So much more can be done. As a Latina I want to be the face of a beauty campaign. I want to be someone a five-year-old is able to look up to. I have real natural lips - how more natural can they be? Why can’t I have a line out there. Mine (lips) have naturally been that way. I want to be that. I can walk a runway. I could be on a cover. It’s how you cover yourself. It’s not the clothes, it’s the hanger. I’m self made. I worked hard to get there. There are layers to me. I’m educated. I can sit at a table with doctors, musicians and French Montana. I grew up in Brooklyn. I’m the combination of all the elements in the world.
The Perfect Match, directed by Bille Woodruff and executive produced by Queen Latifah, stars Terrence J, Cassie Ventura, Paula Patton, Donald Faison, Kali Hawk, Lauren London, Brandy Norwood, Robert Christopher Riley, Beau Casper Smart, French Montana and Joe Pantoliano. Robin Givens and Jessica White make cameos.
Flavor Unit is the production company. The film is distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment
MPAA: Rated R for sexuality, some nudity, and language throughout