Award-winner, TV and stage star Ivonne Coll, who plays matriarch Alba Villanueva on TV’s Jane The Virgin, will lead the cast in the world premiere, The Madres at Teatro Vista in Chicago. Ivonne Coll will be joined by a stellar cast featuring Lorena Diaz-Dwyer, ensemble member Ramon Camín, Felipe Carrasco and Ilse Zacharias.
It’s 1979 in Buenos Aires, Argentina where people are disappearing right off the street. The genocide waged by the military Junta against its own people is in full-swing. Carolina and her mother Josefina are searching for their pregnant daughter/granddaughter,
Belén, who has been missing for twelve weeks. When they receive a surprise visit first from a priest who is now the chaplain to the military at ESMA (one of the known concentration camps) and then by a soldier from the neighborhood who is also stationed at ESMA, they come up with a plan to try to see Belén one last time. Will it work? Will they be able to save her baby? Will they be able to save themselves? www.teatrovista.org
We sat with the actress in Los Angeles to talk about her award-winning career.
CB: You could be considered one of the original triple threats who also had her own variety show in the 70’s called “A Girl Called Ivonne Coll.” Tell us about the show and how it all started in your native Puerto Rico.
IC: The Executives at Channel 11 wanted a new variety show with a singer and dancer. They wanted someone new and young. They had developed another artist who left. They needed to counter act that. I was doing my show in the best club in San Juan and unbeknownst to me they sent producer Onix Baez to approach me. He came in and asked for a meeting. The network was called Cadena Perez Perry which is what is Univision today. I met with them and the press. They told me what they had in mind. Carmen Junco was there too. My personality was Hollywood glamour 30-40’s Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich style. The show was on the air for two and a half years. International guests included like Celia Cruz, Mauricio Garces and Armando Manzanero among many others.
CB: What was the greatest lesson you learned from studying with Lucille Ball?
IC: That comedy is a very serious business.
CB: You are probably in one of the most iconic movies of all time, The Godfather Part II. Please share with CinemaBuzz about your experience having been directed by Francis Ford Coppola and working side by side with Al Pacino.
IC: I was very ignorant of who I was working with at the time. I was insulated. I was hired to do a club act. Coppola gave me the name Yolanda so I could have a credit. However, watching Al Pacino in a scene is what made me realize what I was going to do for the rest of my life.
CB: Your role of Alba Villanueva on Jane The Virgin has stroke a massive chord with audiences in the U.S. and other countries. Did you expect that the character was going to be embraced by the immigrant community?
IC: I was worried about the fact she was only speaking Spanish in an American show. I thought audiences wouldn’t want to hear that. There are so many negative facets to the immigration problem. I was very worried. I started to embrace it when I started meeting Albas in the street. I never in a million years thought it would become so well liked and well favored. Production have created many stories for her. I have sang, danced, be have acted sexy. Alba is very multidimensional and it keeps getting better and more challenging with each season.
CB: You guest starred in a recent episode of One Day at A Time in a (now epic) scene with Rita Moreno. How was working with Rita Moreno and what was the main challenges you had to deal with in the scene?
IC: I loved working with Rita. When she was on Jane The Virgin playing Rogelio’s (Jaime Camil) mom, we had no scenes or interaction. We had one little scene where she comes in and says hi Alba. That was it! Scenes went on with her son and other characters. When I was given a chance I thought this can’t get any better. I jumped at it. It was like a dream come true of a scene. We had fun competing for a man. Older women with elegance and sensuality. The opera setting was wonderful.
CB: You are an actor who prepares. No matter what it is, you are known for knowing your lines and never leaving your work to improvisation. Is this quality something that was instilled in you at an early age or was it something that came about later in your career?
IC: I always follow the director’s instructions, writer or composer. Sometimes I do some improvisation. But you can’t improve Shakespeare. You have to take it and make it yours.
CB: This year marks your directorial debut with the short film “From Now On.” How was your experience directing AND acting in the film? What are your plans as a female director in post Harvey Weinstein Hollywood?
IC: It was a great experience. I was surrounded by great professionals like my co-director Javier Colon, Cinematographer Jamie Urman wonderful our producers Yeniffer Behrens and Mauricio Mendoza. I felt I had a good team. I chose a good team around me. I want to keep on doing pieces from a female point of view no matter what they are about, which will be my point of view.
CB: You have the lead role in the play “The Madres” which debut in April at Teatro Vista in Chicago. Does this bring you memories from the time you worked at The Goodman Theatre?
IC: Yes, because that’s what I met the company and the members. They were the majority of the cast for the play I came to do at The Goodman. Including Tania Saracho who was one of the actors and is now a very prolific writer in Hollywood
CB: What was the greatest moment for Ivonne Coll in all your illustrious career?
IC: The greatest moment – many great moments. I guess it was getting cast on the Godfather Part 2. That was the beginning of it all. That was the greatest moment. I also had the right people around me as well. My mentor Tony Martinez is the one who said to me: “Forget this vedette thing. You are an actress and a comedian. That’s who’s you are.
CB: Will Alba Villanueva find love again?
IC: I have no idea. Even if I knew I would not be able to reveal it. Jane the virgin is after all a telenovela. You have to keep on watching.