August 11, 2008

Interview with Gina Ravera of The Closer and ER

Gina Ravera is an anomaly in Hollywood today, a woman of color who stars in not one, but two hit TV series -- ER and The Closer. Her film credits, among many others, include The Great Debators opposite Denzel Washington, director George Tillman’s award-winning Soul Food, Kiss The Girls with Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, Spike Lee’s Get On The Bus and Paul Verhoeven’s cult classic Showgirls. She also is the founder of Project Reina, which educates young African American and Latina girls about HIV/AIDS prevention.

Women & Hollywood: Most actresses have trouble getting one job on a TV series and you have two. How is that possible?

Gina Ravera: Both shows are done by Warner Brothers. It's a real blessing to have two jobs. The character I play on ER (Bettina DeJesus) is a lot closer to me. She's a lot of fun. The development of Detective Daniels on The Closer has been fascinating. Her character didn't really exist in the pilot. She's been evolving as the years go on.
W&H: I think it's fascinating that Daniels is the only other woman on the squad except for Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson (played by Kyra Sedgwick).
GR: People wonder why there isn't more solidarity between Daniels and Brenda and the truth from the writer's perspective is that it is difficult for a woman in any industry, especially something as male dominated as the LAPD to be seen as an equal to men. The women have to prove that they are not going to come together just because they are women. It's not that the women aren't threatened, but if you align yourself with a woman in a male dominated profession, the men are suspicious. They want to be perceived as a legitimate cops, as tough and as strong as their male counterparts.
W&H: The first couple of seasons of The Closer were spent trying to get the men of the squad to trust Brenda as their leader. Now that trust has been established the show is moving into a whole new area where personal lives are revealed, especially with your character who happens to be dating a person on the squad.
GR: Having a relationship at work is sticky. If it doesn't work out how do you come back and not have that color how effective you are. That was Brenda's main concern about Daniels and Sgt. Gabriel (Corey Reynolds). The relationship has been pretty quiet onscreen but in the episode that aired last week all of Brenda's fears came to pass. This season is about power, the loss of power, the acquisition of power and also about finding out how little power one has.
W&H: One of the things I've noticed is how few women of color we see in positions of power and as characters on TV shows and here you are you playing a detective and a doctor.
GR: I was talking to a friend of mine and said (whatever your politics are) I look forward to seeing the Condoleeza Rices on TV. I hope that she exists in Hollywood. I want to see the Michelle Obamas in Hollywood because until this day we have yet to see her. I think those images are important because not every young kid reads the paper, but seeing that it is a possibility is of the utmost importance. I think that it is from fiction that we learn to dream, and if we don't have images in fiction that we aspire to be then we're robbed. It's sad when fiction fails to embrace reality. I too look forward to seeing those images of women in power. I feel so fortunate to be able to play a doctor and a detective - there are so many powerful women of color. I hope to see Hollywood embrace real women and characters.
W&H: Can you give a hint about what's going to happen to Betttina this season on ER?
GR: The power of love is mighty. Bettina rejected Pratt (Mekhi Phifer) through so much for their relationship because he didn't stand up. He didn't come to her in the way that she needed which was to really cherish and adore her. She demanded that because she felt she deserved nothing less and she gets that.
W&H: Any last thoughts?
GR: It is absolutely our responsibility to create more opportunities for ourselves and we only get that by tuning in and by speaking up.
The Closer airs Monday nights on TNT. ER returns for its final season this fall on NBC.