Alyssa Diaz - Empathy Through Entertainment
Alyssa Diaz is a renowned actress of talents and passions that stretch far beyond the world of entertainment. Known for her roles on ABC’s new series, The Rookie, Showtime's Ray Donovan, and the Netflix series Narcos, she is no stranger to portraying a strong female lead. Not only is she a powerhouse entertainment, she carries that energy into her off-screen life as well. Raised in Los Angeles, Diaz uses the stories and roots of her Colombian-Mexican heritage in her efforts to make a social change for women and at-risk teens.
Diaz ulitizes her gift of storytelling as a tool of empowerment, as it allows her see the world through the eyes of people whom stories are rarely heard. She share the experiences of these people with the world, which brings forth a gift of inspirations and understanding to her audience. Compelling and dynamic, Diaz is woman on the forefront of initiating a positive, and entertains while doing so.
JA: Tell me about the importance and impact of keeping storytelling alive.
AD: I think what is really powerful about storytelling is that you get to step into someone else's shoes and it creates empathy. It’s really easy for us, especially in social media culture, to simply label things as “good” or “bad”. That creates prejudices and stereotypes. I think what the power of storytelling does is it lets you into someone else's world. You can see that were all human, we all have the same desires and needs, and when you can relate to someone on that level it creates empathy and a level of understanding. Which is what we all need. We all want to be loved and enjoy our life! And [storytelling] lets people know that they’re not alone in how they feel. When you’re going through something difficult, it’s easy to feel isolated. We all feel those intense feelings and when you can see that in someone else and in their story and see how they got through it, maybe it can help you get through things in your life. That’s why I believe so strongly in the power of storytelling.
JA: The Rookie premiered on ABC in early October. How do you feel about finally showing the world this new dramatic series?
AD: I’m really excited, actually the other day it hit me that it’s really coming out! I think audience will really enjoy it because we are able to humanize the stories of these officers and get to see Los Angeles in a really unique way. The way we’ve been filming has been really cool because we’ve been using a lot of steady cameras and body cameras to give it a more visceral feel. And the comedy parts great, and I think it’s necessary because everything is so high stakes - it’s nice to have that comedy relief which the writers have been working in wonderfully. It’s been a wild ride and I’ve learned a lot.
JA: In preparation for your role as Angela Lopez on The Rookie, you were apart of ride alongs with the Los Angeles Police Department. What was that experience like?
AD: That was really intense and eye opening. I did two ride alongs and the second one I did was with a female sargent, and she was a badass. Beautiful woman with these amazing glasses and lipgloss - she was a tough and had the biggest heart. She started a community outreach program at the station, and so the police and community are building trust with one another, which is really nice because it gives each side empathy. I went down to the projects, meet with gang members from Los Angeles and heard their side of the story. I learned that everyday it comes down to just wanting to come home to your family. You learn that you have to protect yourself, protect your partner, and protect the general public. It’s a lot - and it made me have so much more respect for officers and what they do.
JA: You’ve portrayed many strong women throughout you career, especially in Army Wives, Lifetime’s longest running series. How has playing these powerful roles translated into your own life?
AD: I feel really blessed and lucky for being able to know myself early on. I started acting when I was 12 so it has definitely been a process of like, ‘okay, who am I and what do I want to say’, and using this medium in that way because it’s such a powerful platform. And I grew up with a very strong mother and have had such close relationships with strong, empowered women. It was important for me to take on roles that showed that. So I feel really lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to do that because I just think whatever you do, the heart and soul that goes into it is really what matters. Especially now with women really stepping forward and stepping into their power and feminine energy, it’s just a really exciting time for me to get to be a part of it as well.
JA: Did you go into acting with the same intention and passion that you have now?
AD: Actually, no [laughs]. It definitely has evolved. I was such a goofball as a kid, my parents had tried putting me in all types of sports but nothing was sticking until I started acting. For me, it was definitely an outlet but I had no idea of the power involved in it until I got a little bit older. In my twenties I realized, ‘wow this is a really special thing.’ I starting finding that deeper meaning of why I was doing what I was doing.
JA: Tell me about your charitable efforts in empowering young women.
A friend and I co-founded a charity called “I Am Now Me” and basically it’s an empowerment program for at risk teen youth in foster care. So we work with girls between the ages of 13 and 17 years old, and once a month we bring in a speaker to talk about goal setting and visioning. We’ll bring in extracurriculars like dancing or something related to the arts and freedom of expression. I just want to give girls a voice and let them know that anything is possible when you hone in on your talent and have someone believe in you. I’m a huge proponent about that. I tell these girls that they have the power to how they respond to life's circumstance. That’s the power we hold - being happy is the choice we have.
JA: With all this experience and understanding, what is it like to be you?
AD: To be me, I am very curious and in awe of life. I like experiencing new adventures. Whether its travelling, reading a new book, or learning something new, I’m a learner. That’s why I think my job is so perfect for me because I’m constantly learning new things. I also just like to go with the flow and enjoy my life because know how fast it goes. To live so many different lives and put myself in so many peoples shoes has really made me appreciate my own life more.