In 2013, renowned performer Rita Morena spoke with former NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez about her life in show business and self-titled memoir.
Rita Moreno is the only Latino American to win an Emmy, Grammy, Tony and an Oscar. And on Saturday, the 82-year-old actress will receive a new award: the Screen Actor Guild (SAG) Life Achievement Award.
Moreno was born Rosita Dolores Alverio in small-town Puerto Rico during the Great Depression. She headed to work as an entertainer at 13 and was on Broadway and Hollywood before she was 20. Still working today, Moreno is best known her roles in “The King & I,” “Gypsy” and as Anita in “West Side Story.” It was that final film role that earned her the Academy Award for best supporting actress.
In October, Moreno sat down with former NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez to talk about her recently published memoir and what like and work in Hollywood was like as a Hispanic actress.
“I have played Polynesian. I have played an Arabian girl. I played an East Indian girl. And what was so confusing about that, which I mention in my book, is that I assumed I had to have an accent,” said Moreno.
“Nobody said anything, so I made up what I call the universal ethnic accent, and they all sounded alike. It didn’t matter who I was playing.”
Times have changed in Hollywood, with more roles for more diverse actors. “The door is certainly more open than it was for [Latino Americans],” said Moreno, but she thinks the film industry could stand to change even more.
“I’m still waiting to see an actor or actress of Hispanic descent being offered a role that is worthy perhaps of an Oscar nomination … our people, our actors have yet gotten something that’s really very, very strong and meaningful.”