EXCLUSIVE: Zulay Henao Talks 'The Single Moms Club' & Latinos in Hollywood

Zulay Henao was born in Medellin, Colombia, and came to the U.S. with her family at the young age of four. After spending three years in United States Army, Zulay decided to pursue a career in acting. She got her first big break in 2007's Feel the Noise -- a film produced by Jennifer Lopez. Fast forward a few year years later, Zulay has starred in various movies including Fighting, John Singleton's Takers, and has held TV guest spots on shows such as Grey's Anatomy and Lifetime's Army Wives.

Now the 34-year-old belleza is diving into the world of Tyler Perry, starring as Esperanza in the upcoming flick, The Single Moms Club. We caught up with Zulay to get the scoop on her latest role, what it was like to work with William Levy, discuss Latinos in Hollywood and more.

Read our entire exclusive with The Single Moms Club star below:

Tell us about your character Esperanza.

Esperanza is one of the single mothers in the film. She is -- or rather her obstacle is -- she completely lost her independence when she got married. Prior to that she was studying design and she was an independent woman, but after her marriage, she kind of let all of that go.  She stopped pursuing her dreams and just really focused all of her energy into her daughter and her husband. Which is great, but she lost herself.

It’s funny because I feel as Latin women; it’s very much a part of our culture that when we get married or start a family, we give a lot. We give really too much of ourselves sometimes. It’s just part of our culture. And I think, sometimes, there’s a thin line and a boundary, with her [Esperanza] specifically. So she’s under complete financial and emotional control of her ex-husband. She’s being manipulated in ways that I think a lot of people are going to be able to resonate with – a lot of single mothers who are going through that fearful struggle when they’re divorcing. Because it’s difficult…a breakup alone is difficult, can you imagine a marriage with kids? 

So it’s a very fearful place, and our journey together was to get her to a place where she really believed in herself. She had hope, she got her dreams back, and she felt that she could really tackle life, motherhood, womanhood – on her own -- and really be successful at it. It’s really a beautiful story. Every single mom’s journey and struggle and obstacles in the movie are very different, so I think there’s something substantial for people – all kinds of women – to really get something from it. It’s very diverse. They’re all very common problems that we may face, but there's also a funny aspect to it. You have to take the good with the bad and you kind of have to laugh through it. I think this movie does a really good job with just having fun with the problems that life throws your way and trying not to really sulk in them too much. But, you know, it’s just working through them and loving yourself through the problems that come up in your life.

Definitely agree. In what ways were you able to relate to your character?

Well, I’m not a mother and I’m not married, but I’m very close with my mother. My parents divorced when I was 14 and so I know very well the struggles that my mother faced. They were definitely of a lot of help to me. I went back to my childhood and I also took a lot of the child’s perspective because as you’ll see in the movie, my daughter’s going through a very rebellious kind of state in her life. And children do this because they kind of want to bring their parents back together somehow. I remember when I was going through that. I kind of turned into a very rebellious child and I wanted to stir things up. So I looked at the child’s perspective. I also looked at my mom and her individual struggles and fear. It’s more about empathy for me than really having the actual experience. I can really empathize with someone because I know that feeling of fear. I think we all do. So it’s just about placing it in a different circumstance and understanding that human being for what’s going on in their life at that moment.

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Priscilla Rodriguez, Associate Editor

Priscilla Rodriguez is Latina.com’s Associate Editor. She provides coverage on nearly every topic with a focus on celebrity entertainment. Before hitting the pavement at Latina, Priscilla worked for various outlets including Teen.com, InStyle and Us Weekly. You can follow her on Twitter @priscilrodrig.

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