Paz Vega On Hollywood, Motherhood and Great Food

It's been four years since Sevilla, Spain-born actress Paz Vega charmed us in Spanglish. Not that she's been on hiatus--the Sex and Lucía stunner has been filming several Spanish movies, taking English lessons and spending quality time with her son, Orson, and her Venezuelan husband, Orson Salazar. On December 25, Vega returns to the big screen in Frank Miller's graphic novel-inspired action flick The Spirit, co-starring Eva Mendes and Scarlett Johansson. Celia San Miguel spoke to the 32-year-old actress about her new role, how learning her second language is coming along, and her favorite dishes to cook for the family.

Tell us about your character, the Plaster of Paris, in The Spirit.

She's one of the Spirit's lovers. She's also a belly dancer and a master in armas blancas--knives and swords. Half of the time she's speaking French, the other half English in a French accent.

Did you have to learn knifework, then?

Yes, I spent about a week familiarizing myself with knives and machetes and all of the movements. They were real, and so heavy! I wasn't scared, though.

Is it true you didn't know English when you filmed Spanglish?

I didn't know a word. But that's part of why director James L. Brooks chose me. The things that would happen to my character, Flor, would happen to me. I'd be on the set and people would say to me, "Hi, how are you?" and I'd keep turning to my translator and going, "Qué?"

How has your life changed since the release of that movie?

That's really when I began to consider moving to the United States and starting a career in Hollywood. It was a change that I hadn't been looking for, but I like new challenges.

What has your transition from living in Spain to living in Los Angeles been like?

I moved to my permanent residence in Los Angeles a year ago, but Spain is always in my heart. I go back to visit a lot, and I have my family there. But the truth is that Hollywood has treated me well. We have friends, we have plenty of work, and it's a wonderful place to raise my son, Orson. I think I've adapted well to the change.

Do you enjoy being a mother?

I love it, I love it, I love it. I don't know how I hadn't done it before! He's not speaking yet, but he makes sounds and says mamá and papá perfectly. It's an experience that we're fortunate to have as women, and I'm eager to repeat it.

Tell us about Sevilla, where you grew up.

For me, it's the most magical city in the world. It has a special light to it, and there's always something to celebrate. I've brought the traditions from Spain to the United States: spending the afternoons with my husband and my son, enjoying the little things...I cook croquetas, and I eat jamón. I keep my diet 100% Mediterranean and drink my Rioja. In that sense, I have a piece of Spain in West Hollywood.

What else do you like to cook?

Everything, especially whatever my husband likes. Steak, rice, vegetables, everything. In my house, we always cook well and eat well.

So how do you maintain such a great figure?

Ever since I was little, I have exercised a lot. I was a competitive swimmer from ages 8 to 16. It was great discipline, and something that I'd like to teach my son. But I stopped going to the gym years ago. I do Pilates every now and then to strengthen my stomach. But I don't do much, and I think that's the secret. My Mediterranean diet, and not obsessing over calories.

What other projects are on the horizon?

I'm in this crazy comedy called The Six Wives of Henry Lefay [co-starring Tim Allen]. At Henry's funeral, six of his ex-wives get together and we're talking about the same man, praying, and all these strange things start to happen.

You've come so far since Sex and Lucía. Were you at all afraid of that role?

When I first got the script, I was. It had a lot of sexual content, and I never saw myself doing that. But the writer/director [Julio Medeem] was well known, so I said, "Why not?" It turned out to be wonderful. Many people have told me that they cried when they saw the film, or that they've seen it 15 times. It's not a romantic movie with a happy ending--it's complicated. It makes you think. That's what I liked about it.

--Celia San Miguel