Sofia Gonzalez is one funny lady. Graduating from The Groundlings School of Comedy, she's performed on theater stages in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and New York City, and is the founder of the Los Angeles based sketch comedy group The Gym Comedy. For her dedication, sense of humor and passion, Sofia is this week's Inspiring Latina!
Tell us a bit about your background?
My mother was born in Mexico City, and my father’s roots are Guatemalan and Nicaraguan. I grew up with great music, eating pan dulce, dancing folklorico, eating menudo on Sundays, and of course going all out for my quinceañera. I feel very lucky to have been born and raised in San Francisco’s Latino community. Our family was always very active politically and my life has been full of working for causes like justice for farm workers, women and immigrants.
Where did you go to school? How did you get involved in acting?
I went to University of California Santa Cruz and got my B.A. in Politics. After I graduated, Dolores Huerta trained me in community organizing skills. There is a lot of performance involved in political organizing. You have to tell human stories with conviction and purpose to get people excited and involved. Acting is all about bringing humanity to serve the story.
What got you interested in comedy?
Everyone in my family has a great sense of humor. We never could keep a straight face during life’s awkward moments. I associate laughter with a sense of joy, home, and making life better.
Seeing Tina Fey and Amy Poehler impersonate Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton on SNL made me realize wow, they are doing it all. Telling a story, advancing a cause, making history, and having so much fun! Another influential moment for me was Kristen Wiig’s performance in Knocked Up. It was a small role, but for me, she stole the movie. She was so subtle and brilliant and she made me laugh and rewind her scene over and over. If I could deliver one scene like that in my life, I will die happy.
Did you know you always wanted to act?
When I was four years old a magician brought me on stage as a volunteer and after the first trick I responded with a slowly delivered “Woooow!” I heard a big laugh- and from there on out I was hooked. I wanted to be part of every play or performance. It was hard for me to watch a production and not want to be in it. Actually it’s still hard for me to this day to not want to be part of every production!
What inspires you?
The spontaneity and unpredictability of life inspires me. I think that is what attracted me to improv and why I chose to study comedy at The Groundlings. I feel truly alive when I don’t know what is coming next.
I am also very inspired by the strong Latina actors who have paved the way for us in the industry, like Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, and Sofia Vergara. In my sketch comedy, I love writing dialogue for Latinas in all walks of life, portraying them, and celebrating their unique struggles and point of view with humor.
What do you love more: acting or improv? Do you see them as completely different?
I don’t see them as different. In improv, you have to listen to your scene partner, get affected, have a team mindset, and serve the story. I am so grateful I had improv training. It has really freed me up as a comedic and dramatic actor. If I’m lucky I will get a director who will say to the actors “do this one for you.” I often see the scene pop and change in an exciting way because of improv. I love them both, don’t make me choose!
Tell us about your current projects!
Currently I am touring my one woman show “Bully Mia” and I am excited to announce it will be at the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival March 28th 2013 at 8 p.m. I also perform regularly with my sketch comedy group The Gym at The Groundlings in LA. And I am writing a couple television pilots that have me very excited.
What keeps you going?
Every time I have dusted myself off, it has gotten better. Sometimes I have to zoom out to remember that. There is a lot of rejection in this business but my family’s support, living a healthy lifestyle, and laughing with my friends has helped me to realize the preciousness of the small victories along the way. I am falling in love with learning, with getting better.
What's been your most favorite project to date?
Working on NBC’s Community was a dream come true. It is one of my favorite shows of all time. The day I worked, I sat in the make up chair next to Chevy Chase and told him he was a hero of mine. I still have my call sheet framed next to my bed.
What are your thoughts on Latino casting in Hollywood?
I believe things are getting better at an exciting rate right now, which is worth celebrating. It seems like Hollywood is waking up to the fact that Latinos are a huge entertainment market, that we have great actors with talent and skills, and that our community needs to be represented. The real breakthrough will be when SNL casts its first Latina cast member in 39 years. Last year I auditioned for SNL and I hope someday it will be me.
Do you ever feel limited as a Latina actress and comedian?
I feel as long as the writers and producers focus on a great story then there are no limits. But sadly sometimes the focus is on typecasting and perpetuating stereotypes, and that is when I feel limited. Latino stories are human stories.
Who would you love to work with?
Penelope Cruz, Sofia Vergara, and Salma Hayek. And comediennes like Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Amy Poehler and Sarah Silverman. I would love to work with great directors like Paul Feig, Quentin Tarentino, Robert Rodriguez, Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson.
What makes you excited to get out of bed every morning?
The chance to make someone laugh, hard. If I accomplish that with performance or even casual conversation, I know I’ll get a good night’s sleep.
Where can readers find your work?
Anything else you'd love to share?
I encourage all young aspiring Latina actors to pursue sketch comedy. It has shaped me in my storytelling and my sense of joy toward my craft. There are so many training institutions like The Groundlings, Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, Second City and Improv Olympic. The training is fantastic and is important for your skill set. These places have not only helped my career, they have shaped me as a person. Go get it!
Do you know an Inspiring Latina? Nominate her by emailing InspiringLatinas@Latina.com!