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Interview: Angelique Rivera

At the recent Golden Globe nominations, ABC’s critically acclaimed series American Crime received three nominations.

The series will return January 6, 2016, and not only features a new storyline, but several new actors will be part of the second season, with several cast members from Season One returning. One of the new members of the cast is up and coming actor Angelique Rivera.

Born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in Kissimmee, Florida, Angelique steps into the spotlight on American Crime, which is her first major acting role. Angelique plays Evy Dominguez, a student who witnesses the assault of another high school student at the hands of the school's basketball team.

We had the chance to talk with Angelique about when she found her passion for acting, what it was like auditioning for American Crime and what it was like working with the amazing cast on American Crime.

Pop Culture Principle – Initially, as a child, you were thinking about becoming a ballerina and then changed your mind and decided to become an actor. What made you change your mind?

Angelique Rivera – Yes, I did. My mom put me in dance classes when I was three years old, and I was doing that and I had this dream of being a prima ballerina. That was my very first goal, but I quickly realized that it was not going to happen for me.

I think, as I got older, I realized that ballet wasn’t my passion. Ballet is very strict and formal, and it takes a lot of technique and training. I just didn’t have the want and need to do all that. I had all this energy and, with ballet being very constricted and very technical, I knew it wasn’t for me.

Pop Culture Principle – How did you first become involved with acting?

Angelique Rivera – I got introduced to theater through one of my friends. I went to see her in a musical called You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, and I saw that she was acting and singing and dancing.

I thought to myself that I could still dance, I like to sing, and acting looks like a lot of fun, so this is something that I should be doing. So I ended up going into this theater troupe when I was eight years old, and that’s when I introduced to acting and being on stage, and I continued my theater training from that moment on.

Pop Culture Principle – While at the University of Florida, you worked as an intern at Amsel, Eisenstadt, Frazier and Hinojosa Talent Agency. What if anything did you learn about the business while working there?

Angelique Rivera – I was in this theater program at the University of Florida studying acting. My entire life I thought I was going to be in New York and be on Broadway. Signs kept coming up and I always wanted to do film and television, but I never thought of it as a possibility growing up because there weren’t a lot of people in film and television that looked like me. I thought I would just do theater in New York.

In college, a lot of things changed and things were becoming more diverse on television, and I always had that dream of being a movie star. I felt that was the real goal, and I wanted to graduate college early so I could move out to California. So I got this internship to live in California to see what it was like, but to also get enough credits fast enough to graduate from college early. I learned so much about the business interning at that agency, and I felt really confident leaving and I kind of knew what I needed to do. The agents gave me some great advice, and I took it and ran with it.

Pop Culture Principle – When you decided to take the leap and move to Los Angeles, were you nervous or scared at all making such a huge change in your life?

Angelique Rivera – My boyfriend moved out to Los Angeles a year-and-a-half before I moved there, and I had a bunch of friends from college that lived out there. I had that support out there, so I knew it would be an easy transition. I was definitely nervous because, financially, I was in a really tough spot and I knew that moving out to Los Angeles would be expensive, because the cost of living out there was really high. I had savings but it wasn’t a lot, so I played it by ear.

I was a server in college and luckily, on my first day in L.A., I got a job at a restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard, and I got a manager on my first day in L.A. as well—and they are still my managers now. I knew that those things happening were signs that I did the right thing, and that moving to L.A. was the right choice.

Pop Culture Principle – You recently began filming Season Two of the ABC series American Crime. Did you watch the first season of the series?

Angelique Rivera – You know, I watched the pilot when it premiered. What’s funny when it comes to me is that I’ll watch something and then I’ll leave it and catch up with it later when it’s on Hulu or Netflix, because I don’t always have the time to watch a show when it airs. When I got the show, I watched the first season on Hulu and loved it.

Pop Culture Principle – What was the audition process like for you?

Angelique Rivera – Usually the audition process is long, but mine was a week exactly from when I auditioned to when I found out that I got the role, which is very unusual. It was very fast and kind of happened in a blink of an eye. I auditioned on a Tuesday and I kind of just went in there and thought if it was meant for me then it was meant for me, and I am just going to have fun in there. We put my audition on tape, and I heard that I got a call back the next day when I was on set shooting a music video.

So I prepared for the call back all night, and woke up early the next day and continued to prepare for the call back. When I got there, John Ridley, Michael McDonald, and Kim Coleman were all there. I walk in, and John came up to me and shook my hand and welcomed me. He just has this wonderful and beautiful energy about him.

He told me before I started my audition that if it’s good, it’s good and I’m not going to give you notes. I did the first scene and he didn’t say anything, and had us move onto the next scene. I did the next scene and again he didn’t say anything. After I was done, he shook my hand and thanked me before I left. Two hours later, I found out that my testing for American Crime was the next day. I was freaking out because I had never tested and it just sounded scary in general, but it actually turned out fine.

So I went to ABC, and there were three other girls and all the guys that were up for Connor. We did chemistry reads pretty much the entire time. They let the guys go, and it was just the four girls. They then cut two of the girls, and it was down to me and another girl. All of a sudden, they spring this new scene on us that we were going to have to do, and we both were frantically trying to learn the scene.

I wasn’t really trying to memorize the scene, but I was just trying to see what was going on in the scene and what all this meant from Evy’s perspective. The other girl went in before me and then she left, and then I went in and they had called back Connor Jessup to read with us. I didn’t think I had it memorized, and I had the sides in my hand and went through the scene once.

John comes up to me and takes the sides from me, and tells me I didn’t need them and also gives me some notes. We started up again and I was so in the moment and not realizing that I really knew the scene because the words were just coming out. It was so emotional and I broke down, and didn’t have to do it again after that. I was the last one to leave that day, and felt on top of the world. I thought that, if I didn’t get this, there had to be a crazy reason that I didn’t get it. I was so confident in what I had done during the process.

That was on a Friday and I had to wait the entire weekend, which was really hard. I got the call on Tuesday and found out that I got the role.

Pop Culture Principle – What if anything can you tell us about your American Crime character, Evy Domiguez?

Angelique Rivera – Evy lives in a low income household. She comes from a very supportive and strong family. She’s a strong girl who has had to grow up very fast. She is very loyal, not only to Taylor Blaine but also to her family. She has to make some difficult choices later on in the season that will define her and who she is.

She’s not rich and goes to this public school that has a lot of issues, which also affects her. She’s a tomboy and doesn’t do her hair, doesn’t wear make-up, and wears baggy clothes. It’s really not about how she looks, but about what is going on. It’s very real and a very well-written character.

Pop Culture Principle – This is your first big acting role. Where you nervous stepping on set for the first time, and what was your first day filming like?

Angelique Rivera – Luckily, my first day of filming wasn’t too bad. I had two scenes that I had to do that day, and I was a little nervous. I was nervous because I was hoping they didn’t regret their decision in casting me after the day was over. After a couple of takes of the first scene, I kind of felt at home and it just felt right. I felt like I had done my work and I was prepared, so I was just going to have fun and enjoy this experience.

John pulled me to the side, and told me how impressed he was with how well I did on my first day ever of shooting. That also made me feel much better knowing that I belonged there. It was really good to hear that.

Pop Culture Principle – With such an amazing cast on American Crime, have you been soaking up any and everything you can from your fellow actors on set?

Angelique Rivera – Oh my gosh, yes! I’ve been a sponge on set, and that’s been my whole mindset going into this project. I just want to soak in as much information as I can. A lot of my scenes are with Lili Taylor who is just a pro and has done a million things in her career. She really has given me a lot of advice and also, watching her and being with her in scenes, I learn from her every take. She’s just a pro and, watching her and working with her, she’s so sweet and open and willing to help me with advice or if I am nervous about something./p>

She has a similar story to me because she booked her first breakout role when she was nineteen, in the film Mystic Pizza, so she knows what it is like. She didn’t get training at a conservatory or go to a school; she learned her craft working on set.

Although I do have theater training, film and television is a whole other thing. I have just been learning this entire time on set. I was thinking today that we are already on episode eight, and I feel so much more different and comfortable now than I did on that first day. It’s crazy how things change and how that cast is so supportive and willing to be there for you. It has been an amazing experience.

We would like to thank Angelique for talking with us. Remember, the second season of ABC's American Crime premieres on January 6th, 2016. If you would like to keep up with all of Angelique's latest news and projects, as well as all of her social media sites, you can visit her official website here.

**Photos courtesy of Kevin Thomas Photography & AngeliqueRivera.com**

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