Photo by Roger Richardson
There is something to be said about the artists that come from New York. They tend to have a certain aesthetic that you can't find anywhere else in the world. This holds true for Manni L. Perez, an upcoming actress who's future looks brighter than ever.
Manni first got her official training at Tisch School of the Arts. While at Tisch, she developed an interest in TV and film production. Shortly after that, Manni began studying acting for TV and film production at NYU's TV/Film department as well as Stone Street Studios.
Although she is new in the industry, Manni has already accumulated credits on The Dark Age, The Blacklist, Blindspot, Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It, and Marvel/Netflix's Jessica Jones. We're excited to see where Manni's career takes her and she should definitely be on your radar of upcoming artists that you should get to know. Check out the interview below.
Photo by Roger Richardson
What drove you to pursue a career in acting, Manni?
To be honest, I never thought of pursuing a career in acting. It wasn’t until I went to SUNY Orange that my professor, David Cohen, asked me if I would ever consider being an actor. When he asked, I was like, “Nah nah, that’s not me.” But then he stopped, looked at me, and was like, “Manni, I see you doing film and tv.” He was so sure and precise in his statement that it took me aback for a moment and made me think, “Huh, maybe I should look into this.” So ever since then, I decided that I was going to give acting a shot.
That's crazy! [laughs] What career were you originally going to school for?
Originally, I wanted to be a professional belly dancer and travel the world teaching dance classes and workshops. At SUNY Orange, I was getting an AA degree in I don’t know what. [laughs]
Belly Dancing seems like quite a unique dream. Did you have family members that were also into belly dancing or did you learn your passion for that elsewhere?
No one in my family Belly Dances [laughs]. When I was little, I used to watch and listen to Shakira. So, I would watch her and mimic her movements. Then I did more research into it and found a performance by Sadie Marquardt. That was it! I was so enthralled by how clean her isolations were. Then I began watching her videos on Youtube and taught myself how to dance. In college, I actually was a professional belly dancer and used to perform at weddings, graduations, parties, seminars, etc.
Damn. [laughs] And there are plenty of other crazy skills that you specialize in as well, right? Like kickboxing and other forms of MMA?
Yeah. I currently do Muay Thai. I used to do MMA and BJJ, but because of my schedule, I’m unable to make time for those classes.
Do you do Muay Thai for fitness or does it have some similar story like belly dancing for you?
It’s not. [laughs] I do Muay Thai for fitness, but I also do it to further my brand within the Industry.
Why Muay Thai and not some other form of martial arts?
I’m not sure. I just love kickboxing. Especially because of the 8 point contact striking and It’s really really fun!!! I get to release so much energy and emotions into the Thai pads, mitts, and people’s faces. [laughs] It’s so high intensity that I’m able to unwind and de-stress. Being in the industry can be very frustrating at times. Some days are amazing and some days are not so good. Especially having thoughts and fears of not being good enough or questioning my career path. For those days, it’s really important for me to find something that allows me to keep my balance and push forward. Kickboxing gives me the confidence that I need to keep pushing forward.
I totally agree with that! Everybody deserves to have at least one thing that allows them to pull away from all of the stress and pressure in their lives. After seeing some clips of your recent projects, I would say your acting is extremely versatile and you seem to be someone who doesn't want to limit their opportunities in the industry. Do you think all of these activities that you are so passionate about actually help further your career and even help land you certain roles?
Aw, thank you Rich! I appreciate you! Yes, all of these activities help me to forward my brand and allow me to market myself properly within the film and TV business. I have a very specific niche in the industry. A lot of the roles I get called in for require me to be fit, strong, and kick ass. [laughs] When it comes down to it, casting directors are looking for actors who got it all and it’s SUPER DUPER competitive in the acting world. So having the ability to fight, handle guns, do stunts, while also making sure I keep up on my talent gives me the upper hand in the audition room and the industry.
Photo by Roger Richardson
Thank you very much, Manni, I appreciate you! Considering all of the roles you've done now, have there been any that may have resonated with you more than the others? And what role would you say has been the hardest to prepare for?
Hmmm, that’s a good question. I recently shot a film called, “The Dark Age.” I play Maya, who is this tough-as-nails character with the hunger to survive in a post apocalyptic type world. But at the same time, she still has some remnants of her former self before the world grid shut down. I fell in love with her versatility and strength. It was a character that I didn’t have to try to be sexy or beautiful for. I was allowed to be as ugly as I wanted to be. And within that freedom to go there, I found what made her and myself beautiful. I haven’t encountered any difficulty in relating to the characters that I book because these characters live within me. Every character I play is a different part of myself. So I have been blessed to be able to do that.
That was such a beautiful and dope way to answer that question! I applaud the sincerity. I think it's crucial for people to find themselves through what they're inspired by and it appears that you are an excellent example of exactly that! Do you have any desire to pursue any roles that are perhaps, out of your common character portrayal or out of your comfort zone?
I would love to play roles out of my comfort zone that challenge me. I think since I’m pretty new in the biz, I’m booking these bad ass woman roles because that is my market. To be honest, my biggest fear is to play a woman that needs to be saved by a man. Like, I can’t imagine playing the damsel in distress. You know what I mean? If anything, I’m usually the one causing the stress [laughs]. I’d prefer to play a character that whatever she’s going through, no matter how hard society wants to keep her down, she picks herself up, puts her big girl panties on (preferably cotton [laughs]) and keeps it moving.
[laughs] I think that question was answered perfectly. I think you should find tons of success in the future and a great fan base that'll love every role you do, your sensational personality, and your attitude on life! Did you have anything you wanted to ask or say before we conclude the interview?
Yeah. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I appreciate you and I hope our paths cross again!