Femme on Fire: Nadine Velazquez

By Vanessa Butler Photography by Collin Stark, Darren Michaels, Prashant Gupta & Eddy Chen

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Nadine Velazquez has had quite the career. Starting off as the cheeky maid in the hit comedy series My Name Is Earl, Velazquez eventually hit the skies (and a field) with legendary actor Denzel Washington in the film Flight. She can now be seen playing the recurring role of Nick Kroll's lovely wife in The League and the quick-witted lawyer on TNT’s Major Crimes.This beautiful woman shows no sign of stopping, and we wouldn’t want her to! Read on to learn everything you’ve wanted to know about this budding actress.

Playboy.com: So you were on set filming The League yesterday! One of our past Femme on Fire interviews was with your co-star, Katie Aselton, such a sweetheart.

Velazquez: I know! I saw that. Every time I’m on that set I have such a great experience. I have the most fun when Jason [Mantzoukas] who plays on screen brother Raffi is there, I don’t know why, but I light up when he’s around.

Playboy.com: You’ve called yourself a late bloomer as an actress. What are some of your goals in terms of your acting these days?

Velazquez: Well, I better speed it up because I’m not getting any younger! [laughs] At the moment I find my character on Major Crimes challenging. Playing an attorney is kind of an endless process. When I go and observe attorneys in court, which I sometimes do, I really appreciate the way their logic is like a chess game. That is not me at all. I don’t know how to have a thought right now that is going to pay off in over an hour. I don’t know how to set that kind of mind game up unless I’m manipulating a boyfriend or something. [laughs] Performing so effortlessly in court—where people’s lives are at stake—must be taxing. I don’t even know how to connect with that! But that’s not to say that watching it as an actress isn’t fun. With the knowledge I’ve gotten from watching the process attorneys go through, I can understand what my character is thinking and how it will pay off in later scenes. I really enjoyed that process while rehearsing; the reasoning, reduction and then having to put all of the pieces together is really fun.

So I want to keep working on that part of my brain and that side of my acting because I think it’s going to pay off later on, when I’m playing different characters. Other than that, I want to get into doing more features. Starting off as a supporting character is important to me because I don’t think I’d want to go straight into doing something that’s a lead. People don’t know who the hell I am in that capacity! I like the idea of starting off small and gaining the [audience’s] trust. I also want to work on my comedy when I’m not working on Major Crimes, and I also want to work on my writing. So there’s lots for me to do when I’m not on set!

Playboy.com: I saw on Twitter that you’re looking to start a video blog. What are you hoping to do with it?

Velazquez: I want to do a lot of things. I want to record a lot of the characters that I come up with and then I want to do parodies of skits that people already know. I did one with Sweet Brown and people really seemed to respond to it. I want to do some behind-the-scenes on set as well. I’m a little late because the season is wrapping soon, but I’ll be on a movie later in the year so I’ll record the process there. And then hopefully if fans want to ask questions I could answer them as a video thing. I want it to be interactive!

Playboy.com: I’ve read that you’re a supporter of charities that protect the rights of disenfranchised youth. Who are you working with right now?

Velazquez: I sometimes do work with the LAPD. I’ve been offered a couple of other organizations that I have to check out, but there’s a lot of opportunities to help children and I would like to just zero in on one particular group and focus on that, I don’t want to be scattered with it. There are tons of children out there that need loving and more often than not, just need be inspired by somebody who’s similar to them or was similar to them with a success story.

Playboy.com: You got your first ever award this year, the HOLA Excellence in Television Award. That must’ve felt great.

Velazquez: It does, it felt like I’m actually doing something. I started off really green, and now I finally know what I’m doing. It’s exciting when you are not being led by fear and desperation and when you’re really being challenged and led by your heart. I feel like I’m a part of a team now and I’m being acknowledged for that work.

Playboy.com: Major Crimes fans were left with quite the cliff-hanger before the break. Can you dish on anything we can expect for the upcoming episodes?

Velazquez: There’s going to finally be some movement on the Rusty storyline, a whole lot more going on there. And of course [more on] the whole Phillip Stroh serial killer thing… and unfortunately that’s really all I can say! A lot of the audience wants to see where this is all going and what the big deal with Phillip Stroh is and how it’s going to come together. They’re definitely addressing that after the break!

Playboy.com: What drew you to your character Emma Ríos?

Velazquez: What draws me to all the roles, an audition! [laughs] Basically, last year I was going up for many pilots … The trajectory of my career is pretty interesting. It seems that any time I grow as an artist and become conscious of what I want to do next, it just happens that I’m doing that a few months later. It happened with My Name Is Earl when I thought that it was time to be on a sitcom and do some comedy. My Name Is Earl came like six months later. After My Name Is Earl I found myself wanting to be on a series, and The League came like a month after the last season of My Name Is Earl. At that point I found myself in this period of not really knowing what I wanted to do next. It was a slow time in my life; everything reflected that I just didn’t know what to do. And then when I got clear vision of where I should be going next, which was film… and along came three movies. [laughs] Aztec Warriors, Snitch, Flight… And then I literally said, last season, [of The League] “I want to get into my dramatic side.” And then I landed my role on Major Crimes.

Playboy.com: You’ve had a pretty crazy couple of years in terms of your career; you’re just nailing everything you’re in! What can we expect from you in the future? Is there anything you’re working on you can’t wait to share with your fans?

Velazquez: It’s a really exciting time for me right now because I feel like a lot of opportunities are coming. Like this month I’m going to be working on a movie right after I wrap from Major Crimes. It’s a comedy written by Mark Brown, the writer from Barber Shop.I was also offered a couple of other features and right now I have to choose between them. I have an independent movie coming out called Sister and of course Aztec Warrior with Luis Guzman is coming next fall. When Sofia Vergara’s pilot, Killer Women, premieres, I’m [going to be] the first killer woman! I’ll also be on Kevin Hart’s Real Husbands of Hollywood November 12th.

Playboy.com: What’s your…

Favorite food: Anything fried.

Favorite drink: Smoothie from Beverly Hills Juice.

Most embarrassing story: It was probably happened the third week of Major Crimes while we were rehearsing. I was still kind of uptight and not wanting to mess up in front of the team. So I started my scene, and I was off-book by that time. I was in the room with about the entire cast, including G.W. Bailey, who plays Lieutenant Provenza. If you haven’t met him before or worked with him, you can’t really tell if he’s serious or if he’s acting because his acting is so much like is the way he is. As I was doing the scene he interrupted me and yelled, “Okay now, you calm down!” or something to that effect. I looked at him and said, sheepishly, “Well, it’s my line!” And he says, “Yeah, that’s my line too.” I looked down on the page and sure enough it was. I started crying on cue. I couldn’t keep anything together anymore. We still had to do the scene and I was crying the entire time. I had to tell people I was okay but I just couldn’t control it! [laughs]

Worst Pickup line: “I’ve seen you before.”

First memory of Playboy: What a disgusting question! My neighbor and I were creepy shameful kids in his basement and we found his dad’s stash from ’84 and I was like, “What the fuck, naked women!” I couldn’t get away from them! Vaginas, breasts and hair! I had never seen a naked woman before so I was really fascinated. We got in huge trouble for that.


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