Perfect Stranger, the 2007 thriller starring Halle Berry and Bruce Willis, was not a box office hit. The director shot several different endings, apparently unsure himself how to end the movie. There’s one good reason to see the film, however, and her name is Florencia Lozano. As NYPD Lt. Tejada, Lozano is on screen probably less than ten minutes. But in that short span, you can’t take your eyes off her, even though she is sharing frames with the Oscar-winning Berry and then Willis. Lozano epitomizes the oft-quoted statement by the famous Russian actor and theatre director Konstantin Stanislavski: “There are no small parts, only small actors.”
Fortunately, for Lozano’s fans, her role as Tea Delgado, the take-no-prisoners lawyer on the daytime drama, One Life to Live, provides her with a larger part and longer intervals on the screen. (On Lozano’s fan page, one admirer gushes: “I’d watch Florencia brush her teeth—she’s that good!”) Lozano returned to the soap in 2008 after spending six years pursuing roles in film, television, and theater, perhaps her true love. Besides Perfect Strangers, she completed the feature films The Ministers, with Harvey Keitel and John Leguizamo, and Veronika Decides to Die, with Sarah Michelle Geller and Melissa Leo. She has a long list of television credits, including memorable roles on Ugly Betty, The Lipstick Jungle, Law & Order Criminal Intent, and Gossip Girls.
In June, she participated in a reading of Kate Robin’s play Swimming in March, part of the Women Expressive Theater’s Inkubator Summer Series. Seven actors sat in a semi-circle on stage reading this work in progress. Once again, Lozano was mesmerizing. On a bare stage, without the benefit of make-up, costumes, or props, she captured the essence of a wife watching her husband, a veteran of the Iraq war, disintegrate before her eyes. Her heartbreak was palatable. After that reading, we approached Lozano, wanting to know more about her background and career.
We met on a sweltering July afternoon at the ABC-TV studio where One Life to Life is filmed. Fans were gathered outside holding books, including the One Life to Live anniversary album, for Lozano to sign. She was gracious, signing, posing for photographs, even waiting for a fan that left to put money in his meter. Finally we walked around the corner, found a sidewalk table at a popular deli and settled in with salads and drinks. Fans continued to walk by, staring and giving her appreciative glances.
Lozano won the role of Lt. Tejada, even though the original description called for a large African-American woman in her forties. Undeterred, Lozano roughed up her appearance, going into the audition with her hair pulled back, wearing work clothes, including construction boots. After she was cast, Lozano went to her local police precinct and found Irma Rivera-Duffy, a female homicide detective, to follow around. “I met her cop friends,” she said. “And she set me up with a firearms specialist who taught me how to shoot.” Lozano learned how to arrest a suspect, how to use her voice to command a situation. Coincidentally, her next role in The Ministers also had her playing a police detective.
Lozano’s parents, Eduardo, an architect, and Elizabeth, a Spanish teacher, are from Argentina. She was born in Princeton, N.J. and grew up in Newton Centre, Massachusetts receiving her B.A. degree from Brown University and an M.F.A. from New York University’s Acting Program. Her parents still live outside of Boston and she has two sisters, one a pediatrician living in Seattle, the other an attorney living in New York.
While work in film and television is enough to fill her time, Lozano is loyal to the theater. “It’s very important for me to act on stage where I started,” she said. “There’s nothing like a live performance.” In 1992, Lozano was one of thirteen actors who joined together to form the LAByrinth Theater Company, “a multicultural collective that produces new plays reflecting the many voices in our New York City community.” Lozano served as associate artistic director and literary manager while Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Ortiz—and later John Gould Rubin—shared artistic directorship of the company. She is passionate about the company’s mandate to support actors from diverse backgrounds. “We’ve seen the people’s perception of Latino actors change and I like to think that LAByrinth had something to do with that,” she said.
Lozano has written a play, underneathmybed about a young girl growing up in New England with parents who came from Argentina. She discovers another young girl living underneath her bed. The play, directed by Pedro Pascal and developed at LABryyrinth and with the assistance of David van Asselt at Rattlestick Theatre, will hopefully be produced first in Argentina and then in New York City next year.
While Lozano has been cast in several roles calling for Latina actors, her appeal is broader, allowing her to play Latina roles as well as those where the ethnic background is not clearly defined. She played an extreme Latina cosmetics maven wearing a green sequin turban in an episode of Ugly Betty, and also was cast as the ultimate WASP, Elaine Waldorf, mother of Blair (Leighton Meester) in the Gossip Girl pilot. She was replaced when the series began not because she looked too Latina, but because she looked too young to be Blair’s mother. “I’m fortunate that I’m not limited,” she said. “ I can play a whole bunch of different things.”
During her hiatus from One Life to Live, Lozano continued to receive fan mail. The letters are once again pouring in. “There’s lots of advice for the character,” she said with a laugh. Lozano wears her celebrity lightly, perhaps a sign of her grounded upbringing. “It’s strange to receive fan mail,” Lozano said, admitting that she doesn’t Twitter or spend time on Facebook. She also is mystified by the popularity of reality TV. “It’s such a strange phenomenon,” she said. “I hope it’s a trend that dies soon.”
Even though she might nab more film roles living in Los Angeles, Lozano said she tried that once and ended up moving back east. “It wasn’t until I came back to New York that I realized this is my home,” she said. “This is my land.”
For more information on the LAByrinth Theater Company, go to www.labtheater.org
Woman Around Town’s Six Questions
Favorite Place to Eat: Downstairs at La Esquina in Little Italy. The Mexican food is sophisticated, subtle, gorgeously presented and to die for. The atmosphere makes me feel like I’ve been transported to beachfront Mexico.
Favorite Place to Shop: I like Enz’s in the East Village: vintage-y, retro-y dresses and tops. Unique jewelry and accessories. Dresses in window always catch my eye.
Favorite New York Sight: The water that surrounds our isle. Gazing out at the Hudson or the East River calms me and gives me perspective.
Favorite New York Moment(s): The unexpected ones, where a stranger smiles back for no good reason.
What You Love About New York: I love the people in New York, our diversity and how, for good or for bad, we are all in this together.
What You Hate About New York: The pace of the city. It exhausts me and I need to find conscious ways to slow down and to prioritize the quality of my life above work and getting things don