Paz Vega Discusses "Spanglish"

Paz Vega Spanglish
Paz Vega in "Spanglish". © Columbia Pictures

After an international search, Spanish actress Paz Vega was chosen to play the role of 'Flor', a single mom struggling to give her young daughter the best life possible in writer/director James Brooks' relationship drama, "Spanglish." Spending one day in the company of Brooks, Vega so captured the spirit of the part that Brooks knew he'd found the perfect actress to play off of Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni.

INTERVIEW WITH PAZ VEGA ('Flor'):

Was your audition different than from how you played the character?
That audition I did in the house, my husband taping me. I didn’t speak English. I learned, I memorized my lines like a parrot. I don't know how [director James Brooks] called after that. I hope that you can see it’s very different.

How did you develop a relationship with the actress who plays your daughter?
She has a natural way. She’s a kid and she’s great, she’s a fantastic little woman and actress. It was very interesting to work with kids. I never worked with kids before and it was very interesting. Sometimes, you know, kids get tired and blah, blah, blah and I would say, “Shh, shut up!” Like a mother. “Show some respect!”

How do you work so well with children?
It’s interesting [and] at the same time, it’s difficult. Somebody in Spain, I don't know who or where, said to me, “Never work with kids or with animals because it is very, very hard.” And this movie, kids and animal, and it was great.

No problem. I loved working with kids because the energy is great.

Do you have kids of your own?
No, no, not yet.

What were the differences of doing a movie here and doing one in Spain?
The biggest difference is living in another city and not knowing anybody. Sometimes I feel alone and it’s difficult. But in the crew, on set, it’s the same work.

I just have to learn some lines, perfectly in English. That’s it.

How did you learn English?
When I was shooting I just talked with people, because I didn’t have time to have classes after the shoot. It was impossible. Now I’m taking a class here in LA with a teacher. And talking, like seven hours, it’s the best way. Also watching TV. Now I understand many, many things. In the beginning, I watched TV and I couldn’t understand anything.

Do you still live in Spain?
Yes.

So you’re just here for this? Do you come to LA often?
Oh, yes, yes. Now for the press junket. I’m learning English…before the movie I’d never been here, just 10 days for a vacation with my husband. But I’d never been here. But now, in the last year, I spent more time here than in Spain. I was here for one year.

Was it difficult for you to play a different kind of Latina, somebody from Mexico, not Spain? Did you have to study Mexican culture?
No, because the Spanish and Mexican cultures are very similar. All the Latin cultures, Spanish and other countries, are the same. What I had to learn was the accent because it’s very different.

Do you speak Castillian?
Yeah, Castillian, with the zzzs…

What was it like working with Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni?
With Adam the work was funny, really, really funny.

The mood and the crew on set was always great, because this movie is a comedy and all the cast, they are very funny. Adam, you know, is funny, all the time joking and making us laugh. Tea, she’s fantastic, she, in the movie, all the time is crying, upset…but not [of the screen]. She’s amazing, very funny, makes jokes. Cloris [Leachman] is the best. She has a lot of energy. To me, it’s ironic. It was great.

Do you understand Flor’s insistence on preserving her culture even though she was in another country?
Yes, of course. I think it is important to maintain your personality, your roots, very important. In my case it’s very important. And I have a Latin or European lifestyle, whatever you want to call it. The interesting thing is to mix this culture with another culture and not cut things out.

Your character was resistant to change. For the first six years, she stayed with all Latins.
I had the opportunity to meet many women from Mexico, living here for 13 years, she doesn’t speak English. This is the extreme. But I think here, for example in LA, the minority is very big. It’s not a minority. It’s normal that people everyday talk to Spanish speakers because there is a lot.

What do you like best about America and what do you like the least?
America, I like the spirit. Because American people here believe in something. I like that spirit.

And not like?
I don’t know, I don’t know. Well, for example, the fast food, it’s terrible. It’s not the food because here the food can be great, but the normal, fries, when you are here you have to think, “No, I don’t want to eat that.”

Penelope Cruz came here from Spain not too many years ago and became very much an American actress. Are you looking to do that or are you going to make this movie and go back to Spain?
I don’t know. This is my first Hollywood movie. And I’m reading very good scripts. I have to decide. It’s very difficult to decide. And I’m very open to proposals.