Award-winning comedienne / actress, signs deal with new VID platform, MUNDOFLIX
The new streaming video service, MundoFlix announced recently that they have partnered with Oro Entertainment to distribute Viva America, a variety special written by and starring comedienne Maria Costa. Viva America, debuts on October 20, 2017, and it captures the best of this multi-talented actress, writer and comedic dramatist. In addition, MundoFlix will also distribute Costa’s docu-series, which will follow her every move while on her national comedy tour.
Latin Heat pinned down the “Latina Lucille Ball,” as critics have called her, for a one-on-one as we dig deep to find out what that special something is about her that captivates audiences and allows her to tap into their senses and sensibilities…it’s sheer magic and hilarity.
LatinHeat: Congratulations! In all your wildest dreams growing up did you ever think you’d be performing and writing your own content for hundreds of audiences across the country?
Maria Costa: I was writing when I was in elementary, middle and high school. I’d write plays and put them up. Storytelling was something that always called to me. I am a pretty passionate and sensitive person so I believe writing allows me to process my own experiences and respond to what I observe about human behavior or injustice in the world. And when you make people laugh you can get a message across in a fun and entertaining way. Even change or evolve the way people think. I also enjoy performing comedy, I’d watch Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Gilda Radnar growing up and was inspired by how expressive and funny they were. How they were so comfortable in their skin and uninhibited in everyway. There was much more to them then just their beauty. I was also inspired by Lucille Ball as a leader in comedy and great business women. I loved that she took a stand for Desi Arnaz to play her husband on the show and together they brought Cuban Culture to mainstream television. I admire that she was a producer on her show and went on to produce other TV series, even own a studio. She made some amazing industry changing moves. Through her I realized how change could be made through comedy.
LH: What was your first professional experience writing and performing?
I was hired by PBS while I was in college as one of their talents and told them I wanted to produce and write too so I pitched a few shows, and they approved them. It was great because I learned how to deliver a project on a budget. I learned everything hands-on with PBS.
LH: Tell us about how you came to the attention of MundoFlix and/or why you decided to pitch them?
MC: Robert Rangel, head of development, was initially introduced to my work via our mutual producer Eric who then introduced us. Robert looked at all my work, from Viva Americato Macho Men and went about looking for funding. When MUNDOFLIX came up, we called him up and pitched the docu-series as an original program for MUNDOFLIX. There was a process to approve funding, once that was a go he also expressed interest in Viva America, a variety special that our production company, Oro Entertainment, produced previously. I’m excited about MUNDOFLIX because it’s a platform for Latino voices to be heard and seen.
LH: How different is it to tape your shows versus performing to a live audience?
MC: They are two completely different experiences. Viva America was shot with one camera, no audiences, so the process feels more intimate to me as a performer. With live shows, I’m performing in front of a live audience and receiving an immediate response as well as connecting with the audience moment to moment. I’m riding the wave of the laughter and energy I’m receiving from the audience then giving that energy back to them. It’s very exhilarating. It’s always great to see if the audience is getting what you’re trying to get across. It’s also a great experience sitting in the audience once you have filmed a project and seeing how people are responding to the work. I’ve screened the early version of Viva America and I remember feeling a bit anxious because the theater had about 1,200 people there and I was thinking, “oh geeze…I hope it goes well!” Then when the first burst of laugher came and then the other, I was very relieved and happy. Yes, it’s different, but just as fulfilling.
LH: Tell us about Viva America.
MC: Viva America is a variety special that takes on immigration and race through my stand up and characters. I talk about my mixed race background as a Hungarian, Cuban … Afro-Cubana and what it was like growing up in Detroit. Then the audience meets a line up of outrageous and, I’d like to think funny characters, which talk about their experiences in dealing with the subjects of race and immigration. Like in all my work, the male characters are all alpha males so we see how the situation may be affecting, say their sense of manhood…say in one instance where one character looses his job due to the, in his words, “foreigners” have taken all the jobs due to immigration. The women are also strong and outspoken.
LH: Why is it harder to perform comedy than drama?
MC: I’ve been trained in both comedy and drama. I do what speaks to the audience and I think my training kicks in. In drama, you have to pull from your own personal experiences and in comedy, the same, but it’s done for different reasons. I use the drama medium to bring a message across. I truly love that experience. With comedy I feel like I can really let it all out and not care what anyone thinks. With my alter egos—I can be completely free.
LH: Of all your characters you impersonate, which is your favorite and why?
MC: My favorite is ‘Wykisha,’ the hair stylist from Macho Men. She’s based on a few different stylists that I have, and some of my good Afro-American friends— Wykisha is outrageous! She doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She’s bold and brave with blue hair.
My other favorite is ‘Rebecca’. She’s a Cubana who wears spandex and who divorced her husband after 30 years for not treating her respectfully… now she’s completely free and happy. These are characters I like to write and portray. I want to play strong, bold, funny characters. I wanted to create strong, funny roles.
LH: In your career as a woman of mixed-race, what has been your biggest frustration?
MC: Whenever I’ve been cast in stereotypical roles – like either playing the tough girl or asking to do an accent for a role, that’s been one of my biggest frustrations.
MH: What’s been your greatest triumph?
MC: Creating my own content from my experiences by writing strong, funny and smart characters as well as producing, fundraising and bringing on good directors and other creatives on the projects, like Rick Najera who directed Viva America. I enjoy the creative process of making a project and bringing it to the finish line. My last comedy concert that we shot at the Kodak Theater won an Imagen Award. I was surprised when we won that night as the other projects nominated in our category were produced by major studios and ours was produced independently. After that, the project received the attention of a few distributors and then we licensed it for worldwide distribution with Image Entertainment. It’s rewarding to create your own opportunities… knowing that you made that happen.
I also enjoy touring and taking my work to audiences on the East Coast where there are a lot of Latinos of Caribbean decent who really connect with the characters and story lines. It is fulfilling to hear Afro-Latinos say they appreciate their stories being told and culture reflected on stage and screen.
LH: What is the secret to your success in an industry, especially in stand-up comedy, which is primarily male dominated?
MC: Belief in yourself, your vision and what you are capable of. Though we are in a creative industry, I think it is also important to look at it like a business. My uncle who was an entrepreneur and owned several photo labs, raised me. I used to be in photo shop after school. I saw first hand how he made his business successful. I learned from that and part of what I learned was to bring my business savvy to every show I created. Even with the Macho Man, we grew the audience from it’s premier in a 99 seat theater to 5000 seats. My uncle always taught me that if I worked hard, I would succeed. Stay focused on what you are committed to, even on days when you don’t feel like it, take steps to make your vision a reality.
LH: Who is your comedic idol/mentor and who is your favorite actor you most admire and why?
MC: Lucille Ball, Lily Tomlin, Meryl Streep, Rita Moreno and of course Carol Burnett because she created strong characters and surrounded herself with seasoned comedic talent. I want to do the same as I move forward, to bring on other talent to collaborate on great projects. In my current work, I use music and dance as a way to give the audience a richer experience of Cuban culture and to help tell the story. During that process, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing Latin music talent, some who are legends in their field. It was an honor to work with artists that I grew up listing to. I’d like to continue down that path. Overall, I admire authentic artists whose work is about something, who are truthful and fearless.
LH: What kind of legacy would you like to leave behind for future generations?
MC: I’d like to be known for being a trailblazer… someone who created opportunities, not only for herself but for others as well…as someone who stood for issues that really mattered, women’s issues, empowering women of color. I’d like to be known as someone who does great work at the end of the day, that empowers people and also who inspires people especially young Latinas and black girls. I want them to know ‘I can do that’ and through my work for them, to know their worth and celebrate their beauty.
LH: What is your advice to young girls who aspire to pursue a career in the performance arts arena?
MC: First do the training. Go to classes. Find some of the best teachers. Hone your craft. There are lots of beautiful people in Hollywood, but beauty only goes so far. —it’s the work and skill that matters. Work at your craft. It’s a highly competitive industry, so again, learn to write, create content. Tell your story in a film or a play…whatever calls to you. Also get trained in business – take a class in business management so you understand that performance artistry is a business. You need to know how to market yourself. It’s also very important to identify your core values—what is important to you, what drives you? For me it’s truth… and it’s reflected in my writing and in my work. That moves me forward… the drive to bring truth through laugher to others. If you are clear on your values, you don’t compromise yourself.
LH: What is that one childhood trait that you believe has helped you navigate your life and career in entertainment?
MC: Growing up I was shy but in those times that I was quite I was listening and processing and always taking in the situations. I was observing human behavior, human interaction. I’m like that now too in some ways, some people are like “wow, when you’re on stage, you’re wild”. I think I have two sides to me, as a writer I’m always soaking in the situation and creating art from that and then when I perform, especially work that I created, I express my passion and truth.
Thank you, Maria Costa! We can’t wait for Viva America, to debut October 20, 2017, on MUNDOFLIX!
For more information about Maria Costa and her streaming video MUNDOFLIX partnership, CLICK HERE.
Maria Costa is repped by MAG Red (Talent Agency Theatrical), Reign Agency (Talent Agent Commercial), Oro Entertainment (Talent Agent Personal Appearance) and The Herrera Agency (Publicity).
For more info about Maria Costa, please visit her website at www.mariacosta.com.
About Maria Costa
Award winning actress/writer/comedienne
Maria Costa’s groundbreaking and dynamic humor has critics calling her the “Latina Lucille Ball”. Her chameleon-like virtuosity has her being compared to the likes of Tracey Ullman and Gilda Radner. Costa is best known for her Imagen Award-nominated, Viva America, and her award-winning, Macho Men and the Women Who Love Them, distributed worldwide by Image Entertainment. Costa is also the recipient of the Maverick Award from the Los Angeles Women in Theater and is set to receive a star on the Motown Walk to Fame alongside other honorees, including singer Aretha Franklin and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Costa’s TV credits include: Ugly Betty (ABC), Universal Remote (Showtime), Strong Medicine (Lifetime) and Joan of Arcadia (CBS). Costa was also a series regular on The It Factor (Bravo) and Dangerous Minds (ABC). Maria Costa is a strong advocate for empowering minority children through the arts and contributes to them through her program, La Bella. For more info about Maria Costa, please CLICK HERE