FindingDulcinea talks with Shelley Morrison, the Latina actress who played Rosario Salazar on the hit sitcom “Will & Grace,” about her start in acting, her spiritual life, and how to keep it real in Hollywood.
FD: What was the acting world like when you got your start?
SM: My first professional acting job was in 1967. My background was in theater: summer stock, winter stock. It’s always been about the work. When I started the parts were more interesting, there was longevity.
fD: How did you integrate yourself into the business?
SM: I just networked, clerked, did a little theater. Whenever I had an opportunity to work with amazing people I wouldn’t just sit in my dressing room, I would go and watch them. I would ask questions to the camera man, to the sound man, I wanted to know how it all worked, how I could be part of it and what I could do to help them.
fD: Did you dream all your life of being an actress?
fD: You put your career on hold for a long time. What was that like?
SM: There were a lot of hills and valleys. One has to be aware of this when one gets into this business. That’s what I tell young people. At that point I didn’t have that much recognition, but the upside was I could really observe people. I could really observe the way they talked, the way they walked.
Shelley Morrison’s Links
Learn more about Shelley Morrison’s life and career on her official Web site.
Find Morrison’s complete list of TV and film credits on IMDb.
Read about Morrison’s support of animal causes and her loving relationship with many pets in a profile from The Pet Press.
fD: What do you look for when deciding on a script?
SM: I won’t do anything that could pollute or that could be degrading. I won’t do thrasher films or violent films. I have to look at myself in the mirror every morning and know that if I am going to go to work on something, it has to be good. I wouldn’t ask God to give me garbage.
FD: Do you identify with the character Rosario?
SM: On several levels. One: my mother was Rosario. She would tell it like it is, and she wouldn’t suffer fools. Also, we’re Hispanic. Here was a role of a Hispanic woman who was smart, who could give as good as she got, and she would take a bullet for Karen [Rosario’s boss on the show].
fD: What has been the most memorable aspect of playing Rosario?
SM: Once, when I was in the checkout line at the market, one dear, elderly African-American gentleman stopped me and he said, “Thank you for bringing dignity to a woman of color.” That had such an impact on me.
fD: Were there ever any challenges to the part?
SM: The only time that I would fight for anything on the show—it wasn’t for a bigger dressing room or more money (although that would have been nice)—was if I felt they had Rosario doing something that was demeaning. It only happened twice, in all the years that I did the show. One of the times it looked like they really weren’t going to budge. And I came home and I said to my husband, “Well it was a good gig, but I can’t back down.”
fD Interview Links
Find out when reruns of “Will & Grace” are on by consulting our Television Web Guide.
Although Morrison was born a Sephardic Jew, she follows her husband’s Lakota beliefs. Learn more about Native American history and spiritual traditions in our U.S. History Web Guide.
Morrison has dedicated herself to helping the humans and pets of her community. Discover how to provide your assistance to those in need with “5 Ways to Offer Help to People via the Web.”
fD: What are you proudest of in your career?
SM: I’m happy with the choices that I’ve made. And I’m happy that I’ve always put family and spirituality first.
fD: How does your spiritual life influence your daily life?
SM: My husband is part Native American—he is my rock. We’ve always been very interested in Native American traditions, especially the spirituality of the Lakota Sioux. And the philosophy is very simple: it’s that everyone and everything is sacred. That really helps you level the playing field. We are all following a great path, a great road—especially when we enter into a life of service.
fD: How did you reconcile fame and Hollywood with your lifestyle?
SM: Well, when our show was nominated for Emmy awards, I went to thrift shops to put together my whole outfit. Ultimately it’s about how you live your life every day. No matter what your job is, or how much money you have. Life is about how you relate to other human beings.