Originally published at Se Fija!. Republished by permission.
You could call Melonie Diaz "The Sweetheart of Sundance," but that would be glib and inadequate. It is true, however, that she's taken the Road Less Traveled as her path to acting success, with a New York-centric accent on independent film (and whatever TV is filmed there), as opposed to the Hollywood Starlet route. And now she's taken another interesting step in a new direction: as the featured performer in "Ro," one of the multi-episode portraits on WIGS, the online drama series. And this one's directed by no less a like than Patricia Cardoso, director of "Real Women Have Curves," "Lie in Plain Sight," and the upcoming "Meddling Mom."
Melonie is a New Yorker born and bred, raised by her Puerto Rican parents on the lower East Side. She studied there, worked Off-Broadway and workshopped at the Fringe Festival; she wasn't quite eighteen years old when she started appearing in supporting roles for independent films like "Raising Victor Vargas." She even did a "Law & Order" and a TV pilot.
Most people would probably remember her best from "Lords of Dogtown" or "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints." All in all, she's had four films that have played to positive response at Sundance. She was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Saints in 2006 when she was 22. She did three episodes of "Nip/Tuck" back in the day, appeared in a Person of Interest just last year, and her newest film, "Supporting Characters," opened for a limited run in New York just this week.
And then there's "Ro." Like some of their earlier offerings (notably America Ferrera's "Christine." Ro's six episodes take place almost entirely in a "speed dating" session at a New York restaurant, where her complex past is slowly revealed through encounters with eligible men, cops, and crazy peopleÔÇª(A small coincidence: America and Melonie have worked together before, back in 2005's "Lords of Dogtown"). It's a close-in concept, one that forces the camera to linger on Melonie's expressive face and huge brown eyes. The intensity of the experience is reminiscent of an acting exercise or an ultra-serious improv session, and the results areÔÇªinteresting, if not always successful. Still: it's exactly the kind of challenging an unusual thing you'd expect from Melonie Diaz and Patricia Cardoso, and all six eight-minute episodes are available here on YouTube.
And here's a look at a fairly fascinating "behind the scenes" featurette about Ro, with plenty from both Diaz and Cardoso.