Starring in General Hospital y M?Ūs: Yennifer Behrens
Actor, writer, producer, director ... this Latina beauty dreams big, with impressive results
Al Carlos Hernandez - Contributing Editor
Yennifer Behrens made her mainstream network TV debut in the legendary daytime soap opera "General Hospital," in the role of the arcane Marianna Erosa, a waitress in Martha's Vineyard with a very mysterious past. In the story line, her character was hired by Trevor Lansing to manipulate his son Ric Lansing and turn Port Charles upside down.
Published on LatinoLA: July 12, 2011
In real life, Ms. Behrens was born in Caracas, Venezuela but her grandfather's position as a diplomat led to the family's move to Washington, D.C., when she was just three years old. Even as a small child, Yeniffer's smile and personality were easily apparent and she was inspired to become a performer. At age nine, the family moved to Miami and Yeniffer grew to be a cheerleader and win the Miss Teen Miami Pageant.
Ms. Berhens earned her Associate of Arts degree in theater from Miami-Dade Community College and continued her theater training at the prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts.
Yeniffer made her film debut in the Sylvester Stallone blockbuster "The Specialist." She then landed numerous television roles in both Anglo and Latino markets, including "Morelia" and "Te Amare en Silencio," the first telenovela filmed in Los Angeles. Yeniffer's star continued to rise when she landed a recurring role in "La Familia Fernandez," produced by Univision's Sabado Gigante.
Shortly after her beloved father passed away, she took on a lighter acting load for a little while as she set out to travel and see the world. Her journey took her around the globe to some exotic locales such as India, the Caribbean, Spain, Peru, England, Nepal, Italy, Venezuela, Paris and more. While she would occasionally take on an acting role or two during this period, Yennifer used this opportunity to enjoy the world as her classroom, and she credits the trek for helping her to grow as a person and as an actor.
Ms. Behrens came back with a new perspective and critical role in the controversial film, "A Day Without A Mexican." While she landed an impressive line-up of commercial spots, Yeniffer turned in strong performances in her guest starring roles in network shows "Boston Legal," "JAG," "The Agency," the critically-acclaimed "Nip/Tuck." She continues as a working actress, working steadily towards the top, poised to be the next Salma Hayek. Yennifer would love for everyone to know that she is the associate producer of "Taco Shop," an urban comedy being distributed by Maya Entertainment, that she and her son are in, will begin shooting Aug. 2nd, and her most recent work, "Hollywood Whores," premiering in the New York International Latino Film Festival (NYILFF).
www.LatinoLA.com Contributing Editor, Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez was enamored to make Yennifers acquaintance.
AC: You come from a prestigious political family. Tell us about your parents and how you felt about moving to the US as a child.
YB: I was four years old when my grandfather, the Venezuelan ambassador, encouraged my parents to move to Washington D.C. My late father was a very adventurous spirit -- he and my mom always taught me to follow my heart and dreams no matter what -- so they moved to the United States. As a four year old, I remember missing my cousins when we first arrived, but was a very happy child to have a new baby brother on the way. I also remember starting school in the 1st grade in Arlington, Virginia and unable to speak English. This was the first challenge I faced and remember the other children making fun of me for mispronouncing "chair" (share) and "shoes" (choose).
I quickly realized I was going to have to work harder than most and use all my charm to be accepted.
AC: Where you treated differently because of your stellar looks? Was that an advantage or disadvantage as you grew up, where you taken seriously?
YB: Thanks for the compliments, I did realize at a very young age that my looks were going to be an advantage to me in life. It all started at home. My Daddy would always call me "My Miss Universe." Growing up in Virginia, I quickly became very popular in school because I was a cute girl from South America with pretty long hair, spoke two languages and knew how to dance salsa at age 6. My teachers always gave me an A in conduct and getting along with others, which was my saving grace with my parents, because my reading and writing grades were Cs.
As an adult, I have realized that good looks can be a disadvantage because at times it distracts others when doing business. It's great for the ego but frustrating for business. Don't get me ... wrong I'm grateful for the way God and my parents made me.
AC: Tell us about your teenage beauty pageant experiences, who inspired you to enter in the first place, what was the best and worse about that experience?
YB: I think because my Dad always called me Miss Universe and it was a big deal in my family to watch the pageant every year. We all gathered and celebrated every time Miss Venezuela won the title of Miss Universe or Miss World! We are very proud of holding the Guinness World record of most beauty queens. My senior year in high school was when we saw the Miss Carnival commercial on T.V. -- we had moved to Miami 12 years prior -- and my mom's hairdresser encouraged me to join. I did. I had a blast, came in 3rd runner up. It was then I got the pageant bug. A few months later I joined Miss Hispanidad and placed among in the 10 finalists. Then a couple months after that, Miss Teen Miami, and I finally took the crown home‘«™Daddy's Little Miss Universe. I was set to continue to Miss Teen USA but a month after I was crowned, my life took a different turn.
AC: What made you decide to become an actress? What other performance talents do you have? Dance, sing, play an instrument? How did your parents feel about wanting to be in show business?
YB: When I was six years old, I loved watching the "Brady Bunch" and knew I wanted be inside that box. I would put my ear up against the TV and wonder how those little people were in there‘«™Then I was in love for the first time! GREASE! John Travolta and Olivia Newton John! I learned all the songs and dances and I knew then I was going to be an actress! And wanted my parents to move to California immediately. They were amused by my passion and enthusiasm ... they always have supported my dreams. My mom was in all her school plays in Venezuela, yet she never pursued it, so she always has been my number one fan and supporter! I dance salsa, merengue and can carry a tune at church, concerts and my car. Somehow singing in public scares me!
AC: How as it when you first moved to LA?
YB: It was so exciting to finally get to LA with one thousand dollars in my pocket and a spritzing job at Robinsons-May. I was ready to pursue my career, my dream! I got in town with a great manager and hip-pocketed by the Gersh Agency. A year before had my first leading role in an indie film "Angel Blue" under my belt, I had been cast straight from Miami only through tapes, never met the director or producers in person and was flown out to San Francisco for six weeks to star in my first movie! six months later I moved to LA.
AC: What kept you pursuing your dream when most people give up and go home?
YB: After all I went through to move to LA and knowing this is my life journey, no matter how slow it has gotten I have always believed it is my destiny to be in this amazing business. During the slow times I have taken advantage of the time to live life to the fullest, to travel, to have a family, to become a better actress! To explore my entrepreneur spirit.
AC: What was your first professional acting experience like? How did it feel at first to be recognized?
YB: Well, my very first gig was in Miami, on my third audition ever. I booked my first national commercial, which was for Dominoes. It was an awesome experience because I was told at the third callback that I was going to play the daughter. It was such a high and remembers jumping up and down hugging and kissing every person in the room‘«™LOL‘«™wow, I was so innocent. Then my very first film audition was for a French director in Sarasota. My godfather drove me three hours there to be in the room for five minutes. Then three hours back. I booked it before getting home! So I knew I had chosen the right path!
Being recognized is always fun. People acknowledge my work and it makes me happy to make others happy by taking a picture with them or signing an autograph.
AC: You are called a Latin vixen? How do you feel about that label? Does that opinion of you somehow dismiss or enhance your collateral as an actress?
YB: Well, It's actually the first time I have been called a vixen‘«™ I have always been cast as the pretty girl next door, the wholesome type. It's actually cool to be seen as a sexy woman. I really have no idea what it does to my collateral as an actress but I'm going to create that it enhances my range as an actress. I can play the crying mom to the Latin vixen.
AC: What has been your most enjoyable role so far?
YB: My most enjoyable role has been playing Marianna Erosa on "General Hospital" ‘«Ű she was a beautiful character. I had an opportunity to make her Venezuelan who spoke with no accent in English. That is always a fresh of breath air!
AC: Tell us about "General Hospital." How hard is it to work on network soap?
YB: Working on soap is lots of fun and quick. You must be on top of your game. They give you two takes at most. The set feels like home.. you get to the studio and have your dressing room waiting ever day.
AC: Did you watch soaps?
YB: I grew up watching novelas with my mom, Tias and cousins‘«™we would cry and laugh together, its part of the Latin culture.
AC: What is the biggest misconception of a soap actor?
YB: The biggest misconception is that they over-act. I have great actor friends that are soap stars right now.
AC: What is the difference between network soap and a Spanish-language novela?
YB: Network soaps have lasted over 60 years. Spanish novelas are done in less than a year. They have a grand finale!
AC: Have you been offered novela parts? If no, why not? If yes, why don't you do them?
YB: I did get offered novelas in Miami when I first started but I was so focused on the mainstream, I didn't take then seriously. I thought it would somehow hurt my career‘«™know I realize that was not a very smart move on my part.
Nonetheless, I have been guest star in a few novelas through the years‘«™ I worked in Caracas for six months back in 1999, "El Pais de las Mujeres" and an indie film, "La Magica Aventura de Oscar."
AC: Do you think than given your starlet looks and talent, that if you were not Latina, you would have had more opportunities?
YB: Well, it's always greener on the other side. If I were blond with blue eyes, I think the opportunities would be bigger, but the competition would also be bigger, then one would probably think, "If I were ethnic ‘«™ I would be working more." I really think its all relative. I believe it is a perfect time to create your own opportunities! And I'm doing just that!
AC: Has bilingualism helped or hindered your career?
YB: I believe being bilingual has definitely helped my career. I have two markets I get to work in! It's one of my biggest assets!
AC: Tell us about your documentary on the importance of bilingualism?
YB: It's a labor of love. So many Latinos don't speak Spanish and I believe it starts in our schools. Supporting bilingual education is what will make a difference in raising all children bilingual and as world citizens. Be it Spanish, French, Italian‘«™as long as our children have the option to grow up bilingual is the case in point for my documentary.
AC: You took some time off once to travel around the world. How did that come about?
YB: After my Daddy died -- a month after being diagnosed with lung cancer and 2 years after I moved to LA -- I put everything in storage and went to Venezuela to be with the family and ended up traveling for 18 months. I was very angry and depressed, not accepting my father's death. I ended up in India, Nepal, Peru, Spain, Ibiza, Jamaica, Australia, traveled on plane, bus, train turned vegetarian and meditated for hours.
AC: How has that experience enhanced your ability as an artist?
YB: Traveling has been the most valuable gift life has given me before my son Adrian arrived in 2001. Motherhood takes the prize for most amazing gift anyone can have.
AC: Are there some parts that you turn down?
YB: YES‘«™ strong nudity roles
AC: How do you feel about Homeboy/Home girl Barrio-styled films, which are filled with violence and a didactic attitude toward Latinos?
YB: Urban Latino movies are a slice of life in the barrios. Years ago, I didn't want to participate in them but now if the story has a deeper message than gang-banging, I will‘«™in fact I have‘«™you can see me in Kenneth Castillo's "Drive-by-Chronicles Sideways" and "Confessions of a Gangster."
AC: Who would you like to fashion your career after? Who are your theatrical role models?
YB: I have always liked Julia Roberts ... her laugh reminds me of mine and her freedom. I've also always liked her work and energy. She isn't afraid of being goofy at times‘«™I'm like that
AC: Is the business getting better for young Latinas. How hard is it nowadays to make it as a working actress in LA?
YB: I think it's always a challenge to get what you want no matter what career your pursuing, the trick is just do what it takes to make it happen, focus on the YES in LIFE!
AC: Is it harder for you as a working mother?
YB: Actually, I have worked more after having my son and have enjoyed bringing him along for this amazing ride. We have worked together on several films and he has built a pretty impressive resume for a 10 year old doing this as a part-time hobby. He has co-starred on several TV shows, national commercials and many Indies.
AC: What does your son think of all this?
YB: He likes it and really has no attachment to it. He loves being a kid and playing video games. He goes to bilingual school, the Multicultural Learning Center in Canoga Park. He is bilingual and bi-literate. It is very cool to have my partner-in-life be my 10-year-old son! I am blessed!
AC: You write, produce, direct, do voice-over ... tell us about the screenplays you are working on and your charity work.
YB: Yes, I believe opening up the possibilities is where you can really continue to flourish and prosper in life. I am currently co-writing a feature with Kenneth Castillo and a Web series with Rick Najera‘«™ MY production company, TRUE FORM FILMS, is getting ready to explode in 2012! The charity gala I created for bilingual education is a fun night where the educators, politicians and artists come together to celebrate and support bilingual education!
AC: Do you have a preference when it comes to media platforms? Do you prefer feature films over TV projects?
YB: As long as I'm working, I'm happy!
AC: What would be the ultimate role for you?
YB: An Oscar-worth role like Erin Brockovich, or Frida Kahlo, to portray a woman that has made a huge difference and contribution the planet.
AC: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
YB: I see myself as the next Salma Hayek ... producing major TV shows and films and bringing multiculturalism to the mainstream through education
AC: In the end when it is all over, what do you want people to remember about you?
YB: When God takes me back home I would love to be remembered by the ONE who made it possibly for anyone who was ready to jump and live life full out! The one that made others believe in themselves when they didn't! The ONE who made a positive difference any where she went. My heart, my universal love and my belief in humanity.
AC: What is the latest project how can people contact you?
YB: One of the projects I have participate in this past year is a very special web series called "Encounters" which has been nominated for an IMAGEN Award this August. I had the privilege of writing and starring in the episode "Soul Sisters."
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