Exclusive: Diana Maria Riva on the Greatest Lesson Her Career Taught Her About Life
Much like life, the career of an actor is filled with many highs and lows. Learning to navigate a successful career in Hollywood requires lots of faith, patience, strength and grace—all things that Dominican American actress Diana Maria Riva has in spades.
The Dead to Me actress, who will be breathing life into Detective Ana Perez in the show's third and final season, gets real with People Chica about what life as an actress has taught her.
Riva begins, "This isn't an easy career or an easy career to sustain. So, I think my greatest achievement has been to maintain this career for this long."
"Personally, the most important lesson I recognized very early on was to be in the present and do not wait to live life," the Gordita Chronicles actress details, also noting that "life is simply too short" to be living it consistently waiting for something to happen.
In an exclusive interview with People Chica, the Glamorous actress shares what it was like playing the iconic character of Adela on the Gordita Chronicles as well as the empowering advice she'd give a younger version of herself about the road that lay ahead.
You've enjoyed a multi-decade career that spans TV, film and theater. As an actress, what has been your greatest achievement? What has been your greatest challenge?
This isn't an easy career or an easy career to sustain. So, I think my greatest achievement has been to maintain this career for this long. This business has its ups and downs and I've loved the wide variety of roles I've had the opportunity to play.
I think my greatest challenge has been deciding what I want out of my career in this next chapter and what that will mean in making choices. You get to a certain point in your career when you want something more out of your work and you know that will mean making more difficult decisions in pursuit of your dream.
You will be appearing in the Netflix hit series Dead to Me alongside fellow Chica Bosses Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini. What has that experience been like for you?
This was one of those moments in a career where something you signed onto ended up being bigger and better than you could have ever imagined.
Liz Feldman wrote a beautiful, messy, honest story, and the ride alongside Christina and Linda and the rest of this amazing cast has been truly fulfilling. Not to mention, when you're in the company of actors like these, there are a lot of laughs!
What has been your favorite part about getting to portray Detective Ana Perez?
I loved that we got to see more than just the detective. What made Perez so challenging and fulfilling to play was that she was a beautifully complicated human, with a constant battle between her head and her heart.
Balancing that line, one stressful situation to the next, was a real "push/pull" emotionally. I love that the audience gets to see this woman's layers. There is far more to her than meets the eye.
Dead to Me is heading into its third and final season. Why do you feel this show was so beloved by so many people?
Dead To Me looks at the human element of grief and despair, with characters that are raw, unpolished, and on top of all that, humorous.
On one hand, these characters are supremely messed up, and on the other hand, you just can't help but love how ridiculously human they are.
In addition to Dead to Me, you were also in HBO's the Gordita Chronicles—reuniting you with Eva Longoria. What was it like collaborating with her on a show that honored your Dominican heritage so unapologetically?
GORDITA was such a gratifying experience. I'm first-generation, with my mother being from the Dominican Republic, and I spent every summer of my childhood con mis abuelos en La Capital and my cousins in Santiago.
There were so many pieces of my heart and soul that were reflected in this wonderful show and in playing a beautiful spirit like Adela. And when Eva directed the pilot, she gave me the space and the freedom to really bring Adela to life.
To the dismay of many, the Gordita Chronicles experienced a short lifespan despite all the powerful and positive reviews. As a Latina in Hollywood, why do you feel we should continually fight to see ourselves on screen in a positive way?
It's important because representation truly matters. I can't tell you how many GORDITA fans reached out or stopped me in the street to tell me how the Castelli family reminded them of their family. That Adela reminded them of their tía. That this story was similar to their childhood.
It shouldn't be this hard to get a show with Latinos on the air. And it shouldn't be this easy for those shows to be pulled off the air. So, that means we need more of us behind the cameras as well.
Your next project is Glamorous with Kim Cattrall. Of the little you can share, what are you most excited about with this role? How do you hope fans will receive your character and the show?
I really loved this character and this story, when they came to me with it. A Latina mom, single parent, a professional and passionate about her child and their future—there was so much that touched me on a personal level.
I'm a single parent, my children are my everything. I'm dedicated to my work—and yet, our children's journeys are not ours. We watch this Latina mom struggle to let go and let her child find their path, no matter how scary it might feel.
I think the audience will fall in love with these characters. They are all finding their voice in this world.
As creatives, we understand that each project we work on is an opportunity to learn and grow. What has been the biggest lesson you've learned about yourself after pursuing this career path?
Great question! Personally, the most important lesson I recognized very early on was to be in the present and do not wait to live life.
This business is extremely inconsistent and you can live in a state of perpetual hold waiting for that "big thing" to happen, and life is simply too short and precious to be put on hold.
Professionally, I committed very early on to the belief that I am enough—no matter what the business might say or not say. My self-worth is not tied up in any one role, it is a constant.
As women, we understand the importance of uplifting other women. As you've had the opportunity to collaborate with many powerful and bold women much like yourself, what is the greatest lesson you've learned after all these years as it pertains to sisterhood?
With every fiber of my being, I believe strongly that women need to be good women to other women. We need to have each other's backs.
I'm the oldest of three sisters, and I was raised with that foundation of supporting each other. Even if we don't see eye to eye on things, or we don't have much in common, we can respect and uplift each other when life calls for it.
If you could share some nurturing words with your younger self to help calm her doubts, what would you say? How would you thank an older version of you for the choices she's made?
To my younger self, I would say, "Dianita, take care of you—first. You are beautiful, talented and worthy all the time, no matter what."
To my older self, I would say, "Thank you for believing in me."