Television actress Rosa Blasi is a true beauty – sensuously radiant and voluptuous.
So let me see now, says the journalist as he wipes his fogged-up glasses, You’re playing the part of Maria in “The Sound of Music” this weekend at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse? In this musical you’re appearing as a nun, right? Isn’t that, umm, a bit counter to your usual image?
“Yes, definitely,” Rosa replies. “When I was telling some of my girlfriends that I’m going to be in a nun’s habit I asked them to try and contain their laughter.” Then she retreats a little: “Of course, I’m about to do this show on Nickelodeon where I will be a mom, and that’s very wholesome. And I have played wholesome characters in the past.” But she doesn’t want to back off too far. “I definitely have a very edgy side. So, that’s where the acting comes in.”
Big stage, small screen
Rosa Blasi formerly starred in Lifetime’s “Strong Medicine” and currently has a role in “The Thundermans,” now on Nickelodeon. But Rosa, who bought her first home in Hermosa Beach a little over ten years ago, grew up in Chicago where she was classically trained as a mezzo-soprano and also – between the ages of about 8 and 21 – appeared in a about 40 musicals.
When asked if she took to the stage on her own initiative or if her parents gave her a hard nudge, she says: “No, it was definitely something I wanted to do.” Her family was highly aware of her budding inclination because one day Rosa’s father noticed an announcement for “Annie” in the local newspaper and took her to audition.
“So I did ‘Annie’ twice, once as one of the orphans and Annie’s understudy, and then once as Annie. And I was performing in front of about 8,000 people a night.
I imagine that this was also her first shot at enjoying life as a redhead.
As for “The Sound of Music,” Rosa once played Louisa, one of the younger sisters, but now she’s a first-time Maria.
Initially, Rosa’s real-life daughter, Kaia was also to appear in the show. But we all know how temperamental six-and-a-half-year-old actresses can be.
“She’s not going to be in the show anymore,” Rosa says. “Kaia learned a valuable less that musical theater, anything really, takes a lot of practice and repetition. She expressed an interest initially in doing it, and then when she expressed an interest in not giving it her 100 percent I was like, well, then you’re not doing it. Either do it or don’t do it. I’m not going to force you either way, but you can’t be in the middle. There’s no gray area in performing. But the reason I did the show in the first place obviously wasn’t for her exposure. It was so that she could see what I did for a number of years until I got into television.”
That “getting into television” began when Rosa was 22 or 23 (she’s 40 now), and subsequently her interest in pursuing a career in live theater has waned.
“I’ve done what I want to do in theater,” she says. “There’s like two or three shows that I’ve always wanted to do but I haven’t done, and maybe someday my life will take me to Broadway, but right now what pays the bills is television.” She laughs. “Not that Broadway can’t pay bills, but we’re based here in Hermosa Beach and television is my reality. Broadway is a maybe someday, and professional theater is a thing of the past.”
Although Rosa Blasi has appeared in a couple of movies, including “The Grudge,” which was quite successful, she doesn’t show much desire in becoming a film star. And it would also, at this time in life, most likely pull her away from home and her daughter for long stretches of time.
Her interest in singing professionally has also been shelved.
“I sang at a Lakers game and at a Dodgers game,” Rosa says. “I’ve been on tour, backup for Kenny Rogers a million years ago, but it’s one of those things that doesn’t come into play in my life here in Los Angeles.” She does, however, sing at a benefit for breast cancer at Cedar Sinai each April, and I’m guessing here and there on other special occasions.
“Every once in a while I have sort of a glamorous life, but for the most part I’m a stay-at-home mom.”
It’s all or nothing
Would you want Kaia to be an actor or would you prefer that she do something sensible, like become a doctor?
“I would never push anything on my daughter,” Rosa replies. “Would I want her to be an actor? No. You don’t want anybody to have a 98 percent failure rate. You don’t want anybody to be in a career designed for drug addiction, self-esteem issues, and weight issues. I don’t know how I escaped without those things – oh, I still have self-esteem issues – but I’ve never had a drug problem or an anorexia problem.
“I would never wish that on anybody,” she continues. “I feel like if you go into this business it’s because you have to; you almost have no choice. It is a need in a way most women want to have a child someday. And that’s how it was for me from the time I was really little. I never even considered doing anything else as soon as I found out it was a career option. It was just a matter of when I’d be old enough to grow up and move someday to Los Angeles. If you’re gonna make it in this industry it’s not about who’s the best-looking and it’s not about who’s the most talented. It is about drive – a little drive, a little fate.”
Luck also? I ask her. No, not really, she replies: “I’ve never been in the right place at the right time. I came to L.A. with 40 shows, so it was easy for me to find an agent… So is that luck, is that fate? No, it was hard work.”
And although Rosa does concede that luck can enter into the picture, she emphasizes that those actors who have longevity in their career most likely had built up a foundation of work and experience before we’d ever heard of them. Overnight successes may indeed exist, but – and this actress who’s paid her dues would know – “generally speaking there’s a lot of groundwork that’s laid before that.”
The gym and the jungle
You also published a book a couple of years ago.
“I did,” Rosa Blasi replies. “Harper Collins published it for me.”
How did all that come about?
“I didn’t know I was going to be a writer. Enough circumstances kept happening in my life that seemed Jerry Springerish.” She references that line, “tragedy plus time equals comedy,” and continues. “There were enough things that some would think are tragic that eventually became hilarious because they were so ridiculous and so absurd, that if I was making it up I couldn’t. I couldn’t possibly be that creative. And I said, ‘You know what? Darn it. These life events will make a really fun comedic memoir.’
“And so I wrote a book called Jock Itch, and the joke of the book is that I was addicted to long-term relationships – and eventually a Jerry Springer-like marriage – to pro athletes.
“What cured me from that itch,” Rosa adds, “was of course the marriage – and writing this book. It’s a cautionary tale of what women should not do in their twenties. It’s a how-not-to guide.”
In an interesting turn of events the book is in the process of being developed as a potential TV series, in which case Rosa could find herself on the other side of the camera.
“I was 35 when I discovered that I was pretty good at this writing thing. I’m 40 and I’m discovering I might be pretty good as an executive producer.”
Did you just sit down and write this book or did you have notes to work from?
“I just sat down and I would write chunks of it, out of sequence,” Rosa says, “because it was a comedic memoir. I was remembering from high school age on.” Only later was it sequenced. “I wrote the way I speak, which I think is why Harper Collins liked it so much. They likened it to Chelsea Handler and Kathy Griffin because it was very raw. If you sat down with a friend, and you were having a glass of wine, [it’s] how a couple of girls would talk.”
Mermaids and Mike Tyson
A part of Jock Itch evolved by way of telling it to a live audience on stage.
“There was a little blurb in my standup act about the homoerotic nature of pro athletes and just that bankers and lawyers and teachers don’t share the same…” Rosa pauses. “Let’s just say, Bondo, that you probably don’t know who at the Easy Reader has been circumcised or not, but people who share locker rooms may be able to tell you that, and how’s it hanging, literally. So, I would do jokes about the homoerotic nature of sports and sports in general, and I added that into the book.
“Besides those few pages of notes,” Rosa continues, “it all came from just how I talk and my opinions about things and – like I said – it was reflective of what cured me… ‘cause I was never, ever, ever gonna date another pro athlete, even if he cured cancer in his basement in his spare time and helped the elderly. I was never, ever gonna date another guy whose name was embroidered on the back of anything.”
Asked if she might pursue writing in the future, Rosa says that she can’t make up characters and stories that aren’t true, which means she could never be an arts journalist either.
“So I don’t anticipate there being another book,” she continues, “although I have a great idea for children’s books, based on the lies we tell kids to make them do what we want them to do.”
“Little white lies, like ‘broccoli gives you mermaid hair’” – which happens to be her proposed title. “Broccoli is healthy, and it makes your hair grow.”
Gives it a briny flavor, too, I add.
“Mermaid hair: Every little girl wants hair down her back like Ariel and every Disney character. What better way to get that than to encourage them to eat their greens? There you go. Broccoli gives you mermaid hair.”
As we close our conversation – at Java Man in Hermosa Beach – Rosa mentions that she’s looking forward to catching Mike Tyson’s one-man show, “Undisputed Truth.” Suddenly concerned, I have a few words for her: Careful! He’s a pro athlete!
“I’m not worried in any way, shape or form,” Rosa says, “because I’ve been cured. I am five-years sober, athlete sober. No longer a jockaholic.”
Meanwhile I’m thinking, If Mike Tyson ate a lot of broccoli, could he also have mermaid hair?
Rosa Blasi is appearing as Maria in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, presented by Family Theatre, Inc. tomorrow (Friday) at 6:30, Saturday at 2:30 and 6:30, and Sunday at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m., in the Hermosa Beach Playhouse, 710 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach. Directed and produced by Craig and Suzanne Greely; musically directed by Farah Kidwai. Tickets in advance are $18 adults and teens; $12 children 3 through 12 and seniors 65 and up. At the door: $15 and $20. Call (310) 372-9203 or go to FamilyTheatreInc.com.