• Stephanie Beatriz stars in Brooklyn Nine Nine on SBS VICELAND (SBS)Source: SBS
She plays the toughest cop on the Nine-Nine squad, she’s a queer role model, and she’s been making an impact in acclaimed indies and cult animated fare.
Sarah Ward

18 Jan 2019 - 2:45 PM  UPDATED 18 Jan 2019 - 3:31 PM

Direct, self-assured, no-nonsense, tough, a take-charge type: who doesn’t want to be Rosa Diaz? From Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s offbeat squadron of detectives, she’s the strong and highly secretive hero who’s thoroughly aware of who she is. Her colleagues are all heroes, too, but Rosa’s brand of determination, fierce loyalty, and just getting the job done stands apart from Jake Peralta’s goofiness, Amy Santiago’s perfectionism, Charles Boyle’s big heart, Terry Jeffords’ fatherly tendencies, Gina Linetti’s unfailing confidence and everything that makes up Captain Raymond Holt. A force to be reckoned with, she’s the person in the team that everyone hopes has their back. And, she always does.

If there’s another compliment that could be paid Rosa’s way, it’s this: Rosa could share a bottle of whiskey and few words with her closest equivalent in that other great Mike Schur-created sitcom, Parks & Recreation’s Ron Swanson, and both would have a fantastic time. But Rosa is more than just Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s version of another beloved figure. She’s the sum of her glorious parts, which include a history in ballet that she doesn’t like to talk about, her gradual willingness to let her co-workers see who she really is and her recent coming out as bisexual. Like any great character, Rosa is also a creation that couldn’t exist without the actor behind her. Of course, while there would be no Rosa without Stephanie Beatriz, the reverse will never be true.

As happens with any on-screen talent and the character they’ve made their own, it’s easy to conflate Rosa and Beatriz. You’d never find the former penning a powerful, open-hearted personal piece about being bi, marrying a man and still retaining her queerness, as the latter did for GQ in 2018, but its sentiments feel baked into Rosa’s essence. Indeed, when Beatriz writes that “now I have a small platform of visibility… I’ve chosen to use that platform to speak openly about my bi-ness, because of other people who may feel invisible and unsure of whether or not to come out as bisexual,” it’s the next step up from Rosa’s love and loyalty for her friends. Beatriz extends the same affection and care to the LGBTQIA community as Rosa does to the Nine-Nine gang.

Since coming out as bisexual in a tweet — a response to Aubrey Plaza’s own coming out; “I fall in love with girls and guys. I can’t help it,” the Parks & Recreation star noted and Beatriz retweeted — Beatriz has become a queer role model. Crucially, she’s ensured that Rosa has too. Rosa revealed her bisexuality in Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s 99th episode, which centered around telling her co-workers. In its follow-up, the show’s 100th episode, the series explored her efforts to tell her family. Talking to Vulture in 2018, Beatriz explained how important it was to take this step with Rosa, and to do so properly. “There were multiple rewrites, but the main thing for me was that the character said ‘bisexual’ and that she said it so many times. She names her sexuality, versus many bisexual characters that you see in television in the past that have just happened to date men and women, and they’re just fluid and sexy, and sometimes they’re a fucking villain.”

Beatriz, like Rosa, isn’t a villain. She will be in the forthcoming The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, but that’s a rare step into antagonistic territory. To date, more than a decade into her on-screen acting career — seven years of which she’s spent on Brooklyn Nine-Nine — the Argentinian-born, Texas-raised actor has amassed a solid resume. Single-episode parts on TV shows The Closer, Southland and Hello Ladies helped establish her body of work, as did playing Sofia Vergara’s sister on Modern Family, and featuring alongside Malin Ackerman and Portia de Rossi in television film The Smart One. But, before she introduced Rosa to the world on September 17, 2013, she made her movie debut in a feature that’s proven almost eerily prophetic in showcasing some of today’s biggest talents.

Alongside Brie Larson, Rami Malek and Lakeith Stanfield, she starred in Short Term 12, a SXSW-premiering indie drama about a group home for troubled teenagers. Hers isn’t the film’s lead or largest role, but it established something that has continued to serve her well: her unmistakable presence. When she draws the eye, it’s impossible to look away. When she conveys a world of emotions in a single look, each one radiates from the screen. Six years later, Larson has an Oscar for Room, Malek has an Emmy for Mr Robot and a Golden Globe for Bohemian Rhapsody, Stanfield has Atlanta, Get Out and Sorry to Bother You to his name, and Beatriz has the cult hit that is Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Voice-acting roles have also begun to capitalise upon Beatriz’s talents. She makes an instant impression, even when she’s not physically on-screen. In the movie realm, she segued from Ice Age: Collision Course to the aforementioned The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part. On TV, streaming and online, Danger & Eggs, Bob’s Burgers, and an extended stint on BoJack Horseman have all showcased her vocal skills.

In 2018, Beatriz added Half Magic to her filmography. The feature directorial debut of lead actor Heather Graham, a movie focused on female friendship and empowerment, and a chance to show her softer side, it demonstrated what Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been championing for six seasons — that Beatriz is a vital, dynamic and potent group player. In fact, one of the reasons that she’s struck such a chord on Brooklyn Nine-Nine is that Rosa is distinctly individualistic, but also an indispensable part of the squad. She goes her own way, but she’s always there for those around her — as Beatriz is for the watching audience.

Brooklyn Nine Nine airs fast-tracked new episodes every Friday night on SBS VICELAND at 8:30pm. You can catch up on episodes anytime at SBS On Demand.

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