Brooklyn-born actress/choreographer Rosie Perez attended Los Angeles City College before making the cattle-call rounds for dancing jobs. She worked a few seasons with the TV variety series Soul Train, then went on to perform at the LA club Funky Reggae. Here she was spotted by director Spike Lee, who cast her in a choice role in his 1989 film Do The Right Thing. She can also be seen dancing to the title tune under the opening credits. As a choreographer, Perez has staged shows for Diana Ross and Bobby Brown, and was Emmy-nominated for her work on the Fox comedy/variety series In Living Color (1990-94). She has been shown to best advantage on screen in explosive supporting roles, such as the Jeopardy-obsessed girlfriend of Woody Harrelson in White Men Can't Jump (1992) and the hilariously covetous wife of lottery winner Nicholas Cage in It Could Happen to You (1994). On a more sombre note, Perez was excellent as the troubled plane-crash survivor in Fearless (1993) and received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In 1997, Perez travelled to Spain to play the title role in Alex de Iglesia's wild Perdita Durango -- a semi-sequel to David Lynch's Wild at Heart that co-starred Oscar-winner Javier Bardim as a sexually adventurous practitioner of Santeria. Roles in The 24 Hour Woman and Lackawanna Blues followed, and in 2008 Perez turned up as a crooked cop in director David Gordon Green's stoner action comedy Pineapple Express. Additionally, Perez has lent her distinctice voice to such animated television shows as Go, Diego! Go! and Seth MacFarlane's The Cleveland Show.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- After high school, left her hometown of Brooklyn to continue her studies in Los Angeles, and landed a job as a dancer on Soul Train.
- Discovered in a nightclub by director Spike Lee, who launched her movie career with his 1989 hit Do the Right Thing. She initially turned down his offer for a part in the film.
- Choreographed the Fly Girls on the popular sketch comedy show In Living Color.
- Produced and directed Yo soy Boricua, pa'que tu to sepas! (I'm Boricua, Just So You Know!), a 2006 documentary that examines her Puerto Rican heritage.
- Artistic board member of Working Playground, an arts education program that partners with New York City schools.
- A longtime AIDS activist, she was appointed by President Obama to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS in 2010.