NEW YORK (AP) — As Rita Moreno nears her 80th birthday, she's singing and dancing six nights a week in the biographical show "Life Without Makeup."
Moreno, who debuted on Broadway at the age of 13 in "Skydrift," won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in the film version of "West Side Story," as well as an Emmy, a Tony, a Grammy and the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her accomplishments in the arts.
Her Anita portrayal helped other Latino artists get work in Hollywood, particularly because a non-Hispanic actress, Natalie Wood, had the lead role of Maria in "West Side Story" and another white actor, George Chakiris, was cast as the Puerto Rican gang leader Bernardo.
Moreno said in an interview from her home in Berkeley, Calif., that she was "happy" to see so many more Hispanic faces and names in film, television and theater.
"But I love what Ricardo Montalban once said, because it was very precise," she added, quoting the late Mexican actor. "He said one day that the door was ajar, but not completely open. And that still exists. ... We have known artists in the English-speaking world that are Latin artists, but not enough."
"West Side Story" comes out on Blu-ray Disc Nov. 15 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. And Moreno would like to see more song and dance on screen. "I'd love to see more musicals because today they're very rare — you barely find them," she said.
Besides her run at The Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Moreno also plays Fran Drescher's Jewish mother in the TV series "Happily Divorced," which starts shooting its second season in January.
"I love working with Fran. She is very delicious, warm, kind ... a good person, very noble," she said.
"I talk like that, talk very very much like Fran," she said, laughing about the very "Noo Yourk" talk in the show. "I love that accent. I was married to a Jewish man and know very well the characters. ... I've always tried to maintain that accent because it really makes me laugh."
Moreno has had diverse roles during her career, from a congresswoman to a psychologist to a nun to a liberated office worker to a senator to a doctor to a mom.
"Because I've been around so long ... I've gotten to do a lot of things that a lot of Latinos have not been able to do," she said. "Also I think I'm a character actress, more than anything, and I think that is one of the reasons I get other parts that don't have anything to do with being Latina necessarily."
Her birthday is Dec. 11 and she plans to celebrate her eight decades of life with a "very big party" at her house.
Sigal Ratner-Arias is the Spanish Entertainment Editor of The Associated Press. You can contact her on http://www.twitter.com/sigalratner
- West Side Story