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– by Gig Patta

Treat your grandparents right.

The hilarious comedy Remember Me features Rita Moreno as a grandmother to two bickering cousins who are faced with a family crisis after their grandfather dies. They are forced to grow up while looking after their quick-witted and spunky family matriarch.

The film also stars Steve Goldbloom, Joel Kelley Dauten and Ray Reinhardt.

LRM had a phone interview with the highly-respected former Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy winner Rita Morena in promotion for this film. She talked about the lure of playing a very funny, quick-witted grandmother in this family comedy. She also addressed her humor style and her new role on Amazon’s One Life at a Time. And we also did a bit of a reflection on her career accomplishments and the trek as a role model for Latinas in Hollywood.

Remember Me is On Demand and Digital Download today.

Read our interview transcript below.

LRM: I wanted to talk about this film called Remember Me, which is on the film circuit for quite some time. You must be pleased about this project.

Rita Moreno: Oh. I’m delighted. It’s made by a very young man. It’s a small movie. It has a wonderful message or you can call it a theme, which is really about the importance of family. There are some very funny moments in it. It’s almost like a road movie, because it’s about their two grandsons who come to visit their grandmother and grandfather. While they’re visiting, the grandfather drops dead. They had to do something about her. The question is what to do about her?

They decided to take her to a senior home. She is kind of a feisty old lady. Of course, in movies nowadays and television, aren’t all old ladies feisty? [Laughs]

LRM: Definitely true. [Laughs] I guess they have to be, right?

Rita Moreno: Anyways, it’s a excellent project. She’s a wonderful character. She’s very outspoken. She’s very spontaneous. It becomes a road trip on which they keep stopping to get something to eat. They don’t tell her that her husband had died until the middle of the ride. She gets very upset with them. It just becomes a beautiful…..as far as I know…..nobody has addressed it yet in a film.

It’s about taking her to this old people’s home and what happens after that. It’s all about what they really feel about and not being sure on what else to do. She does some wonderful things that are delicious. Without giving away some of the deliciousness, that’s what the movie is about. It’s really about the importance of family. In particularly, it’s the importance of loving your grandparents. It’s before something happens so this way you don’t go, “Why I didn’t pay more attention?”

It’s very touching. It’s quite funny. There are marvelous adventures. She tends to walk off and do things. They often fly into panic to think on where the hell she went. [Laughs] That’s the essence of the movie.

LRM: Now what specifically attracted you to this project and how you were approached?

Rita Moreno: I loved these scenes more than anything else. It immediately hit me as an older person, as a senior. Nobody ever addresses this kind of dilemma and problem. So I thought I really wanted to do this.

I think we extended the part just a little bit. Essentially, it was about the two boys or rather the young men. When I joined, it became more about the three of them.

LRM: So how was it like working alongside with Steve [Goldbloom] and Joel [Kelley Dauten]?

Rita Moreno: I loved it! I loved it. I laughed my head off. I wet my pants at least twice.

LRM: [Laughs]

Rita Moreno: It comes with the territory when you come towards this age. It was a marvelous time with a budget that almost didn’t exist. We used all the local locations in Berkeley. I loved that about it. Literally, I was in my neighborhood at least half the time.

LRM: Oh? There was no real road trip. It was all done in the Bay Area?

Rita Moreno: We were in the car a lot going to ostensibly somewhere since it didn’t take place in Berkeley. I don’t remember on where it takes place. I don’t even recall if they mentioned on where it takes place.

LRM: Part of it was in Modesto, I believe.

Rita Moreno: Well, it was that we were mostly on the road to get to the senior home.

LRM: Were there a lot of improv going on during this production?

Rita Moreno: A lot of improv! I love making up stuff. A lot of it was improv and it was really, really fun.

Then it became quite a challenge for me to break the boys up. [Laughs] And I made the character very salty. She wasn’t that way when the script was originally written. But, I made her very salty. I just loved it. [Laughs] She says sexual things that just embarrass the hell out of things. I just love that! I’m a very mischievous person.

LRM: Oh, I see. So comedy comes naturally for you then.

Rita Moreno: It really does. I love to laugh. I see the funny side of things constantly. If you saw my series, which apparently you haven’t—it’s a series for Netflix called One Day at a Time based off the Norman Lear series.

LRM: No. I haven’t seen the show yet.

Rita Moreno: I gathered. Then you’ll know that I have a funny sense of humor.

LRM: Oh, yes. I was laughing so hard that you had to flip the bird in one scene for this film. [Laughs]

Rita Moreno: Oh, did you see it?

LRM: I did see the film. Yes.

Rita Moreno: Flipping the bird was all me.

LRM: Oh? That was you being spontaneous? [Laughs]

Rita Moreno: Oh, yeah. There were all kinds of stuff like she got drunk with the martini. I think they took part of that scene out and decided to put it back in. Actually, that’s who she is. [Laughs] It’s me. [Laughs]

LRM: It was great. It was so unexpected. I think I almost fell off my chair watching it.

Rita Moreno: When did I do that? What was happening at the time? I don’t remember.

LRM: That was when you were talking to a nurse at the senior home.

Rita Moreno: Oh! She was very cold and vicious. That’s why I flipped her the bird. Yeah. It was me. [Laughs]

LRM: I do want to talk to you about a wonderful scene. It’s the dancing scene.

Rita Moreno: Wasn’t that marvelous!?!

LRM: I loved that.

Rita Moreno: That’s my daughter right in front of me. That beautiful girl.

LRM: No kidding!

Rita Moreno: My daughter, Fernanda, was in front of me. She is a dancer.

LRM: How wonderful was it to be dancing in a movie again?

Rita Moreno: Well, especially with Spanish dancing—it was so much fun! In fact, I’m hiring that lady with her dancers for my upcoming birthday party. My birthday party is going to be all Spanish theme. I always have costumes at my birthday parties. This time it’s going be dressing like Spanish people.

I asked her to bring her tiny little troupe to my house and do a twenty minute routine. She says she’s going to and I’m very excited about that.

LRM: Wow! That is terrific!

Rita Moreno: It’s going to be marvelous. And there’s going to be a chocolate fountain.

LRM: Oh, wow. [Laughs]

Rita Moreno: I know on how to give a party.

LRM: It definitely sounds like it. What kind of Spanish dancing style is this?

Rita Moreno: There is really only one type. It’s not salsa. It’s not Mexican. It’s Spanish from Spain. It’s Castanets Flamenco, which means there are a lot of heel work. There’ll be all kinds of regional dances in Spain. Some of them are very sensual and romantic. Spanish dancing is extremely sensual. People aren’t aware that the women uses their hips a lot. I still play the Castanets, which is from Spanish dancing. I used to be a Spanish dancer when I was younger.

Depending on the regional dance, they have very lively Jotas. It’s a wonderful kind of Spanish dance. It’s like a lot of Hispanic dances—this has a lot of very, very different kinds of dances.

LRM: Do you still privately dance a lot yourself?

Rita Moreno: No. My knees are not interested. I call it moving now. I can move around. I just can’t call it dance dancing anymore. All those years dancing on high heels are not good for you. That’s the price you pay. I’m about to be eighty-six years old—so it’s alright.

LRM: Well, you still know how to throw parties—so that’s where it counts.

Rita Moreno: That’s right. I like to celebrate life. Every time I’ve become a year older—I’m grateful, happy and joyous.

LRM: How do you choose your roles now? What do you look for in projects?

Rita Moreno: Obviously, the projects are limited because of my age. I always look for woman with moxie. Because I feel that I’m like that and I would like to represent women in that way. Women do love it when I represent them in that way as well.

The part that I have in One Day at a Time, she is like that. She supposed to be seventy-seven years old on the series. She’s very sensual. She’s sexy. She speaks her mind. The audiences absolutely adore that character, because she has no shame whatsoever. She will flirt with a fencepost. No shame. No shame at all.

LRM: I’ll have to check out that show.

Rita Moreno: Actually, you should. I got incredible reviews from everybody. The big shock with the Emmys this year was that our show didn’t get nominated. In fact, all the critics who loved it were so angry. They said it was just terrible and appalling.

My guess is with our second season coming up in January—we’ll be nominated in a couple of categories. It’s a Norman Lear show. Which means, amongst other wonderful things, is that every single episode has a social issue.

He always managed to do that [for his shows]. He’s ninety-five by the way. He is there all the time. He can’t abide shows that are just jokey. While it’s extremely funny, there are always a piece of the episode that has something to do with an important social issue. It’s to the world at-large and to Norman.

We have taken on so many things. It’s great to work for Netflix. Wow. We’ve taken on the VA or God—on whether he existed or not. I can’t believe that was our third script. It was one of my favorite episodes and Norman’s too. It’s extremely funny. It also takes itself seriously in the middle. The mother and daughter had this big, loud emotional disagreement on whether there is a God or not. When I saw that script, I thought, “Wow. What a pleasure to work with Netflix.” It’s also one of the funniest episodes and that made it even more interesting.

I don’t know how they managed to do that. To find that balance is not easy. That’s the kind of thing that Norman Lear is famous for. Like I said, the man is ninety-five! Ridiculous! He and I are the two old farts of the show. I call him the “fart” and I call me the “fartette.”

LRM: [Laughs] I absolutely adore your sense of humor.

Rita Moreno: [Laughs] Thank you. Humor is everything. Humor is a calorie burner.

LRM: I am curious though. You have accomplished so much in your career. With all of your awards and earning a Hollywood star, most people have retired by now. What keeps you going?

Rita Moreno: I love on what I do. On top of that, I actually get paid for it. And on top of that, I get a claim of audience that loves me. What’s not to like? I wake up in the morning humming. The latter part of my life is just astonishing.

The Smithsonian Museum is honoring me. I thought I had all the accolades I could possibly have. They honored me along with Spike Lee and Madeleine Albright. It’s for their portrait gallery. They chose a picture of me. It’s going to be in their archives forever. It’s amazing! And I’m about to be eighty-six.

LRM: I know that I’ve taken a lot of your time already, Rita.

Rita Moreno: I don’t mind. That’s why I’m here. I’m here to talk to you.

LRM: [Laughs] I do have one more important question. How do you see the progress of Latinos in cinema and television today?

Rita Moreno: I think it was a whole lot better than it was. I think it still has a long way to go still. I think we need to look to the black community on how it is done. They have done it fabulously and really well. I admire and respect the black artistic community. We are a long ways from what it once was when I was in movies as a young girl.

I have a book, if you want to, read it. Get the audio, because I read my own story. What’s funny about it is even funnier, because it’s me. What’s sadder about it is even sadder, because it’s me. I’m pouring out my life. It’s called Rita Moreno: A Memoir. And Amazon carries the audio.

LRM: I will have to check that out. It basically talks about your life since the beginning?

Rita Moreno: All the way from the beginning. All the way from Puerto Rico.

LRM: Just to remind me and brief me—it was really tough back then.

Rita Moreno: It was horribly tough! It was almost impossible. I had no role models. There were none. I had to choose Elizabeth Taylor. You keep hearing from the Latino and black communities that I never saw myself on screen—so especially then.

LRM: So how does it feel that you opened the doors for Latinos today?

Rita Moreno: I am so proud. I’m proud to think that they think so. They call me La Pionera, the Pioneer. There’s the price to pay for being the pioneer. You don’t everything you want. You don’t get a lot on what you want. You’re being awarded now is for fortitude.

LRM: You have accomplished so much and with your experience.

Rita Moreno: It’s an astonishing life. I have no complaints whatsoever. Life is hard for a lot of people. It’s harder for some people than it was for me. I’m just extremely grateful.

I mean, the Smithsonian! My mama would’ve peed her pants. [Laughs] It’s astonishing. For Pete’s sake! I even have a Kennedy Center Award which is a couple of years ago. I couldn’t believe it!

LRM: You must be so proud.

Rita Moreno: I am extremely proud. I’m all but embarrassed to say it.

LRM: I am curious. Do you have an awards room or an awards shelf for all this?

Rita Moreno: I have a lot of shelves. I call it my hardware.

LRM: This is so awesome. Rita, I am so glad I have this conversation with you.

Rita Moreno: Me too! Thank you for your interest. Thank you for calling.

Remember Me is On Demand and Digital Download today.

Source: Exclusive for LRM

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @mrgigpatta.