In the best kind of typecasting, Hialeah-raised Cuban-American actress Otmara Marrero plays Cuban-American tech whiz Izzy Morales, in “StartUp,” a new series on web streaming network Crackle that premieres Tuesday. Set in Miami (although unfortunately filmed in Puerto Rico), the show is a 21st century online meets street crime drama, with Morales the inventor of a virtual currency she tries to take mainstream with a flawed financier and Haitian drug gang leader. We talked to Marrero about getting her big break playing someone a whole lot like herself.
Tell us about your family and growing up in Miami.
I’m also Cuban American, so this girl is me to a certain extent. My dad came on Mariel; he owns an air-conditioning and refrigeration company. My mom is a homemaker and went through Ecuador with a fake passport.
Is this your first big role?
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This is a major, major thing for me. I did “Ballers,” but they cut all my lines. I did a scene in “War Dogs” with Jonah Hill, and they cut that. Now I’m the lead on a show! When everyone says, ‘You made it. That was fast.’ I think of all the years I spent in Miami doing commercials and one-liners and auditioning.
Did being Cuban help you get the part?
They were looking for a Latina actress but didn’t have a specific ethnicity. Once they said she was Cuban, she’s from Miami — she was initially from Little Havana, and when they told me she’s from Hialeah, I’m like “all right, I’m this girl.” I think little things like slang words and my demeanor helped me.
What do you think of your character?
Izzy is phenomenal. She’s a woman in tech, and Latina at that. She’s so goal oriented, and her tunnel vision is so intense. Sometimes she’s crazy and selfish, but she’s only that way because of the bigger picture.
Even though it’s shot in Puerto Rico, do you think they got the feel of Miami right?
I love how the show was authentic to Miami. The Cuban culture — they couldn’t have portrayed any better. There’s one scene when my dad is making food, and it’s picadillo with raisins. Little details like that are so great. A lot of times shows in Miami only highlight Ocean Drive and beautiful women. But there’s so much more culture there. This is all about Cuban culture, Haitian culture, the financial system — Brickell is like a tiny Wall Street. Everything you see is very Miami.