Dascha Polanco has broken out of prison — and the small screen. The Orange is the New Black star is acting alongside major players in Joy. The native Dominican plays Jackie, the BFF of the title character (Jennifer Lawrence), a fierce single mom turned savvy business mogul. Polanco, 33, was in town last week to discuss the film, as well as her history with South Florida — she’s a semi local, having moved to Miami Lakes from Brooklyn in the eighth grade and attending American High School.
Can you talk about your part in the movie? How did you prepare?
Jackie is Joy’s rock, her go-to person when she’s down. I consider myself a very good friend so a lot of my performance came from personal experience. It’s about respecting someone, and being loyal in certain situations.
Was it intimidating to work alongside Robert De Niro?
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Of course! I grew up watching this man, so did my family. It was such an honor. I found him to be such a humble and professional and respectful person. And David [O’Russell], too. I mean, he’s such a distinguished director and visionary. He brings out the best in an actor. You’re able to push yourself in a challenging but very natural, fluid way. His path guides you.
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence have already costarred in two movies with Russell at the helm — “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle.” Was it difficult coming into such a well-oiled machine?
The cast was as inviting as can be. They made me feel like a part of the family the minute I walked in for a reading. It was a true collaboration. Of course, I was very cautious. You have to gain the trust of someone. It’s all about manners and etiquette, even in this setting. You want to do your best job, but these are people with established careers. You have to be like a car: It works fine, but you want to enhance it, add some turbo! That was how I saw it.
Talk about your life while living in Miami Lakes.
I was very active in high school. I was homecoming queen, a thespian, an athlete. My grades were always on top. I have great memories. I used to park cars at Pro Player Stadium [now Sun Life] and watch the Dolphins games. Miami is dear to me and my second home; I’d love to live here again.
What do you do while you’re here?
I go to my old neighborhood and call my old friends. I drive. I rent my car at Lou La Vie. They hook me up with a nice car like a Ferrari, or Porsche or Corvette and I rock down the Palmetto. That’s me cruising down the 826! My team is scared [laughs], but I don’t speed, honey. I am just very assertive. Seriously, though, there’s something therapeutic about driving at night in Miami — the stars are out, the sky is open. It’s like nothing else.