Angelique Rivera got her first taste of acting when she was 8 in the musical Annie, where she first broke out of her shell by playing the mean kid, Pepper.
“It was fun for me, because I was such a nice, people-pleaser type of girl growing up,” said Rivera, who was born in Chicago but raised in Kissimmee, where she participated in community plays and musicals in middle and high school. “I fell in love with performing and singing and dancing and acting, and since then I knew I would be in entertainment.”
Rivera, 22, appeared on season two of ABC’s American Crime as Evy Dominguez, the only witness of a rape that drives the season. She booked the role — her first official gig as an actress — within six months of moving to Los Angeles.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in theater from the University of Florida in December 2014, Rivera bought a one-way ticket to California to pursue her career. Soon after arriving, she began working with a manager to guide her through the process of finding an agent and auditions.
Her first tryout was for the show Shades of Blue, in which Jennifer Lopez plays Detective Harlee Santos (she didn’t get the part).
“It was this whirlwind of coming to L.A. and all of a sudden getting thrown into pilot season,” said Rivera, who was preparing with voice classes and scene-study courses. “My manager called me and set up an audition for American Crime. I had heard of it because I watched the pilot.”
She auditioned for the role of Evy, whom she describes as a low-income girl who struggles with problems at home but remains positive and always looks at the bright side of things. One week after her audition, she booked the job.
“I’ve gained so much knowledge and experience. ... It just opened my eyes,” said Rivera, who worked with Felicity Huffman and Regina King (the cast filmed the season in Austin, Texas). “I was never on a professional set before, so to work with amazing writers and directors and actors and executive producers and everyone, they were all so amazing. It was really a collaboration, and we all were very passionate about this.”
Rivera, who is of Puerto Rican descent, sees her role as a Latin actress as an opportunity to open doors and inspire other actresses to pursue their dreams of starring in films and TV shows.
“Growing up, I loved watching TV and going to the movies, but I always saw the same people. I never saw diversity. I never saw people that looked like me, so I never thought that it was a possibility that I could do that,” said Rivera, who admires actress Gina Rodriguez of Jane the Virgin. “I really want to use this kind of platform that I’ve been given to inspire younger kids in general, but Latinos of course, because I am Latina, and I want people to know that it is possible.”