Is a beautiful dove like human being. She is one of the LA stars we have known since the magazine began. We saw her in Los Angeles at the coolest event we have ever attended that is a wonderful cause with Face Forward!
"So grateful to have walked the red carpet as the Face Forward Chair Woman. Face Forward's "La Dolce Vita" Themed Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on September 22, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California." (Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty Images). Photo to the left by Dan Arru.
Christina DeRosa interview by Blaine Schlechter
I want to thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today, I know you’re a very busy lady, so I appreciate the time. I would like to start talking about Face Forward and your charitable work; your role of board chairwoman for the 9th Annual Face Forward Gala. Can you tell me a bit more about the Face Forward Organization and the gala itself?
Face Forward provides free reconstructive surgery to survivors of domestic violence. Men, women, children, we do not discriminate. We take people from all over the world; we’ll fly people from wherever they are. We just recently flew two girls from India. It’s an unbelievable story, what’s happened to them. So we help people from all over the world, we take care of not just their healing needs as far as putting them with the right counselors, putting them with the right therapists, psychiatrists; but also, of course, the free reconstructive surgery. We’ll partner with other organizations, but were really the only organization looking to take care of the reconstructive surgery. A lot of times they’ll go through something, like a mangled face or an acid attack or any kind of beating and a lot of Doctors may do just the bare minimum and maybe health care can only handle the bare minimum, but it’s not really enough for them to live a life and feel confident in this world and to go out and ask for a job and really go on living with a smile on their face. We have plastic surgeons that are board members and directors of the board for Face Forward, but we also partner with other Doctors, whether it’s dental needs or whatever their needs may be, we’ll take care of their needs.
"Thank you Jeremy for hosting our 2018 Face Forward Gala. Jeremy Piven cancelled a comedy tour to be at our gala and flew in on a red eye from New York, out of his pocket to support a cause that helps survivors of domestic violence around the world."
It’s a very good cause, I’ve never heard of anything like it, so congratulations, that’s a really good cause to get behind. Tell us a little bit more about the Face Forward Gala.
The first year Face Forward was born we didn’t have a Gala, we were too small. But the second year Face Forward was alive and thriving, we had a Gala and it was only 50 people and now, at our 9th Annual Gala that we just had in Sep 2018, we had over 600 people. So it’s really, really just grown in ways that are just unimaginable. Of course our fearless CEO and founder Deborah Alessi, she’s a survivor herself. Her and her husband, Dr. David Alessi founded and began the organization over 10 years ago now, actually exactly 10 years ago, but our 9th Annual Gala that we celebrated in Sep. Dr. David Alessi is one of the many plastic surgeons who do pro-bono work for our survivors and Deborah will find people all over the world; men, woman, children – whoever comes to us and whoever we can reach out to. About a year ago, on a recent trip to London she happened to hear the story of Andreas. Andreas is a young man, less than 40 years old, he opened the door on, I believe it was Christmas Eve, thinking it was a UPS delivery or some kind of package being delivered and instead it was a man who threw acid all over his face. It was a case of mistaken identity. The man who threw the acid on Andreas’s face thought he had a different person that he was throwing the acid on. That just kind of goes to show you that violence, domestic violence or any kind of cruel act of violence can happen to anyone. It’s shocking to me and also not shocking at the same time unfortunately to hear these stories and go ‘oh my gosh’. It’s everywhere and it can happen to anyone.
In addition to Face Forward, you also have some other great causes that you personally support. Where do you think you got your passion for humanitarianism from?
I think that I just love to give, and I think that there’s no greater feeling than to give back. You can find me a few times a year in Mexico volunteering at some organizations there, I like to feed the people experiencing homelessness in the Los Angeles mission a few times a year, I sponsor a child from the non-profit called the Mulligan Project and two children I sponsor in Vietnam. Honestly, it’s just the greatest feeling to be able to give and to actually make a difference, to feel like my life has a purpose. It really just fuels me, giving back. I was thinking about this recently, and I’m thinking that a lot of the things I like doing in this world involves me being super, super present and in the moment. When I’m physically volunteering and when I’m physically feeding someone who’s hungry who’s experiencing homelessness, I can’t be thinking about my taxes, I can’t be thinking about any of my woes or any of my fears, or limitations or doubts, I’m just completely present for that other person. It’s the greatest feeling to be able to focus on someone else and to really give to someone who really, really needs it.
That’s a really great way to put that.
Thank you. So many of the things I love doing are really about being in the moment. Acting is all about being present, you can’t really be thinking about what you’re going to eat for dinner, or your to do list can’t be running through your head when you’re in the moment playing a character or playing someone in this conversation and this situation. You’ve got to be present, and it’s the same thing for me with volunteering, it really forces me to just give with all my heart and be super present.
Turning to your acting career, you’ve had a pretty exciting one already. You started in the industry at the age of 8 in musical theatre. Is there any role that stands out as a personal favourite for you so far?
It all started in New York on stage with Natalie Portman as we were munchkins on the Wizard of Oz, and were sitting around backstage with all my little fellow munchkins and munchkineers. It just so happened that my fellow thespian, the young Natalie, now known as Portman, went on to become a major, major Oscar winning actress. As far as favourite roles, I absolutely loved my experience as Nicole on the TV show Black-ish. I really feel like there’s a sense of family. I remember one of the first days on set, I came on set a little earlier because I had some scenes with the children, the two twins who play the children on the show, and then Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays the mom on the show, she came a little later. When she arrived on set, it was like their real biological mom just showed up. The amount of hugs and ‘Mama T…Mama T’, they all call her Mama T, and just that feeling of honesty. When you see children on set, it’s a law that anyone under 18 they have to actually have some type of legal guardian on set with them, so children who are under 18 on the show have to have either a mother or a father, grandpa, uncle or someone o the show all the time that their shooting, kind of just there. What’s so interesting is that there are so many families on that set, when you’re on that set you don’t just feel like you’re with the actual Black-ish family; you’re actually seeing the real father of Miles, the real father of all the children on the set. What was so passionate and what sparked an interest in me was seeing Mama T, Tracee Ellis Ross, be so loved and adored by the actors who play her children because that’s the energy that you feel on the show and it’s such a sense of family. I honestly think that all good TV shows have that element of family. If you look back throughout the years of a lot of the great television shows that have survived a long time, there’s just a sense of family.
Tracee Ellis Ross with Christina on set of Blackish.
That’s not something that comes easy, when everyone respects you in that sense.
I have to say I’ve had a lot of positive experiences on set. I feel like when were on set… I can kind of make the analogy for someone who’s not on set who might not know what it feels like, it’s kind of like when you go to a Dodgers game or, pick your favorite team – LA Lakers, New York Mets, New York Yankees – whoever it is, your all going to this Dodger game and your all singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game and your all wearing blue and your all rooting for the same team. That’s, to me, how it feels when I’m on set, whether I’m on set as an actress or a producer, being on set feels like this big baseball game experience where we’re all rooting for the same team, and that team is either the TV show or the movie or whatever the name of the project is.
I love a good sports analogy, so I totally get that. Speaking of producing, apparently you weren’t busy enough so you’ve decided you want to give producing a try. How has that transition been going?
I really feel like it’s the golden era of television right now so for me, I partnered with another female producing partner who’s done a ton of producing and together were producing for Lifetime, for DARO, for Reel One, a lot of female driven thriller movies for television. It just so happens that I’ve had a lot of opportunities to work on them as an actress so now it’s just putting all the pieces together. Storytelling is storytelling, so there’s a creative fire inside of me for storytelling, whether I’m acting or whether I’m producing, I’m still storytelling. I’ve really just connected the dots in how I kind of fell into the producing thing and it’s an exciting venture for me, I always tell people and people are like ‘oh wow, what made you get into producing’. The answer to the question is more like I love who I have to become to be a producer, especially in todays, 2018, golden era of television. I want to play a new role in the making of so many movies, so I now have contacts at Hallmark, MarVista, I just sold a script to MarVista that one of my writers wrote, so it’s really about connecting dots. I know a lot of writers, I know a lot of networks, I know a lot of head honchos at different networks so I’m putting all the pieces together and connecting the dots. It kind of comes easy to me in that sense.
Its fun to challenge yourself in different ways and to continue growing, so congratulations. You also recently became a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Science. What does that mean to you?
It’s amazing. As an active member of the television academy I get to vote for all my fellow peers. I get to vote actually on the Emmy’s which is amazing. I get to go to incredible events, in fact one of my friends counted and this year, 2018 alone, there were over 80 events. You can imagine through the months of March, April, May, June…in four months, there’s 80 events…there’s like multiple events per day that you can be going to and you get to meet the cast, the directors, the writers of all these amazing Emmy nominated TV shows and Emmy nominated movies that you want to get to know and you want to meet these incredible showrunners and creators. It’s inspiring and the friends I’ve made through the Academy are friends for life and it’s been a huge blessing. Honestly, it’s the power of relationships, it’s the power of referrals because I would not be a television Academy member if it wasn’t for a referral from a friend of mine who was already in the Academy who said ‘you should join, you have enough credits’. I had no idea and I think that’s the key to life in general, relationships are kind of what it all comes down to. It’s not who you know, I say, but it’s who knows you. You can know Spielberg…you can know Tarantino, but do they know you? Through the TV Academy I’m able to actually really make sure these other people know me in addition to just me knowing them.
You add that to your list of things keeping you busy, so what are you working on now, what’s next for you?
The producing is definitely taking up the majority of my time. Hallmark, like I said, and MarVista I just signed a shopping agreement with another project I’m producing. Hallmark I’m consistently pitching and it’s an amazing, amazing contact with Hallmark. Working closely with Daro and Reel One and I also just recently took on a job as an anchor. It’s kind of like a host, it’s still in the acting world but it’s a TV host on a TV show called the Good News TV Show. The concept is basically, as opposed to CNN, which I call ‘constantly negative news’, this is called the Good News. I want to spread the good news, I want to tell the world that things are getting better and that there’s hope. I think that nowadays, especially with social media and news on demand, bad news travels a lot faster than good news and people only listen to what comes first and that can really depress you and really put you in a down state. My whole thing is to prioritize putting out the positive news, so the point of the show is to talk about charities. In fact, I brought to the show Face Forward and I told them about Face Forward and we did an interview with Deborah on the show, so for me it’s exciting because it encompasses a lot of what I’m all about, which is spreading good news, being a positive person, coping in a world where we have to deal with rejection. It’s just powerful to be able to work on something as an actor to combine the acting, the producing and my hosting skills all together and, of course, the philanthropy.
I could chat with you all day but our time is up. Thanks again and best of luck with everything.
Listen to Christina on our pod cast!
See Christina in Bad Moms!