The actress from My Name Is Earl, The League, and Six talks with us about her Hollywood journey and her current role on the History Channel.
You might recognize Nadine Velazquez ’01 as Catalina from My Name is Earl. Maybe you saw her as Sophia Ruxin in cult comedy The League. Or you might have seen her on TV recently, appearing as Jackie Ortiz on History Channel’s Six, a drama about the lives of SEAL Team Six members now in its second season.
In November, Velazquez returned to Columbia College Chicago’s Open House to speak about her creative path. She took some time to talk with us about her Columbia experience, Hollywood history, and current role on Six.
You grew up just outside of Oak Park, Illinois. What made you choose Columbia for school?
I chose Columbia because I felt like an artist. I had creativity within me that I needed to tap into. I went into advertising and marketing, and ultimately got my degree in Marketing with a concentration in Public Relations because I felt like a showman. I wanted to be front and center.
Even though my career path is different from what I studied, the experience of being able to experiment at Columbia gave me exactly what I needed to follow my art. It complemented my tenacity and it encouraged the questions that I had.
How did you make your way to Hollywood?
At Columbia, I felt the confidence to look for a career path that was not a typical career path. So, I went to a talent agency and I became a talent agent’s assistant. And I really loved it. I was really convinced that I was going to be a casting director or an agent.
I was 19 or 20 when the agent said, “When are you going to ask me to represent you?” I was like, “What are you talking about?” She said, “You are supposed to be an actress. Everything about you is designed to be an actress: your face, your body, your energy. You need to be in LA.”
I was already used to taking some pretty dramatic risks and trying things out. I mean, I left my house when I was 16. I wanted to experience the world fast.
What can you tell us about your latest project, Six, on the History Channel?
It’s about SEAL Team Six—the lives of the operators on and off the field. What is best about our show is that they portray this elite team like they’re human, not like they’re without fear. They’re so lost in the real world outside of terrorism. Their whole lives have been about killing terrorists and keeping information from their families and not knowing when they’re going to come home or if they will return from a mission, and yet they have families and an ordinary life when they come back home.
I play Jackie Ortiz and I’m the kind of wife who’s never going to leave her husband. So, there’s a really beautiful love connection between Jackie and Ricky, but it’s interrupted this season with a terrorist threat close to home. She has to find her balance between who she is and what she believes is right and true, versus who she has to be for him and her family.
This season is going to be phenomenal for my character. I have really beautiful work that I’m going to get to show.