Ana Alicia Ortiz:
God Blessed Me the Day I Was Born!
TV By Day Magazine, January 1978
by Emma Mannion
Article Provided By Wanda
Energetic. Adventuresome. Gutsy. There are many adjectives that could be used to describe Ana Alicia Ortiz, who plays Alicia Nieves on Ryan's Hope, but those are three that come immediately to mind when you first meet her. And they are three qualities that have served the young actress well in her career.
Ana Alicia was born in Mexico and lived there until her father died when she was six. Then she and her mother, two older brothers and younger sisters moved to El Paso, Texas, where she was raised. "In El Paso, which is my mother's home town," she recalls, "we lived with my grandmother. My mother is a wonderful woman. When my father died, he didn't leave any life insurance and because my mother wasn't a Mexican citizen she couldn't inherit any of the property. She lost everything, but she went to work immediately and saw to it that we never wanted for anything." Ana Alicia remembers going to work when she was 15. "I didn't have to work, but I always wanted to." There's that energy. "And, I'm glad I started working so young. It gives you a sense of what things are worth and of your obligations."
After finishing high school in El Paso, she won a scholarship to Wellesley College in Boston. In addition, energetic, adventuresome and gutsy, Ana Alicia is also very bright. "When I got to Wellesley, I decided that I was too scared to go to theater and that I would study law because it offered more security. However, the first thing I did at Wellesley was get into a play! And then when I went home to El Paso for the summer, I auditioned for a producer who liked my work and suggested that I stay there, attend the University of Texas and work at the dinner theater."
And that's exactly what she did. "I worked at the dinner theater full time for two years and went to the university at the same time. After two years, the theater closed but I continued on at school and worked in all the theater productions there. When I graduated from the University of Texas, I had to decide whether I wanted to apply to law school or continue in theater. Well, I decided to follow my acting dream and go to Los Angeles to see what it was like."
Adventuresome. "I got in my little car - I had a Mustang - and drove out to L.A. Of course, I didn't know anyone there and I didn't have any money so the first thing I did was get a job as a waitress. Then I made the rounds of the top agents and they agreed to represent me though I didn't even have a portfolio or pictures or anything. They agreed to handle me because they said I had a lot of guts and they liked that quality."
For a month or so the agents seemed to send her out for all the wrong parts. Finally, she auditioned for a theater repertory company and, although she had gone out to Los Angeles hoping to do television she liked the people and the work they were doing at the rep company so much that she decided to join when they asked her. "It was called the Twelfth Night Repertory Company. It was a government-sponsored company and we performed before minority children's groups. We worked together for six months and toured everywhere. It was great; I loved what I was doing. We wrote our own shows and music and did mime. And at the same time, I was also teaching in the L.A. city schools." Energetic.
"One week I'd been doing a show in San Francisco and when I returned to L.A. I got a call to audition for a television serial, although at the time I didn't know which one it was. When I arrived, they told me that I didn't look Mexican enough. Well, I told them right there and then that I was Mexican!" Gutsy.
"Then they said that I had a nice face but that I could afford to lose five pounds! I like it when people tell you the truth, though. They already had six girls auditioning for the part, but they said that if they could screen test one more it would be me. Well, I was still totally happy with the work I was doing with the rep company and I went back to that and completely forgot about the audition. I never thought I would get the part, but I really believe God blessed me the day I was born."
But there were some strange coincidences involved in the audition. "It was amazing. The character and I had the same name, and the same nationality, and we were the same age and even had a similar family history! Plus, and this I couldn't believe, the show was Ryan's Hope, which was the only soap opera I had ever watched! As a matter of fact, I had watched it the day it premiered and I tried to keep up with the story whenever I had the time. I even remember telling my mother that if I were to work on a soap opera I'd want to be on Ryan's Hope."
Ana Alicia was called back for the screen test and won the role of Alicia Nieves. "I was so excited. I couldn't believe it!" She also could not believe the hectic schedule that was to follow. "I was notified on a Friday that I had gotten the role. I figured I would have at least two weeks to put my life in order - you know, pack my things, get rid of my car, give notice at the rep company and get myself to New York City. Well, I soon learned that they wanted me to be in New York by Sunday! That meant that I had less than two days to do all those things! I thought to myself, "Hey, you don't know what you're getting into." But, then I thought, "You can't pass it up. You've got to try." Adventuresome. Gutsy.
With her customary energy, she managed to settle her affairs in Los Angeles, get herself on a plane and was in New York by that Sunday night. "I arrived at the studio on Monday morning, was handed three scripts and did three shows that week!" Wasn't she a nervous wreck by the end of the week? "No. You see, it all happened too fast for me to get nervous. I was too up to get nervous. And everyone at Ryan's Hope, the actors, the production staff, just everyone, was so nice to me. They all went out of their way to make me feel at home and to help me get settled."
"And now I love working on the show. And I love being in New York. It's got a magic that no other city in the world has. There are so many things to do here and I just want to get out there and do all of them!"
And with Ana Alicia's energy, sense of adventure and her gutsy approach to living, she will, too.
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