April 24th, 2013 15:32 EST
Judyth Piazza interviews Multi-talented Actress, Writer and Producer Vanessa Verduga
Vanessa Verduga is a multi-talented actress, writer and producer who is laser focused on creating bold and explosive career opportunities for herself - but those inclined to start using the shopworn phrase "Renaissance Woman" to describe her will be quickly corrected for being too limiting.
These days, the Los Angeles born, Bronx raised performer-who legitimately includes "singer" and "lawyer" on her resume for those daring to keep score-is making her mark instead as "Justice Woman," the lead character in the popular web series she created and launched last year. Currently in post-production for Seasons 2 and 3, the show has earned positive reviews by NBC Latino and its first three 10-minute episodes have garnered over 160,000 views on its dedicated YouTube channel.
Written and produced by Vanessa, "Justice Woman" was inspired in part by her passion for Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman and other superheroes (including the Mexican TV parody Chapulin Colorado) growing up. The concept is also rooted in the disillusionment she experienced as an attorney. "Being a solo practitioner was an eye opening experience as I got to see firsthand how our legal system and the people in charge of it can work for both good and bad under the guise of the law," she says. "I wasn`t limited to the experiences of others. I too endured my share of injustices and disappointments enough to want out of the practice of law and back into acting."
The series, which Vanessa envisions going six or seven three episode seasons, follows the story of Sofía Escala, a.k.a. Justice Woman, a spunky Assistant D.A. by day, defender of truth and justice by night. With the help of her office-mate and sidekick Robert (Roberta) Gallion (played by Lee Kaplan), she fights to right the wrongs committed against the innocent and powerless by a corrupt legal system - and naturally winds up in some tight spots along the way.
A smart, funny, fast-paced series with a touch of risqué business and perhaps the first Latina superhero and gay sidekick duo ever, "Justice Woman" tackles serious issues, but with large doses of campy humor. Some have likened it to "Law & Order" meets "Will & Grace" via "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and "Sex and the City." While breaking ground in having a Latina female attorney in the lead role, it pays homage to superheroes of yesteryear with a storyline that involves Sofia bringing to light questionable practices in the prosecution of the city`s cases, most notably the incarceration of an innocent migrant worker, Jesus Lopez, and her quest to prove his innocence with Robert`s help.
Expanding her creative outreach further, Vanessa is currently developing a "Justice Woman" prequel comic book, which she plans to debut at New York Comic-Con in 2013. Citing influences like Barbra Streisand, Patti Lupone and Elaine Paige, she has designs on eventually translating "Justice Woman" into a Broadway musical.
"When I first began writing `Justice Woman,` it was meant to showcase myself as an actor," says Vanessa. "As time progressed and I evolved as a writer, I started to find a voice that wasn`t just about me, but about the many things that are unfair and disturbing in our society like racism, gender and age discrimination, homophobia, immigration, double standards, sexual hypocrisy, class power, political corruption and the list goes on. Those became the issues I wanted to tackle. However, as my dear Oscar Wilde recommended: `If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they`ll kill you.` So I decided to put a humorous twist to my writing and the results have been remarkable."
Vanessa is currently producing and starring in "H.O.M.E.," a feature film by award winning director Daniel Maldonado comprised of three character driven vignettes, loosely tied in theme to the concept of urban alienation through the immigrant perspective. Each story reflects on the meaning of being both physically and spiritually lost in NYC. Based on her work in "Justice Woman," Maldonado cast Vanessa in two roles - the daughter of the lead actor (whose only communication is on the phone, via voice-overs) and as the weather reporter.
Vanessa is also finalizing a comedy feature film she wrote entitled, "The Implications of Cohabitation," which she hopes to start pre-production on in Fall 2013. She is also an active blogger who writes about current events and the reasoning behind her many artistic endeavors.
Destined for a multi-faceted life and career from her earliest days, Vanessa started acting, singing and dancing at age four, encouraged by her mother, a trained dancer in Spanish dance whose own mother (Vanessa`s grandmother) would take her every weekend to sing live at the local radio station in her native Ecuador. Coming from a family that valued the performing arts - but also stressed the importance of a strong education and practical career path - it`s perfectly logical that Vanessa would eventually find her way back to performing after a lengthy college and law school hiatus.
A graduate of both the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and Seton Hall University of Law, Vanessa returned to acting during law school when she joined the theater student group there. With a knack for developing strong yet vulnerable characters, she has appeared in numerous theater productions and films since graduating from AADA. She got into filmmaking as a result of acting and writing. Having appeared in numerous stage productions throughout New York City, Vanessa decided to give film acting a chance and discovered that she loved it just as much as theater. Co-writing the award-winning short film "Danny First" - based on the story of her relationship with her brother Tony, who is autistic - further impressed upon her the power of film to move and inspire a much wider audience.
Having traveled and lived abroad, Vanessa - who studied in Paris and worked in Italy during her undergrad days as a computer information systems major at Baruch College (The City University of New York) - brings a rich multi- perspective to her projects, which - speaking of diversity - she can translate into English, Spanish, Italian and/or French, all languages she speaks. Described by her peers as "a compassionate fighter with captivating strength and sassy humor," Vanessa aspires to awaken our inner warriors through the art of filmmaking. Creating "Justice Woman" as a web series not only tapped into her work as an attorney, it also drew upon her pre-law school experience as a project manager for a web development company.
Despite her multitude of talents and whirlwind of creative activities, at heart Vanessa sees herself as an actress who is passionate about her work and diverse in the roles she can play. "Acting is what actually put me on the path to search for my inner Amazon Goddess and/or higher creative being," she says. "I`ve been through some dark periods in my life and I truly believe that acting has helped me get through those periods and continues to help me. There`s definitely a therapeutic intangible that occurs when you step out of all the difficulties going on in your life and take on the life of a character.
"Through acting," she adds, "you give yourself permission to detach from your current circumstances in order to take on the circumstances of your character. I speak of detaching from my circumstances and not from myself because as an actor I cannot detach from myself since the character is and will always be me within the given circumstances of the play/film. That is not to say, however, that my current circumstances cannot feed the emotional life of my character. Detachment from my current circumstances has allowed me to become an objective observer, which in turn has helped me pacify whatever craziness I may have been experiencing at the time. Acting has also been very therapeutic for me and it has further allowed me to experience emotions that I had learned to suppress since childhood. As terrifying as it is at times to feel vulnerable, it is also extremely liberating - and never fails to challenge and fascinate me."
For More Information: www.justicewoman.com