As the daughter of two retired NYPD officers, actor Danielle Larracuente grew up with a front-row seat to the life of a police officer. In May of this year, Larracuente starred in the TV show “Bosch: Legacy” as Paulina Calderon, a rookie LAPD officer. The Latin-American actor also starred in the final episodes of NBC’s hit drama show ‘This Is Us.’ Her character Laila acted as Mandy Moore’s nurse, assisting her with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Earlier in her career, she acted alongside Melissa Joan Hart, in the 2021 Christmas Movie “Mistletoe in Montana.”
While Larracuente got her start in pageants when she was only four years old, she took a break from the spotlight in an effort to find her true calling. After getting degrees in psychology and cosmetology, she eventually realized her true passion lies in the acting world.
The Untitled Magazine sat down with Danielle Larracuente to talk about her career journey from child star to working in a nail salon and her return to the screen. Read on for our full interview below with the inspiring actress who fought for her dreams and inspires the Latinx community.
How did you get into acting? I understand you starred in commercials at the young age of four years old and by the age of nine starred on Broadway in The Lion King?
I got my start in beauty pageants. I did them until 4 years old, then from pageants, I got an agent and landed my first commercial with Snuggle. I still remember to this day; I was totally terrified of the bear, but then my mom introduced me to the man below controlling the bear. Long story short, after seeing him I was able to strut my stuff.
Tell us about your background? You are from Cortlandt Manor, New York? What was it like growing up there as a young actress?
I loved growing up in Westchester. I had an awesome community that supported me and my family. What was cool was that I was a hop, skip, and jump from the city. My mom and I would go down for my work or auditions and then race back home away from the hustle and bustle.
After a young start in TV and film, you took a break and went to school for Cosmetology and also received a B.S in Psychology – what inspired you to return to your love of acting?
Although I always loved acting, I wanted to make sure that was the right career choice for me. So, I briefly went into those different career fields. First, after receiving my cosmetology license, I worked at a nail salon for a year, then I decided to go back to school to get my psychology degree. Upon completion, I worked in a treatment center for a year. Both careers made me feel like I was going through the motions as I didn’t feel the passion I did for acting. Once I figured that out I was like, “Okay, Danielle this is your passion/dream,” so I set out to do what I love, acting. There was a moment where I felt like it’s been too long of a break, my chance is gone. But once I became a mom to my beautiful boy Benson, that really gave me the push. I told myself I can’t tell him to follow his dreams if I don’t follow my dreams.
Who were your biggest role models growing up and why?
I have to say, my mom. She is one of the most inspiring women I know. She was a retired NYPD police officer. Once she retired while simultaneously raising my brothers and me, she decided to go back to college to get her B.A., then law school, and now she is a civil rights attorney in LA. My mom taught me from a young age to always keep going, and that anything is possible.
Both of your parents are retired NYPD officers – what were the most positive lessons they taught you as a child?
Besides how to be safe in the streets, one of the biggest things both my parents taught me as a child is to always carry yourself with respect and poise. They always reminded me that, you may not realize it now, but you must always set an example for your culture and community. Representation is everything!
You have a few exciting new releases this month including “Bosch: Legacy” on IMDB TV. Can you tell us about your role in the series playing Paulina Calderon?
I play an LAPD officer. I am what they call a “boot” or “rookie cop”, fresh out of the police academy. I am a friend/ally to Maddie played by the talented actress Madison Lintz. My character is very interesting as she was inspired by an incredible actor named Paul Calderon. Recently, quite amazingly, I got to meet him on a different set. It was an honor!
Did you find growing up with both of your parents as NYPD officers assisted you with playing the character of a patrol officer? What were some of the experiences you were able to draw from for your role?
Having my parents helped so much in preparation for this role. They guided me in channeling the type of energy I needed to bring forth for this job. From my mom, I learned how a woman police officer would approach a situation versus a man. My dad taught me to always stay very observant and be very aware of my surroundings.
You also have a recurring role in the final season of NBC’s hit drama ‘This Is Us’ with Mandy Moore. Can you tell us about your role on the show?
I play Laila, Mandy Moore’s caretaker/nurse. I help Rebecca (Mandy Moore) as she goes through her illness, Alzheimer’s. This was definitely a crucial role, and I wanted to make sure I did all caretakers out there justice by representing them in the best way possible.
What would be your dream production? Favorite actor/actress to work with or director?
I would love to be a part of the Marvel family, and work on Yellowstone, and Bridgeton! I would have to say a dream actress to work with would be Viola Davis! I am amazed by her talent, and how she carries herself on and off set.
Tell us about your role alongside Melissa Joan Hart in the Christmas Movie “Mistletoe in Montana” in 2021?
Filming in Montana was such a dream, it was beyond gorgeous! I always wanted to be in a Christmas movie, it was such a monumental moment in my career. Melissa is awesome to work with, and a true star. In the movie, I play Laura Jones who works on a ranch with Melissa Joan Hart. We have some lovely guests for the summer and teach them a thing or two about ranch life.
Looking back at all the productions you have worked on over the years, what stands out as one of the most memorable experiences?
I would have to say one that will always stick out for me is being on Broadway in the lion king. Playing Young Nala was a huge dream, as I absolutely loved that Disney movie growing up.
What challenges have you faced in the entertainment industry?
I would have to say growing up in the business, I am a curvy Latina and that was difficult back then. There was a lot of fat-shaming I had to overcome. Also, being Latina in itself, there were moments when people in the industry suggested I pass as other races to help my career. In both of those areas, the industry has really made strives forward, becoming more unbiased, positive, and open.
As an actress of Puerto Rican descent, I understand you aspire to bring more representation of the Latino community to TV and film? Can you share more about your personal mission?
That is a big personal mission of mine, to set an example for the Latino community and show the younger generation, especially Latinas, that it is possible for us. We can dream it and make it happen, and be in those leading roles.
What other causes are close to your heart?
Anything having to do with progress or support for Alzheimer’s. Not only did I play a caretaker to someone who was dealing with Alzheimer’s, but my grandparents also struggled as well. I experienced it firsthand. I’m also very motivated about being involved in helping foster care children and the future generation be their best selves.
What advice would you give to an aspiring actress who is trying to break into film and TV?
Have faith and keep going. Always make it a point to continually re-assess what you are doing in your career. Ask yourself how can I proactively improve in my career? For instance, working on your acting craft, learning more camera techniques, improving your business skills (updating reels, acting websites, etc), getting your social game on, or the biggest thing for me was knowing when to let go and trust the process.
Come from a knowing, confident place as there is no other you in the industry, and they are waiting to see you shine. Lastly, my dad always says “This industry is like the DMV, you can’t get out of line, or you will miss when they call your number. But they will call it!”
What are some of your favorite pastimes when you aren’t on set?
I really love hiking, and any type of self-care I am in. Nails, hair, makeup, and a spa day are like yes please! Spending time playing with my kid is super special to me. Lastly, I am a big UFC fan. Every Saturday night I am watching the fight.
Can you share your favorite beauty secrets? Any products you recommend or favorite routines?
I really love a good under-eye patch. Especially for those early call times, they do the trick. I have also learned hydration is everything for beauty. From your face to your nails. I always keep handy the liquid IV powders. I drop it in my water, it works wonders.
What else can we look forward to from you in 2022? Any other new releases on the horizon you can share?
A big thing for me is diversity! You will definitely see me taking on different characters that stretch my skills and help audiences always see me in different lights.
For more follow Danielle Larracuente on Instagram.