Melonie Diaz landed one of her first high-profile roles in the 2008 oddball comedy Be Kind Rewind. In that film, Diaz starred alongside Mos Def and Jack Black as they tried to save one of the last remaining independent video rental stores.
And Diaz is back to saving a community of small businesses with her new role in Adam Sandler’s The Cobbler.
This time, Diaz plays Carmen, a Lower East Side activist who is also the love interest of Sandler’s character, Max. Diaz also won raves in 2012 for her performance as Sophina, the girlfriend of the slain Oscar Grant (portrayed by Michael B. Jordan) in Fruitvale Station. For the role of Carmen, Diaz found herself drawn to the character for her passion and drive in helping others.
“So few people love their job and she was one of them,” says Diaz.
Diaz was also intrigued by the character because Carmen’s passion — helping to save a community from gentrification–didn’t hit too far from home. Diaz grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the 31-year old acknowledged that the conflict in the movie isn’t far from the truth. New York City is one of the most expensive real estatemarkets in the country — and with gentrification running rampant throughout Manhattan, this is an issue that is very much indicative of the times in which we live.
“These are issues that are happening right now,” says Diaz of the recurring story of elderly residents being forced out of their homes by big corporations for new developments.
Diaz has built a strong résumé playing motivated women of principle and she’s shared the screen with some of Hollywood’s best and brightest; from the aforementioned Sandler, Jordan and Black, to the late Heath Ledger (she appeared in Lords of Dogtown in 2002.) If there was one small twinge of disappointment for the actress regarding The Cobbler; it was the fact that she didn’t get to share scenes with one of her favorite artists. Unlike Be Kind Rewind, where she co-stars with Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), Diaz — much to her dismay — doesn’t get any screen time with another rapper-turned-actor, Clifford “Method Man” Smith.
“I was so bummed about that because I really love him,” Diaz explains. “But he’s a great actor.”
As for the star of the film, Adam Sandler, Diaz was surprised to learn how different he is from the boorish and sophomoric characters he often portrays. But she found the funnyman to be quite low-key.
“He’s just like a normal person. You watch him in movies and you’d think he be different. Like you walk into the store and he’s going to tell you a joke,” Diaz shares “It’s not like that.”
But she wasn’t disappointed.
“It was a highlight to watch him perform,” she says.
Along with The Cobbler, Diaz is starring in X/Y, an indie film about four friends living in New York City, which also stars America Ferrara and John Paul Phillips which was released on video-on-demand last week.
As for the future, Diaz — who named director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) as an inspiration to finish her filmmaking degree at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts — said she “definitely wants to direct.” But before that she wants to land a few more roles.
On the heels of starring in Fruitvale Station, Diaz was previously slated to appear in the HBO drama Laughs Unlimited (working title), but the project never came to fruition. But that isn’t stopping Diaz from keeping an open eye on new opportunities. Her résumé is still growing and her talents are being seen in a wide range of projects. She couldn’t be happier — and in addition to feature film work, she’s eyeing the small screen.
“I’m trying to find the right television show,” said Diaz. “It’s really exciting right now.”