Maria Gabriela De Faria
Maria Gabriela De Faria: The ray of sunshine we all need in our lives
By Sonja Grunfeld
Featured in BELLO December 2019 issue #195
The lights are bright and it’s silent on set. Maria Gabriela de Faria is center stage with a camera pointed at her – scared to death. She is Maria Salazar, badass assassin on Deadly Class. This was Maria’s first lead role in America. She remembers the fear of getting fired at any moment and feeling like she didn’t trust herself. Luckily, she was in good hands. Her amazing cast and crew made her feel at home as she eased herself into the fierce role of Maria. However, “eased” isn’t the most accurate description considering the challenge of getting into assassin-shape. The cast had to attend a month of serious assassin training and Maria got in the best shape of her life. It takes sacrifice and responsibility to wake up at 3am and workout before a 14 hour day on set. But that’s Maria for you. She’s got the confidence to take on any challenge.
Her bravery as an assassin on Deadly Class isn’t just for the camera. The fierce actress took on an even bigger challenge: advocating for mental health issues. On screen, Maria Salazar struggled with bipolar disorder. She wasn’t open or honest about it because she felt like it was a weakness. A lot of viewers felt the same way, and actually reached out to Maria through DMs to express how much they appreciated being represented on TV. Mental health is an issue which isn’t tackled enough in the media, and Maria thought it was time to change that. What many fans didn’t realize was that Maria could also relate to her character. She suffered from anxiety, and for a while, she experienced panic attacks every other day.
Instead of sharing with her friends or family, she would pretend she had a stomach ache or a cold to get out of the situation. It wasn’t until Maria started going to therapy that she realized how therapeutic it can be to share your feelings. The fan messages made her realize that she needed to be “freakin’ honest” about her struggles. Her managers weren’t too keen on the idea of opening up about her mental health. “They thought people would think I was crazy. And that’s exactly why I need to share; this fear of being judged is what makes everyone afraid to talk about mental health or reach out for help,”Maria disclosed. She has no regrets. Speaking out has been a truly healing experience for Maria and those who have heard her story.
Maria has come a long way to reach this comfortable point in her career. The glowing actress actually hails from Venezuela and got her start on Nickelodeon Latin America. Unlike the horror stories we hear from some child actors, Maria loved acting. She described it as “a playdate with adults.”Working on shows packed with incredibly talented and respected people from Venezuela and all of Latin America was the best teaching experience for young Maria. When she wasn’t being taken under the wings of her fellow Nickelodeon actors, she went to school and had playdates with her friends, something that is rare for many child actors. Although it was challenging to both act and have a childhood, Maria never thought of either as a burden. “In a way, school was like my recess from work and work was my recess from school,” she recalls of her “best of both worlds” memories.
Those lovely memories from that time in her life are much thanks to her mother, who joined her in Columbia at the beginning of her career. When she was old enough to be on her own, being away from home was difficult. Her choice to leave Venezuela came with new obstacles; for example, how to buy produce at the grocery store. As she gets older, Maria has learned to appreciate her parents and family more and more. “I have good days and bad days. Sometimes I wish I could get in the car and drive over to see my parents,” Maria shared. Her parents love Venezuela and don’t want to leave, but she doesn’t want to go back either. The distance comes with some hardships, like not getting to see her baby niece grow up. As she expressed: “At the same time, if it weren’t for the distance, I wouldn’t be so proud of my family, my culture, my roots, and who I am.”
It took a while for Maria to be proud of her Venezuelan heritage. When she first came to America, she pretended to be somebody she wasn’t. She would even try to hide her accent. With time and Hollywood becoming more diverse, Maria now introduces herself as “Maria Gabriela de Faria. I’m from Venezuela and this is what we eat, these are my traditions, and this is my family,” she shared happily. The proud actress talked about how she likes to invite people over for traditional Venezuelan meals and tries to share her favorite Venezuelan music with friends. She’s thrilled to be playing her first Venezuelan role, Cora, in her upcoming TV series, The Moodys. Maria auditioned for the role, originally just a Latina character, and turned her Venezuelan when she got the part. “You have no idea how proud I am. Hollywood is changing so much and allows you to be more open and embracing of your culture,” she raves.
Having nothing but good things to say about her home country, Maria shared with me a touching memory from her life in Venezuela. Her parents were young when they had her, but that didn’t stop them from doing all they could to make each Christmas special. One year when she was little, Maria remembers writing letters to Santa and leaving them by the tree. In the middle of the night, her mother woke them up saying that Santa was there. The kids ran downstairs and saw one of the letters fly out the window (her parents had attached it to a string). A white glove grabbed the letter, and in through the window, there was Santa (it was her dad). Maria was in awe of this Christmas miracle. She hopes to recreate it when she has kids someday.
This holiday season, Maria hopes to create more special family moments with her new show, The Moodys. Follow Maria as Cora and the dysfunctional Moody family on their holiday TV series event. The beautiful actress is so excited to be a part of such a fresh and lovely comedy. “I remember reading the script and thinking, ‘I know I’m not American but this is totally my family,’” said Maria. The show will relate to all of our families as the Moodys experience love, competitiveness, and other crazy relatives. I think we can all relate to the idea of going home and stepping right back into your childhood dynamics with your family. The comedy stars Maria alongside the talents of Denis Leary, Elizabeth Perkins, Francois Arnaud, Chelsea Frei, and Jay Baruchel. “Get ready to cry, laugh, and want to call your mom when you watch this lovingly, hilarious show,” Maria raves. And speaking of family, Maria’s is about to grow as she is getting married soon!
Have you ever met such a bubbly, lovely, soul as Maria Gabriela de Faria? You probably haven’t. Maria is a ray of sunshine in the gloominess that is impeachment hearings, school shootings, and climate change. The Venezuelan actress has made a name for herself in Latin America and the US, and there’s no doubt that she will keep soaring to new heights. It takes courage to leave your home country to pursue your dreams, and her bravery continues each day. Maria will be gracing your screens again this holiday season in The Moodys and we can’t wait to see it!
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Photographer: THOMAS LOUVAGNY @thomaslouvagny
Creative Direction: ALEKSANDAR TOMOVIC @alekandsteph
Stylist: GABRIELA TENA @lagabstyle
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