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Gina Calabrese: Saundra Santiago

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From the book "The Making Of Miami Vice" by MacGregor and MacGregor (I recently purchased)Her townhouse in Coconut Grove, which she shares with Fritz, her white Shih Tzu,features a cathedral ceiling and a view that opens out onto trees, a yard, a verdantparadise of isolation that make you forget you're in the heart of Miami. Glass sculpturesdecorate the shiny wooden coffee table. Delicate Oriental paintings on rice paper hangnext to a colorful Oriental silk jacket on the wall.It's not a place Gina would live, not on the salary of an undercover detective. But itcomes as something of a surprise when later Saundra admits the decor really isn't hertaste either. She rents the townhouse complete with its opulent furnishings. "I wouldlove to own a house and furnish it with French style antiques and laces. Well,someday."Walking from her place to the center of Coconut Grove, she breaks the ice byexplaining that she lives here because she can't even imagine living someplace whereshe couldn't walk. "The mayor of Miami Beach told me he'd find me a great place on thebeach and I asked where I'd walk at night. I mean, here I can walk up to the 7-I1 for aquart of milk. How could I do that on Miami Beach at night?"Strolling the main road through the Grove, someone shouts her name. It's a manwith whom she worked at the Coconut Grove Playhouse during the three weeks sheplayed Cleo in the Playhouse production of 1 Love My Wife. But there are no stares orsecond glances from passersby. Strangers usually don't recognize Saundra. "If I weredressed like Gina," she explains, "it'd be a different story. Then I'm recognized.""It's kind of ironic that I ended up back in South Florida," she says,shaking her head. "I grew up here and then left because I didn't think I'd get anywherehere." The daughter of Cuban and Puerto Rican parents, she moved to Miami from theBronx when she was thirteen. That was when she began taking tap dance and singinglessons. "It was just for fun. At that point, I hadn't even thought about acting." Sheattended South Dade High School, and describes herself then as "Ms. Socialite." She washomecoming queen and the president of her class. "I got along with everybody. I waslike a bridge between racesthe Latinos, blacks and whites."She attended the University of Miami on a scholarship and majored in psychology.Had she not decided on an acting career, she says she probably would have become apsychologist or a special education teacher. But it was during her years at U of M thatshe decided to audition for the drama department's presentation of West Side Story.I auditioned and they kept callingme back, but I didn't get a part. I got kind of angry and went to the director, RobertLowry, and asked him how come I hadn't been cast. He told me I'd come out ofnowhere. 'We don't even know who you are,' he said. He suggested I take an actingclass and then we'd go from there."So she did, and from then on, she was hooked. It was about this time that hermother was sure her interest in theater was going to lead to no good. "What is she doingwith her life?' she'd say. 'Whatever happened to her idea of working with specialchildren.' But my father would say, 'No, no, she's good, leave her alone. She's gettinggood reviews.' He had a gut feeling. Now, whenever I do something that mightjeopardize my career, like say I'm going to quit VICE, my mother says, 'What're youcrazy?' She's completely opposite from before."Upon graduation from the University of Miami, she studied theater arts at SouthernMethodist University and after two years earned a master's degree. "Those two yearswere incredibly intense. I studied all the classicsShakespeare, Shaw, Moliere." Shealso studied phonetics and speech."My speech was my worst enemy at that point," she says after placing her order fordinner. "I was told that if I didn't clear up my Bronx accent, I would never get a part.They put me on probation because of it."At first, she was angry about it. "I couldn't understand why they thought speakingin flat English was so important. It wasn't the real world." She pauses and shakes herhead at the memory. "It wasn't just for acting, either. I was required to speak that wayall the time."But finally she overcame her grudgeand her accent. When she graduated, shewent to New York for an audition with the League of Professional Schools. Colleges likeYale, Julliard and SMU are part of the league, and every year their drama students meetfor a weekend of auditioning at Julliard. "You audition for every major casting directorand producer in New York. One of the casting directors who saw her in the second audition for the play byDavid Mamet about the singles scene would remember her four months later when anactor was needed for a part in Arthur Miller's play A View From the Bridge. She met withdirector and actor Tony Lo Bianco, who played the lead role, in New Haven,Connecticut. The part was to play Tony's sister, Catherine."I never even read the play. I walked in there cold." It wasn't until later that LoBianco told her he knew she was right for the part the minute she walked in the door.The play ran for five months at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, then moved toBroadway. "And that's when the doors started opening."Those doors included singing and dancing in Marvin Hamlisch's musical Smile,playing Carmen in the feature film Beat Street, reading with Al Pacino for the part of hissister in Scarface, and then becoming Gina in VICE.She credits Bonnie Timmerman, the VICE casting director, with her getting the part of Gina.Bonnie had met Saundra when she was called to audition for a part in a sequel to TheBlack Stallion, and had seen her in A View From the Bridge.She also asked Saundra to audition for a small part in The Pope of Greenwich Village.When the VICE part came up, she told me she wasn't pushing anyone else becauseshe thought I was perfect as Gina. She said I was younger than they wanted and I toldher, 'No problem, I'll just be more mature.' She also told me to be as sexy as possible."So she wore a red dress, designed to draw attention, to her audition. "Later I foundout red wasn't one of the colors of the show," she laughs. "Michael Mann was there,John Nicolella, and Thomas Carter, the director for the pilot. So I read. The part waseasy. I'd decided to approachGina in a kind of off-beat way. I mean, here she's slept with Crockett and feels kindof guilty about it because they work together. She likes him, she's attracted to him, butshe knows she shouldn't be involved with him."She read twice for the part, but during the second reading forgot her lines. "I said,'Oh, ****,' and everyone heard me. But I just continued on adlibbing, and somehow itworked. "I felt sorry for the guy trying out for Crockett. He didn't know what was goingon." Still, she impressed Michael Mann. "After that, they said, 'Okay, we'll see you inLA.' They told me I would read for ten or fifteen people out there."The reading in Los Angeles led to her being the first actor cast for the show. "Thatnight when I was called, I didn't believe it. I told the director to be honest with me, notto just try to be nice. He laughed and said, 'Saundra, you've got the part. Really.' I toldhim that until I signed the contract and was on a plane to Miami, I wouldn't believe it."But a few weeks later, she was flown to Miami. In preparation for the role, she andOlivia Brown went undercover with the real Miami Vice squad. It was an experienceSaundra says she won't repeat. "I learned as much as I wanted to learn. The guns scaredme. The whole thing scared me. My business is being an actress. I only have toassimilate the experience, not do the real thing over and over."

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Matt5

Great post - she looked stunning in "Streetwise" :balloon::rain::baby2::flowers:

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miamijimf

When browsing through some old pics today I found this screen cap.  Gina always looked good but to me she looked the most stunning in this scene.  What scene and episode was it?

 

PDVD 000

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COOPER&BURNETT

Good one! I don't know off the top of my head. But, she sure looks mighty fine to me!

 

I also liked her looks when in LITTLE PRINCE when she asks Crockett when he reads forbes magazine, and he replies, "When I'm at the dentist" Her looks in the next shot....she is just totally fine!!! Loved her hair too!

Edited by COOPER&BURNETT

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miamijimf

Ya C&B that was a good Gina scene so was the one in the Pilot on Sonny's boat at night.  =)  Lots of beautiful women at the U but I would rate her No. 1.  Too bad I was there a few years before her.  :)    

Edited by miamijimf

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COOPER&BURNETT

Miamijimf, it's hard not to have a crush on her!  I wanted my own Gina.

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Christian

Gina is a top class woman for sure!

 

Still today.

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miamijimf

When browsing through some old pics today I found this screen cap.  Gina always looked good but to me she looked the most stunning in this scene.  What scene and episode was it?

 

 

PDVD 000

 

No one recognizes the episode and scene?

Edited by miamijimf

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GinaFan

I know when she is talking to Sonny on the phone. Little Miss Dangerous.

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miamijimf

I know when she is talking to Sonny on the phone. Little Miss Dangerous.

You're right GinaFan, I thought you would get LMD. She is in the famous bag lady scene across from the Anchor Hotel.

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CharlieGlide

I thought she was awesome in the Stanley Tucci episode.  That was actually very dramatic.  I forget the name of the episode as it kind of gets lost with the top ten usual suspects.  But every now and again I sit down and watch it.  It's a good, deep episode.  

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IA-SteveB

Man, she has aged incredibly well.  

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summer84

Would love to see Saundra and the rest of the cast together in a MV reunion looking back/reminiscing sort of interview. :fireworks:

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Daytona74
vor 18 Minuten schrieb IA-SteveB:

Man, she has aged incredibly well.  

Wow, just saw this. Yeah, she has. :thumbsup:

 

You couldn't have thought of anybody better to play Gina. I mean, we say that now, never having known another Gina. But she was just perfect.

 

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Assasinge

Well, seeing that video, this was in the suggested tab: 

 

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Daytona74

Well, John Diehl is a good seven years older than Saundra Santiago... that, and the beard... :)

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GinaFan

Loved the video clip!!! :):happy::cool:

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Matt5

Great clip ! Thanks for sharing :hippie::dance2:

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daytona365

When MV first aired I was an eighth-grader on the hunt for girls of my own age, but Gina/Saundra I think was the first adult woman I found to be really hot and in hindsight I believe she's had a significant influence on my pray pattern to the day. :o

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cigarette

She is hospitalised now. A car hit her.

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James
1 hour ago, cigarette said:

She is hospitalised now. A car hit her.

That was last week, wasn't it? Is she still in there? Broken hip I think :(

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vicegirl85

I checked her instagram and she said elbow as well as femur.  Yikes!  Snapshot of her with visitors and she still looks amazing with no makeup (presumably) and in a hospital gown.

Hope and pray she's recovering well and no complications.

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summer84

So sorry to hear about her accident. :( I hope she get's well soon. It says on her instagram #long recoveries. But I'm glad to see Saundra smile. 

Edited by summer84
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