Growing up in the small town of Peabody, a quaint place outside of Boston, MA, Valenzia Algarin had ambitions to be a world-class athlete. Under the grooming of her father, she was shaping up to be the next Jackie Joyner-Kersee and head to the Olympics, but fate stepped in to alter her career path. Upon breaking her record for her triple jump, her dreams of Olympic stardom broke as well when she twisted her knee on landing. Algarin’s track star dreams may have ended, but she started a brighter future as an actress to watch out for from her compelling dramatic roles to knee-slapping comedic greatness.
I spoke with Valenzia Algarin in a candid interview where we spoke about her start in the entertainment industry, how her brothers helped mold her love for spoken word, her role on Adult Swim’s Black Jesus as Detective Dianne, her amazing foundation “It All Starts With A Dream,” and more. Continue reading for all the details.
Valenzia Algarin started her career in the entertainment industry like most people do, in L.A., but she started from the back-end. She learned about the business from behind the scenes working film festivities and doing some hosting until she landed a manager and her first role as Schannel Burtonas in the TV Movie “E.D.E.N.,” the Orange Is The New Black before there was an Orange Is The New Black. A personal matter with her father had Algarin move back home to nurse him back to health after being diagnosed with Cancer. Thank God he survived the ordeal and with his approval Algarin was headed back to Los Angeles to pick back up where she left off.
“My brothers were my very first directors ’cause they thought they were Hollywood” she said jokingly about getting the acting bug from a young age. “We would make movies in our yards and I would always star in them. Anytime they had performances, because they were involved in music, they would teach me all the raps and I would come out at like four-years-old and kill it on stage.”
Algarin’s journey in the industry was something she deemed as pre-written. “I’m a strong believer that your path is written out for you and you’ll eventually figure it out as you grow.” Growing up with much older brothers who influenced her to fall in love with Tupac, Biggie, and Queen Latifah sparked her love for spoken word without even realizing it. She said, “They wanted to show me life through words” and “I didn’t understand why I loved to write and loved to speak my thoughts, but empowering women, empowering kids, empowering society, you know everything that even happened in Ferguson, everything that’s happening in general right now I ended up putting some stuff up, it’s online, I was feeling so motivated.”
That motivation landed her a gig as Detective Dianne in the hit Cartoon Network Adult Swim series Black Jesus, which is wrapping up its second season with talks of a third. Coming from a dramatic background, there were some nerves being around iconic comedic actors and wondering if she was “going to be able to hang with them.” Let’s say Valenzia Algarin definitely knows how to hold her own in this role. “My character Dianne, she was actually in the pilot. We shot that three years ago. Because not everybody was in the pilot. People like Angela Gibbs, and Kali Hawk, and Andra Fuller ended up coming in later for season 1, so it was really great to see how she’s changed from the pilot all the way to, because I’ve been doing this for three years now, to season 2.”
Algarin continued to talk about her beloved character saying, “She’s very Latina, very in your face, not afraid to speak her words. She’s a strong woman. I love strong roles.” She added, “She worked very hard to get the position of a detective, which is a very male dominant world, so she’s feminine, she likes to use her sex appeal a little bit, but she’s very male dominant as well when it comes to Jason (Antwon Tanner) her boy toy and things would be perfect if Black Jesus wasn’t around or whoever the hell he is.”
Dianne can be compared to the biblical “Doubting Thomas” figure of the series. During the course of the show she went from trying to destroy him to trying to discover some proof if he is in fact Jesus. Valenzia did not confirm a season 3 of Black Jesus, but with high reviews and ratings let’s just say it’ll be a third season and her character will be going in an entire new direction.
The Black Jesus series brings together comedy greats like Gerald “Slink” Johnson, who plays Black Jesus, Charlie Murphy and John Witherspoon making the show feel much like a masters class more than work. Witherspoon was one actor in particular that Algarin was excited to work with. “First I have to say John Witherspoon. Icon. I grew up watching this man. The great thing about it is I had met John Witherspoon a year before I booked the pilot and we went to an event at the Beverly Hills Hotel and I was introduced by my manager. We sat down and we talked a little bit and I said to him, ‘I’ve always wanted to work with you, I definitely look up to you, you’re one of the best comedians, you’re my father’s favorite comedian actor and he was like ‘whoa, now that you say that and you’re putting it out there we’re going to work together.'” And wouldn’t you know it the two became costars. “A year to the day, I’m not kidding you, I walked into the writer’s room to do the table read and there he was.”
Co-creators and writers for the series Aaron McGruder (Boondocks) and Mike Clattenburg (“Trailer Park Boys”) are called “brilliant” by Algarin and had nothing but an amazing experience working with them and the rest of the cast: Angela Gibbs, Corey Holcomb, Antwon Tanner, Andra Fuller, and Kali Hawk. “We argue hard and we love hard. I have a bunch of brothers now and a few sisters,” she said about her cast members.
Landing a dream role inspired a dream foundation simply called “It All Starts With A Dream,” a cause Algarin holds dear to her heart. “It comes from my mom. It started as a dream for her. She’s Dominican and my father’s Puerto Rican. She came to this country at the age of 11 with a dream to better her family, to pursue things, to build a legacy and I think that’s amazing. Her story is incredible. She inspires me, she’s my hero. She taught me to dream and to have goals and that nothing could ever be in my way as long as I focused and kept pushing forward.”
The “It All Starts With A Dream” foundation is all about empowerment for the youth and to inspire anyone pursuing a dream to keep pushing. “You’re the remote control of your own dream. If you don’t like what’s happening right now, then change the channel.” Valenzia Algarin’s foundation has goals to give away scholarships as it grows.
In the upcoming year, Valenzia Algarin is working on an untitled book sharing her story about “moving through your storm.” She’s working on a film called “Mangled Angels” with director Josh Hodgins based on a true story about a serial killer who killed women that he felt he was helping deal with their “demons.” Doing music is also on the horizon for Algarin, but right now she thanks all the Black Jesus fans for their love and support of the series.
Keep up with all the things Valenzia Algarin has going on by following her on social media: @Valgarin on Twitter and @Valgarin7 on Instagram. Be sure to watch her on Black Jesus on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.
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Photo: Adult Swim