Dascha Polanco is best known as Dayanara Diaz in Orange Is the New Black but with David O. Russell’s Joy she’s making the jump onto the big screen. In the film, she plays Jackie, Joy Mangano’s (Jennifer Lawrence) best friend from childhood who later works alongside the Miracle Mop entrepreneur. Described by Polanco as a “super funny, super outgoing” young woman who “lights up the room when she comes in,” Jackie is a sunny presence in Joy’s life. This allows Polanco to shine and offer a decidedly different character than the moody and love-smitten Daya in the Netflix show.
Ahead of the film’s premiere we chatted with the Dominican-American actress about working alongside Lawrence, O. Russell’s use of soap operas in the film — she’d love to be in a telenovela, FYI — and the way a certain costeñita inspired her hairstyle growing up.
On Working with David O. Russell’s Squad
“I learned to be more confident and that I, too, can work alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.”
Well, first and most importantly, just… David O. Russell, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence. That was intimidating, I must admit. It makes you feel a little scared but once I walked in on set and read the table read, I felt very welcomed. Very inviting, very professional. It forces you to push yourself even harder. The experience was very scary but it was amazing. It was something that I will forever be grateful for. The greatest challenge was just to trust David O. Russell, because I felt that I did not want to let him down. So collaborating with him, I learned to be more confident and that I, too, can work alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.
On Her Favorite Scene in the Film
My favorite scene was probably the wedding scene. Because we danced and everybody was dressed up in like whites and the beiges and it was so… it just took you back to that time. When the cakes were like three-tiers with the ruffle icing and the flowers and the champagne. Shooting that moment was extremely fun!
On Working With Jennifer Lawrence
“When you work alongside David O. Russell and see how hard he works and how much he puts in of his heart, then it makes you want to connect and be a part of it.”
She’s hilarious! She’s someone I’d love to work again and again. She’s a leader, she’s a professional. You know she’s hard working. And that’s something that we must respect in our fellow co-stars and artists — dedication and hard work. When you work alongside David O. Russell and see how hard he works and how much he puts in with his heart, then it makes you want to connect as well and be a part of it.
On Growing Up With Telenovelas
I grew up with telenovelas in my home. So I’m definitely a soap opera fan. It’s different than the English ones; I used to watch all the Spanish ones. I think that [using soap operas in the film] was genius. It’s something that we all somewhat can connect with. I mean, when I watched Marimar, you felt the abuse, and Pulgoso, and then [saw] the change: you become a woman. And throughout all the struggles she becomes this powerful image. For Joy’s mother, this was her life. She lives in that TV, in that soap opera. That’s how she reacts to things. And it’s the beginning of many of our childhood memories, and of our lives.
On Marimar and Thalia
That’s where I got my streaks from! I got streaks because my mom wouldn’t let me dye my hair! I was like ‘Please, I just want one piece of my hair dyed!’ And then I just kept on doing streaks. And then Dayanara had streaks. It all started with Marimar… I love Thalia, by the way.
Joy opens in theaters on December 25, 2015.