The feisty new character of Marisa Sierras hit The Young and the Restless with a literal bang, starting with an explosion that took out a cargo ship full of drugs, followed by a cat-and-mouse game with her dangerous ex -- who happens to look exactly like Peter Bergman's Jack -- followed by landing in bed with the grandson of Genoa City's very own Victor Newman (Eric Braeden). And when Soap Central caught up with her portrayer, Sofia Pernas, the actress teased that the nonstop action in Marisa's life won't be slowing down anytime soon. In fact, fans can look forward to plenty of not-so-pretty head-to-head battles between the brunette and Victor, as well as the possibility of Marisa and Noah's relationship going up in smoke faster than Captain Churchwell's drug ship.
soapcentral.com: Hi, Sofia! How are you?
Sofia Pernas: Oh, good. I'm just relaxing.
soapcentral.com: Are you at work, relaxing in the dressing room? Or at home?
Pernas: Oh, no. I don't have work today, which is why this is really nice, to just sit. Yesterday I had an early morning and a lot of work, so it's nice to get time to purge the brain.
soapcentral.com: Oh, I'm sure. Especially with a character like Marisa, who's a little ball of fire. I'm sure she takes a lot of energy to play.
Pernas: Yeah, with her, you've really got to know your lines. With her, you can't [talks really slow] say this line reaaaallllly slooooowly and hope the word comes to meeeeee, you know? You can't really pull that off with Marisa, because she barrels words out. You can't really slow talk with her.
soapcentral.com: She's been really fun to watch. I have to say, you have had quite an exciting introduction to Y&R! Some characters kind of slink into town, but you hit the canvas with a literal bang, and it's been nonstop action since June.
Pernas: Yeah! It's so funny, Peter [Bergman; Jack Abbott] was just telling me the same thing, "They just threw you in with the whole pot, you know? First it was me, then it was Eric Braeden [Victor Newman]" It was nice. I really hit the ground running. It's such a great opportunity, for sure.
soapcentral.com: Were you familiar with Peter Bergman or Eric Braeden before you were thrown in with them?
Pernas: I was not, to be honest with you. I didn't really watch TV all that much, because growing up, television was more of a privilege rather than something you could watch whenever you wanted. It was more like a prize after a good grade on a test or something, so I didn't really have the luxury of getting to watch it every day
soapcentral.com: That's some pretty tough parenting, but it must have paid off, because you're living a dream right now -- a beautiful young woman who's super successful. Their tough love lead somewhere, so maybe more parents should do that.
Pernas: [laughs] Well thank you. They had five, so with each one of us, they had to recalibrate. With each one of us, they had their own custom form of parenting, because one would come out obedient and not stubborn and would fall in line, and the other would be a rebel. So they had to customize a parenting program for each one of them. And I'm sure it became extremely challenging, having five kids. They had a lot on their plate, a lot to juggle for sure.
soapcentral.com: So, were you the obedient one or the rebel?
Pernas: I was a mixture of both, because I was extremely stubborn. If I didn't like a policy, I would definitely be heard on that. Completely not what you would think, right? [laughs] But grade wise, I was definitely good. It was curfews I had a problem with, too. I don't know if you're familiar with Amy Chua or her book that she wrote that was a best seller called [Battle Hymn of the ] Tiger Mother? She was a Chinese mother, and it was about her saying that immigrant mothers produce a lot better results with their kids than American mothers, because American mothers are way too soft with their kids as opposed to immigrant mothers. My parents were the same way with me as she was. I had a choice between playing two instruments: the piano or the violin. I was given a choice of two sports: tennis or golf. And I wasn't allowed to sleep over; sleepovers weren't an option for me. I had to stay home and study.
soapcentral.com: Wow, they ran a tight ship. But again, it's a lot of people's dream to be on television, so they did something right.
Pernas: Thank you. Thank you so much.
soapcentral.com: So far, what has the experience of being on a soap opera been like for you? Has it been what you would have expected?
Pernas: Not at all, I have to say. I was just telling Mr. Robert [Adamson; Noah Newman] that the other day. You know you come into it with all these misconceptions and preconceived notions of what a soap will be, and it is way more than what you ever imagined. Like, the first day, I jumped in with both feet. The thing is, the scariest thing about soaps is trusting your choices as an actor and just doing it, literally going for it and trusting your choice, and hoping that people like it. Because you don't get another take. You do that take, and you're in the parking lot two hours later, and you're going, "Oh, my God, I should have done that!" In that moment, you just have to go for it. And I think that's the scariest thing about it, because you want to play it safe sometimes. And Peter was really instrumental in getting that into my head. He was so great and told me how it is my first day. He said, "I know it can get really overwhelming and it happens so quick, so if you have something that you think you want to do, just do it. Because if you don't,, you're going to regret it. You will be in the parking lot an hour and a half later saying, 'Holy crap, that was so fast.'" So I think that was the toughest thing for me to wrap my head around, and it's great. It really hones you as an actor, I have to say. So much dialogue, coming to work and being prepared and knowing exactly what you're going to do. You can't figure it out on the day, obviously. It's literally homework. You've got to sit with the script a little bit, know where you're going to take the scene, which direction, know your high points and your low points. It's a lot of work, for sure. And I had no idea.
soapcentral.com: Marisa and Victor are going to be going head to head a lot in the coming weeks. Can you tease how she'll deal with him trying to intimidate her? She's no shrinking violet, so I can't see her bending over easily.
Pernas: Absolutely not, which is what I love about her and why I feel so honored that the show has given me this role. She's the resident spitfire of Genoa City, and going head to head with Eric Braeden, I mean... he's a legend. It's such an honor to have that kind of war with him. But you know, this isn't Marisa's first rodeo. And that's how I sort of imagine it. She has been through this before. This probably isn't her first rich guy. She makes a point of [being around] affluent gentlemen, so I'm sure she knows how to handle somebody like Victor. Victor certainly has strange and unorthodox ways of doing things, and she's no stranger to the unorthodox. So I think it's a good pairing. I think she'll be able to handle most of what he can throw at her. But we'll see! He's a daddy bear protecting his cub, so we'll see how she will handle that.
soapcentral.com: Speaking of Noah, it seems Marisa has had a thing for bad boys in the past. I mean, she dated Marco, a drug dealer! So what is the appeal when it comes to Noah?
Pernas: Well, the fact that Noah is a novelty to her. That's what's so appealing. The right word might be security. She feels that with all of the other guys she's been with, she had no idea if she was going to be their flavor of the week, if she was in it for the long haul, or what was the deal, if they were going to get rid of her. But with Noah, she feels a safety and a security and also this love. From the beginning of their relationship, he never asked for anything in return. When he automatically offered her a place to stay when they first met, she said, "Well, what do you want in return?" Because she used to date people who at first seemed nice, but they would want something in return. So Noah just being there for her in her most vulnerable moment I think was the most important thing in the world. And him being there for her really showed her what she was missing in dating all these other guys, that feeling of protection and love and security. Just unconditional love, which is such a new concept for her, for sure.
soapcentral.com: Often times, when that happens in real life, women can sort of get bored with the good guy thing, if they're used to being with bad guys. They can't help it! Given what you know of her so far, do you think that's a possibility for Marisa?
Pernas: Well, it could go either way. It could go that she's seen so much adventure and craziness that she just wants to have a normal life, which she keeps saying. She just wants to be normal now. So it could be that she really means that. Or she could just think that she wants a normal life and then she gets a taste of the normal life and really doesn't have the stomach for it. It could go either way, and I have no idea. Noah will definitely have to keep his game going with her, for sure. They can't just eat in every day and watch Netflix. She'd be like, "Yeah, no." He'll have to find ways to keep her interested.
soapcentral.com: Well, I think she'll be safe because I don't think any couple in Genoa City sits around eating in and watching Netflix!
Pernas: [laughs] Yeah, people in Wisconsin aren't really familiar with that pastime! But also, I think seeing Noah fight for her kind of gets her off a little bit, because she feels important enough to be fought for, especially with the Newman family. So I think that's also a huge thing, that Noah is being a man and stepping up to the plate and telling his family, "You know what? Screw you. I love this girl, and that's that." That means a lot to her.
soapcentral.com: I'm wondering if she could perhaps develop feelings for Jack, considering he looks just like Marco, whom she loved so much at one point? Marco and Jack are polar opposites, but do you think there's a chance she could fall for him down the line, because of the look-alike thing?
Pernas: You know, her and Phyllis [Gina Tognoni] have this really cool relationship right now, and I don't think she would want to compromise that. She sees that they have a strong love for one another, and I don't think Marisa is a home wrecker. I don't think she wants to screw that up for him in any way. I'm sure she can glean that from speaking with Jack, especially at the beginning when they were on the ship -- all he talked about was Phyllis. I think she knows there's really no chance for them in that regard. The only reason she liked Marco, like you said, is that he is a bad boy. And that's what got her off in the beginning. Jack is too vanilla, too much of a goody two shoes for her. She does like them bad. That was her one draw to Marco, the drug dealer persona he had going on. It made her feel powerful, so I think that's what that was, and I think her and Jack will just be really good friends.
soapcentral.com: Well you never know what they'll do, and I actually would love to see you and Gina Tognoni go up against each other, two feisty females fighting over Jack.
Pernas: Yeah, that would be fun! Just pitting me and Gina against each other every day. [laughs]
soapcentral.com: I actually heard that before you were doing any acting, you wanted to be a reporter at one time. Is that true?
Pernas: It wasn't a dying, burning desire to be a reporter. It was really more about my father being so career oriented with me. He really wanted me to pursue more scholarly career paths, and acting, at the time, wasn't that career path for me. And he was right: it's not easy for a father to hear that his daughter wants to be an actor. This is a tough business. The business is crazy, so it's not like you should throw a party when your daughter or your son decides to pursue entertainment. My dad mainly was extremely annoyed by it. He thought it was a phase I was going through, so he was pushing me toward different career paths that would kind of embody elements of entertainment. Like an anchorwoman, who has to have a personality and has to act bright and cheery. He was sort of pushing me toward that or being an investigative journalist, because that has more prestige. And that's what he was looking for. So once he sort of started pushing those things on me, I said, "Okay, you know what, let's just see where this goes." So I wanted to apply to USC Annenberg School of Journalism... and I really wanted to go to Northwestern for a time, and then I just ended up going, "No, you know what? This is my dad's vision. This is not my vision. And I'm going to be so upset if I pursue it. Even if I become the next Christiana Amanpour, I'm going to be extremely sad." It wasn't what I wanted to do.
soapcentral.com: Your parents were pretty strict, but in the end, are they proud of you for standing up for yourself and going after what you truly wanted?
Pernas: Oh, for sure! And I did end up meeting him halfway. His biggest gripe with me was that I was the only child without a college degree, because I never went to college. I pursued acting right out of high school. I got my high school [diploma] and then I decided to put college on hold and really just pursued acting full time. And last year, it's kind of crazy how this all happened, last year I applied to college at UCSD and went to UCSD for a year and three months and got my comm major. I was taking 21 units per quarter, pretty much. I was taking a lot to get out of school fast enough so I wouldn't be 30 years old when I went back to acting. So I wanted to go as quick as possible, and I ended up finishing, getting my degree, leaving San Diego, moved to L.A. and then booked a film and then booked this right on the heels of that film, so I was extremely fortunate. So I compromised. I met him halfway. I got the degree. I got what he wanted. He wanted me to get a college degree, so I got the college degree, and that was that.
soapcentral.com: Wow, what a story. And it's amazing that you found jobs right out of the gate. Obviously you've got the passion and the drive. And I'm hoping we'll be seeing you at Y&R long term?
Pernas: You will be! For the foreseeable future, anyway. I'll be on the show for a while... I love working on the show. It's like a big family. And I think that's such a rare element to have on any set. It's a big cast, and you rarely find that many people who work together and don't have problems and don't secretly hate each other. I just love working on the show. It's such a good environment and such a positive vibe every day. It's fun going to work, and it's really everything I've dreamed about.
What do you think of Pernas' Marisa? Do you trust her? Do you like seeing her with Noah, or would you rather see her paired with someone else on the canvas? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, on our message boards, or by submitting Feedback.
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