Comedienne Maria Russell was born and raised in Los Angeles by Mexican and Lithuanian parents. Russell is best known for her performance in the hit movie “Lights Out”, the Warner Bros./ New Line Cinema horror flick directed by David F. Sandberg and produced by James Wan. Maria is returning for Season 2, as Lt. Liz Salazar, the bossy yet lovable bully on truTv’s hit comedy “Tacoma FD” in March 2020.
Russell’s multiple talents include an impressive acting range that covers from silly, unconventional, fearless and unapologetic comedy all the way to gritty and dark dramatic performances.
Film credits include: “Lights Out”, acting opposite Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman and Maria Bello; “Lawless Range”, acting opposite Beau Bridges, Kris Kristofferson & Austin Nichols, “Only Humans”, “Shot”, “Fire City: End of Days”, “Stand Down Soldier”, “Lousy 10 Grand”, “Last Words”, Two Coyotes” and “Babylon Vista”.
Television credits include: “Tacoma FD”, “Teen Wolf”, “Why Women Kill”, “Victorious”, “Southland”, “Criminal Minds”, “Trophy Wife”, “Suburgatory”, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, “CSI”, “The Riches”, “Greys Anatomy”, and recurring roles in the award-winning soap operas “General Hospital” and “The Bold and The Beautiful”.
Maria Russell just got back from the sold-out Off-Broadway hit “The Latina Christmas Special”, co-written and starring Russell at The Soho Playhouse in New York. Maria’s performance and the show received rave reviews, including Los Angeles Times’ Critics Choice 5 years in a row. She has also recurred on over six Improv/Hidden Camera shows.
As a professional dancer, Russell background is in ballet, jazz, and hip hop. She is also a professional Latin/salsa dancer.
Welcome to TV Series Hub, a self-proclaimed Mexiuanian; Mexican and Lithuanian, how did that happen?
Thank you so much! It’s a pleasure! Haha! Well…my beautiful Mexican mother had car trouble and was stranded on a street in Southern California, and my Lithuanian American Police father came to her rescue, and the rest is history lol.
How did you start out? What got you into acting?
I wanted to be an actress/dancer since I was a little girl. I always loved creating different characters. I loved pretending to be other people and I always loved making people laugh! I waited until college to really pursue acting.
How did you get your break into the industry?
I worked really hard haha! I would say my “break” into the industry was when I played Imelda on FX’s “The Riches”, alongside Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard. I cried when I found out I booked that role.
You have been in so many shows, it is almost impossible not to recognize you, most notably: “Criminal Minds”, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, “CSI”, “General Hospital”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Teen Wolf” among others. What is the best experience you have had so far?
I honestly have to say “Tacoma FD.” It was so much fun and pure laughter and joy!
Have you had any funny fan moments?
One of the funniest fan moments was when my husband to be and I were taking our engagement photos in the middle of Hollywood and some tourists were walking and say “Hey aren’t you on that show The Riches?” and I replied “yes” and they got so excited and wanted pictures in the middle of our engagement pictures and I still have all those photos. So great!
Your latest project on TV, “Tacoma FD”, a highly-rated comedy show, returns for its 2nd season on the 26th of March, for those who haven’t seen it, how would you describe it?
Tacoma FD is a half hour comedy set in Tacoma Washington, which is one of the rainiest cities in the U.S. The firefighters keep themselves entertained with creative competitions, first responder pranks, and bizarre emergency calls. Pure shenanigans!
Why would you recommend our readers to watch it? What makes it special?
It is such a fun show! You will fall in love with all the characters! You will laugh and laugh more and we need laughter more than ever during these crazy corona times!
I for one stumbled on the show and have loved it ever since. What role do you play? How would you describe your character?
I am so happy you stumbled on the show! Thank you so much! I play the lovable bossy bully Lt. Liz Salazar from the Tacoma Police Department. She beats up her ex-boyfriend Andy (Eugene Cordero) quite a bit and he LOVES it!
What similarities and differences do you have with your character?
Well we are both bad asses haha! We both love a good prank!
“Tacoma FD” is just one of those shows, you sit back and enjoy it. What should we be expecting in the 2nd season?
Season 2 is going to be bigger and better… pun intended.
What has been your favourite moment? Anything you can tease?
The evolution of Lt. Liz Salazar and Andy.
Elsewhere, you starred and co-wrote a comedy show called “The Latina Christmas Special”, how important is exposure to different cultures?
“The Latina Christmas Special” is very special to me. We had a sold out Off Broadway run in New York in December 2019. It was truly a dream come true! I co-wrote and co-starred in this autobiographical show. It is extremely important to enlighten the audience to different cultures and customs because in the end, we are all so similar. ☺
At the same time, you are given the title of “Queen of Hidden Camera”, what is the story behind it?
I have been in over 20 episodes of hidden camera shows. It’s a different kind of improv because you are improvising with real people and have to respond in a real way. I love hidden camera!
Improv is another skill you possess, how do you work on it? How do you improve it?
I love improv! On Tacoma FD, I got to improv a lot! Improv is something I always just had and loved. It came very natural to me.
During social distancing, isolation and staying home, how would you recommend anyone interested in improving their crafts namely acting, improv, theatre and others to practice?
I would recommend going on Zoom with fellow actors and do an improv game. Each person who takes a turn of where they are and who they are aaaaaaannndddd go! It’s a great time as well to go over scenes and work on them with an acting partner.
How do you think the industry should contribute to the pandemic of Coronavirus (Covid19)?
By doing PSAs to encourage fans to follow local & federal guidelines and be safe.
Going back to you, what do you do for fun? What are your hobbies?
I am a salsa dancer and I have actually been teaching it for many years with my dance partner. It is my passion. I love dancing! I run with my doggies a lot! I love to travel (not now of course) and I am a mega foodie! I also love watching murder TV shows and Judge Judy lol!
Who has been your backbone supporting you?
I am who I am because of my amazing mom! She is the one who always told me that I could be anything I dreamed of! She helped me from day 1! She always encouraged me and told me to keep going!
What challenges have you faced being in the industry so far?
I think the biggest challenge of this industry is the unknown. You never know when your next job is coming but that is also the excitement of it all. Also the no’s
What keeps you motivated and learning from “no’s”?
I have learned to not take the “no’s” personally (as hard as it is sometimes). Knowing that I have something to say and that I want to heal people by laughter keeps me going.
Thank you for joining us, any word of advice for our readers?
Keep going! If you want to pursue a career in the entertainment field, I would tell you to take as many classes as you can. Educate yourself not only in the creative sense but also in the business aspect. Treat yourself like a business, keep positive, be kind, and take risks…be a bad ass ☺
Season 2 Premieres Thursday, March 26 at @ 10/9c on truTV