Interview with Marisa Ramirez


“I didn’t wear a bra for three months,” said actress Marisa Ramirez while talking about just one facet of her upcoming role on the Starz six-part series Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. And what a role she has (braless or not) on the highly touted prequel to Blood & Sand, playing “body slave” to none other than Lucy Lawless’s Lucretia.

After spending three months filming in New Zealand, the Los Angeles-based actress (who played gay in the 2009 Fox series Mental) told AfterEllen,com all about the intricacies of being a body slave, the challenges of wearing very skimpy outfits, how at times she couldn’t help but stare at the gorgeous Lawless and how she thinks Hollywood is doing with gay representation these days.

photo from STARZ When we talked right before filming began, you weren’t totally clear on who your character was except that you were a body slave to Lucy Lawless. What can you tell me now that shooting is over?

MR: I was Melitta, who was Lucretia’s body slave so I was basically her assistant. I’m always at her side, always bringing her what she needs, doing favors for her, dressing her, undressing her. I’ve been in the house for a very long time because we seem to have a bond and a better relationship than she has with some of the slaves. I also have a husband. Peter Mensah, who plays Oenomaus, and I was gifted to him. He grew up with Batiatus, John Hannah’s character, so he’s been in the house for a really long time. He must have done something good to get a gift of a wife! I think a lot of the other slaves didn’t seem to have relationships or partners but Melitta was very lucky in that she had a partner and it made her a stronger woman knowing that she had Oenomaus there for her.

AE: When you say body slave, you basically have to cater to Lucretia’s every whim without question? That’s kinda hot!

MR: Exactly. A slave can never really say “No, I don’t want to do that. I don’t feel comfortable.” A slave has to do whatever is requested because they’re risking death if they deny their master. Death is always sort of hanging in the back corner of a slave’s mind if they don’t do something so we just follow through with anything that is asked.

AE: And how was it working with the amazing Lucy Lawless?

MR: Lucy is one of the classiest women I think I’ve ever met. I just enjoyed watching her not only act but also her actions with the extras, the crew and the other actors. She’s so graceful and humble and so beautiful. It was really an honor for me to be working beside her and I felt like I learned a lot from her. She’s just truly a beautiful person and I think she exudes this light from within and it’s very catching to everyone around her. The crew just loves her! She’ll come out with the biggest plate you’ve seen of chocolate and just walk around passing out chocolate. What actress does that? It’s just so sweet! She’s so down to earth and she takes so much pride in where she’s come from and how she’s gotten there. It’s awesome to be around her!

AE: What else did you learn from her?

MR: You know, I was very far away from home so it was nice to have someone that I could confide in about maybe ‘I don’t know if I feel comfortable with this’ and she would just make it all okay. She just made me feel a lot more comfortable with what I was doing there and what my character was doing. She would remind me of the relationship between Lucretia and Melitta. It made all the difference in the world with her doing that and knowing that if I needed something she was there.

AE: You dress her, you undress her … it all sounds pretty intimate. Just how intimate did things get?

MR: Not with me, unfortunately! That was more in season one with Lesley-Ann Brandt’s character [Naevia, Lucretia’s body slave in Spartacus: Blood & Sand]; they were very intimate. We weren’t as intimate but there is a lot of that going on all over the place!

AE: Would you have been all for a more physical relationship to happen between you and Lucy?

MR:  Oh, of course! I think it’s more challenging to be intimate with different men that I’m acting with for the first time. I think with another woman it would be easier to go there. I definitely would’ve been open to it.

AE: And Lucy is so hot!

MR: And I think that that was another thing. I kept staring at her and wondering how she stays so amazingly perfect. Her skin and everything … it’s crazy! She’s like porcelain.

AE: What is your wardrobe if there is much of one?

MR: It’s actually one of the curtains, I think! It’s the same fabric that they have as curtains in Badeaudus and Lucretia’s bedroom! It’s just a piece of cloth and it’s cut and draped around me and held on by a leather belt. It’s just very small and very cold and I didn’t wear a bra for three months! That was interesting. I had a slave stamp, which was put on every day and went all the way down my calf that read “Service Batiatus.”

I remember my fitting when I had just gotten off the plane and went right to work. Barbara, the wardrobe head/designer, places this fabric around me, she ties it around and then she starts cutting and ripping and cutting and ripping until there was almost nothing left and everything was hanging out. She stands back and goes “Perfect!” and I said “Um, okay. I won’t be eating for the next 3 months!”

AE: You played a gay character in the 2009 Fox series Mental and even though that part of your story didn’t get much of a chance to take off, did that experience change your perspective on gay representation in TV/film that maybe you didn’t have before?

MR:  Playing Chloe on Mental did change my perspective a bit on gay representation. I felt like my character always had to throw it out there that she was a lesbian. I think it’s done a lot [and] the audience doesn’t get the chance to figure it out on their own because we have to make it so obvious for them. It’s different in Spartacus because it was different back in those times. That’s what I loved about Spartacus. It doesn’t feel like anyone is trying to hard to have gay characters. It’s just there and it’s fun to watch. It’s almost as if we’ve gone backwards in what is accepted.

Ramirez on Mental

AE: How do you personally think Hollywood is doing with gay representation? We have shows that do a great job like Modern Family and even Spartacus but yet gays still can’t get married in California and many states.

MR:  I think Hollywood is doing a great job with gay representation. I don’t watch a lot of TV so I couldn’t tell you exactly which shows are really getting it out there. I do think the rest of the country is catching on to everything being more accepted. It is still weird and disgusting to me that gays can’t get married here [in California]. It doesn’t make any sense. 

People in higher power positions just need something to bitch about to make themselves feel important. It’s unfortunate. I think it will just take time just like it did for women to earn the right to vote, for interracial couples to be accepted … it’s just so unfair to deny that right. If it’s legal to carry guns in some states it should be no problem for a gay couple to express their love and devotion to one another by getting married.

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena premieres on January 21st on STARZ.

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