Why Rosie Perez Once Felt ‘Violated’ in Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing’

Do the Right Thing was one of actor Rosie Perez’s breakout roles. And although the movie brought the Birds of Prey star much name recognition, filming the classic wasn’t always easy. And there was one scene in particular that left the former View host feeling violated and exploited.

How Rosie Perez met Spike Lee

Rosie Perez smiling while wearing a black dress.
Rosie Perez | Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

The relationship between Spike Lee and Rosie Perez started when Perez attended a nightclub. In an interview with Desus & Mero, she explained how at one point Lee happened to be in this nightclub as well. While there, Perez noticed that the director was having a ‘butt contest.’ This led to Perez confronting the filmmaker about it.

“He and I got in an argument, and he said, ‘Tonight is fate,’” Perez recalled. “And I was like, ‘You wish.’ He started laughing and he goes, ‘No, I’m telling you.’ He asked me if I act, and I said, ‘No.’ The next day my girlfriend called him because she wanted to hook up. He said, ‘No, I want to talk with the girl with the accent.’”

This upset Perez at the time, who snatched the phone away from her friend.

“I was like, ‘Yo, what the f***?” she remembered.

Lee would later go on to ask Perez to do an audition. Although she didn’t take it seriously at the time, she accepted the offer. Her audition would later result in her getting a gig in Lee’s Do the Right Thing.

Why Rosie Perez felt ‘violated in ‘Do the Right Thing’

In Do the Right Thing, the then up-and-coming actor shot her first nude scene. It was a situation that The Flight Attendant star felt uncomfortable with for several reasons, and it wasn’t necessarily about disrobing.

“It wasn’t really about taking off my clothes. But I also didn’t feel good about it because the atmosphere wasn’t correct,” Perez told the New York Times. “And when Spike Lee puts ice cubes on my nipples, the reason you don’t see my head is that I’m crying. I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this.’”

Although Perez later shared she didn’t mind disrobing for another movie, but that was only because the circumstances were different.

“But then I went and took my clothes off again for White Men Can’t Jump. But that was because it was totally my decision, I felt totally comfortable, the director was so cool and Woody Harrelson was like, ‘Well, whatever you want is cool with me,’” she explained. “So there I felt empowered by it. But with Do the Right Thing it was like, Now I’m the object, here’s the shot.”

At the time, Perez wished that she spoke up.

“And the reason why I cried was not so much because I felt violated as because I was angry at myself, because I wanted to say: ‘Say something! Get up!” So that’s how I felt violated. I felt like I violated myself,” she continued.

Rosie Perez was advised to lose her accent

On her journey to becoming an actor, Rosie Perez was instructed to change certain things about herself. Namely the way she talked. According to Chicago Tribune, there were some who thought her accent was problematic. But the Emmy-nominee didn’t let that discourage her.

“Managers, agents, everybody was telling me to go to speech classes. They were telling me I’d get more work if I stopped speaking like that,” Perez said. “I started getting insulted. I said, ‘What’s wrong with the way I speak?’”

This all changed after she featured in White Men Can’t Jump, in which “everybody was, like, ‘Grrreeeaat!’”

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