Tell us a little bit about your journey and how you’ve come to arrive here.
First of all, let me start by saying how much I love you and your husband Mark! You had me at hello and it’s nice to see that the feeling just might be mutual.
My life was so checkered, it’s hard to reflect with a straight face. I grew up in El Paso, Texas with a short stint in San Antonio and Houston. My family was in the restaurant business and I literally grew up in the kitchen. We had to work! Child labor laws went out the door. I did it all. Washed dishes, bussed and waited tables…Everything! I loved it! I knew at an early age that I was an entertainer, though. My Mom felt that too and took me to auditions all the time. I did my first commercial when I was 8!
For some reason, which still remains a mystery, I joined the Air Force when I turned 18 and became an Air Traffic Controller. I guess I just wanted to see the world and start living my life and become a man. After that I went back to El Paso and started college where I started studying drama.
I worked at the Federal Reserve Bank too where I became a currency analyst. I sorted counterfeit bills and shredded millions of dollars a day. I transferred to the University of North Texas where I studied Film and Drama. Then I moved to Austin and started working in production, then started my acting career. It was the best time of my life. I knew I belonged in this world. I moved to L.A. in July of 1999 with $700 in my wallet, 3 duffle bags, my Jeep Wrangler and a dream. Now, I’m acting, married to an amazing man, with twin 3 year olds and twin French bulldogs. It’s bonkers!
Who’s in your family? Ages? Names?
I’m married to Michael McDonald, the T.V. producer, not the comedian and not the Doobie Brother. My twin 3 year olds are Guillermo & Inez. My dogs are Mars and Luna and they’ll be 10 soon!
How did you choose your kids names?
Guillermo was my grandfather’s name which is William in English. We called him Grandpa Willie. Michael’s grandmother’s name was Agnes and Inez translates to Agnes in Spanish.
We live in Larchmont Village in Los Angeles. The people watching! I love it!
I’m a Dad. Acting is my second job.
What’s on your manifest board?
It’s more about how I want to feel than things I want. Don’t get me wrong. I want things. So many things! But after my kids were born, my priorities changed. I learned that now I’m living my life for them. And I want to enrich them with everything I can. I’m their Dad, their teacher, bodyguard, and chauffeur. I want to feel that sense of accomplishment. Like I did something good. Something right. Like I made a difference. I’m so far away from feeling that. But watching my kids grow into little people and learn makes me feel like I’m headed in the right direction.
Tell us some of your most loved ways to spend the day with your clan?
Honestly, Sundays are my favorite! Just hanging out at home, making big breakfasts, watching movies, gardening, walking to the farmer’s market. The kids have these balance bikes and watching them learn how to ride is just such a joy. I don’t think I learned how to ride a bike until l I was 9. They’ve got it already!
What are some silly/fun things that the kids do or say?
Oh gosh! Inez goes through about 10 costume changes a day! If she gets one little drop of water on her, she freaks out and runs to her closet to change. It’s hilarious! She combines the best outfits. She really has style.
Guillermo is such a typical boy. Trains, planes, rockets, etc. But he really is obsessed with fire trucks. Inez with police cars. He runs around the house looking for emergencies and chimes ”Wee-oh-wee-oh-wee-oh! Do you need help?”
But I suppose the funniest thing they do is their ability to destroy a room in minutes! Michael and I have this sort of mid-century modern minimalist aesthetic. That all went out the door. We can’t keep up! They are like 2 little tornados and we just laugh.
When you were a teenager what did you dream of? Do things look different?
Oh God, I wanted to be Oprah! Not her in the sense, but I dreamed of having a talk show. I watched every single episode. I was obsessed! I eventually had my own talk show called “The Salsa with Rey Show” in film school. We had our own T.V. station – I know, another checker in my life. I was experimenting with where I fit in this crazy entertainment business. But I learned. I learned that I belonged in front of a camera. That sounds stupid, but looking at things now, it seems I’m right where I belong. Do I still want a talk show? As soon as Kelly Ripa tears both her ACLs in spinning class, I’m there!
What are some things you really believe in?
I’m stumped. There are so many things. I really believe in the energy of the universe we live in. I have an innate sense of people’s aura. I can feel their presence and I’m in tune with them. That has to mean something??? I believe that life is a gift. The soul inside us has a purpose. It has drive, love, pain, curiosity. Someone once told me that because I’m a Taurus, I have a strong connection with life. I can’t deny that.
Where do your passions lie?
Space! I can’t get enough of it. Earlier you asked what the teenager in me dreamed of. I forgot to say Space! I would sit, stare at the stars with my telescope and dream of how I could get out there? I would draw and design space ships, elaborate blueprints of space stations and futuristic homes. The fact that I will see humans colonize Mars and watch us become an interplanetary race just blows my mind! I will find a way to buy a ticket on Virgin Galactic! Even my Dogs are named Mars and Luna and that’s no accident.
Has your relationship with your other half changed since having kids?
Yes, yes and yes! We were both in our mid 40’s when the kids were born and we had been together for 12 years already. Talk about throwing a wrench in a well oiled machine! We had no idea what we were doing. But one day, Michael came home and told me, “he wanted to have a family, and he wanted to have a family with me.” That just melted me. After that day, we never looked back.
I can honestly say that despite the struggles with parenthood, (and I can go on forever about this,) the love for each other is stronger. We suddenly have this bond. And it’s different than before. It’s kind of unspoken. But for me, when I watch him be a Dad with the kids it isn’t possible for me to love him any more. Are we tired? Yes. But the insanity feeds our family. And it’s becoming, well…A well oiled machine!
What are some of your favorite life lessons you’ve grown to love? (even if learning them at the time was hard)
The biggest one was debt. It made me feel so low, so worthless. I was incredibly angry at myself and embarrassed. I never thought how much it could affect me. I’m in the clear now and will never go back to that place. I’m still learning financial responsibility. It’s my greatest challenge. But now, I learned that the money I spend today affects my children’s future. I’m trying to build a kitty for them after I’m gone. It’s morbid to think about. But I’m 47. They are 3. The math is disconcerting.
What do you wish you could’ve told yourself when you were a teenager?
Oh man! Come out of the closet! No one cares! And if they do, it’s okay, because your life is your own. I didn’t tell my family I was gay until I was 36! I look back now and I feel it was such a waste of energy, my fear, the hiding and lying. But as we know, fear is malleable. And it can break you.
What do you find most challenging about being somebody’s parent?
Does everyone say sleep on this question? Honestly, the most challenging thing is making sure my past doesn’t affect my children. They are not the little me. They are their own little humans. They will make their own mistakes and I’m just here to guide them in the right direction.
What do you want your kids to learn about the world?
The world is their oyster. I want them to know that they can do anything that they want to do. Be anything they want to be. I want them to know that education will be the catalyst of their success. I want them to know that fear is normal and trying something and failing is more successful than not trying at all.
What are 4 things you can’t live without as a parent?
Tangible things? Baby wipes, an SUV, liquid band-aid, and coffee.
My husband, Michael belongs on the top of that list. There is no way I could ever do this without him. Mad props to all the single parents out there! You have my undying empathy.