Dania Ramirez Wants To Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth. Here’s How She’s Doing It.

 Dania RamirezPhoto Credit: Dania Ramirez

Dania Ramirez may have previously been known for starring in Spike Lee projects like The Subway Stories, 25th Hour and She Hate Me, but she’s about to be referred to as Netflix’s new shining star thanks to her starring turn as “Aimee” on the streamer’s #1 new series, Sweet Tooth.  The 41-year-old actress filmed episodes on location in New Zealand for the show, which was executive produced by Robert Downey Jr. and which follows the adventures of Gus — part deer, part boy — who leaves his home in the forest to find the outside world ravaged by a cataclysmic event. He joins a ragtag family of humans and animal-children hybrids like himself who run from those who are intent on hunting them down. As Aimee, Ramirez plays a pioneer in the middle of dystopic America, a lone scavenger, rebuilding a sustainable habitat and giving all the orphaned hybrid children home. This is a unique role in a very exciting show and there is already great buzz surrounding the debut. We chatted with the star, who’s previously appeared as Cinderella in the ABC series Once Upon A Time about her brave new departure, going from glamour girl to dystopian adventurer and why “sweet” is not the word she’d really use to describe herself.

Dania RamirezPhoto Credit: Dania Ramirez

Let’s talk about Sweet Tooth, and filming on location in New Zealand. Were you absolutely blown away by the country, or was it not for you? If the former, what did you discover? If the latter, were you able to find magic in some way there?

I was lucky enough to have had some time off during the filming of and got to do some exploring outside of Auckland. New Zealand blew me away completely. I had never been to the country prior to the filming of Sweet Tooth and so I didn’t know much about it other than the fact that it has no known predators. I felt very safe taking some solo excursions to the nearby beaches. The landscapes everywhere you look are majestic! It is one of those rare places where nature and you come together in the most harmonious way. I felt very much at peace there right away and the people of New Zealand were genuinely nice and warm. I can’t wait to be back there and do some more exploring with my family.

This is a very different kind of role for you — not a glam Cinderella, but a down-to-earth survivor of a global catastrophe. Did you prefer it? And can you now identify?

I believe that reason I was cast was because the role really spoke to me in a way no other role ever had. I was going thru a transitional period in my life very much like Aimee Eden. When we first meet Aimee, she is a therapist who is a bit lost in the mundane way she is living her life and trapped in a society driven by work. It is after the “Big Crumble” happens that she walks outside her office into a post apocalyptic world where nature has reclaimed it’s Earth and animals are running free, that she sees an opportunity to restart her journey; it is when she meets the most precious half pig/half human baby girl that she really begins to understand her purpose. In my own life, I found myself working all the time away from my family so I decided to take some time off to be at home with my kids when they entered their first year of school. My kids are my everything and my family gives me my purpose, so spending that time at home with them and then finding a new appreciation for nature thru this role while in the midst of a pandemic has changed me for the better. As the episodes kept coming in, I saw Aimee become a Mother like figure for all orphan hybrid kids stopping at nothing to protect them and just like her I believe in doing my part in making this world a better more hopeful place for my kids to grow up in.

What is the most difficult thing you yourself have survived, besides this pandemic? And if the answer is the pandemic, can you offer specifics?

I went through a very difficult period before I decided to take time off of work where my mental health was really suffering and I wasn’t able to really share it or deal with it properly. I had a surgery which had me under Anesthesia for a longer period of time than expected and unbeknownst to me gave me a small chemical imbalance. I was put on medication once my husband, my sister and I figured out there was something medically wrong so that I could continue working on a show I was filming at the time. Quickly thereafter I was cast in another role that took me away again. With the support of my family, a lot of therapy and the love for my husband and kids I was committed to getting better. I booked a trip to India and did a 21 day treatment at the IVAC center in Mysore that focused on holistic medicine, and with a lot of meditation I was able to get off the medication and I am proud to say that I got myself back!

Dania RamirezPhoto Credit: Dania Ramirez

What makes your character so compelling and how did you convey the compassion the character has for outcasts of society?

The word ‘apocalypse’  is interesting because to us it means the end but in it’s Greek origin it mean “the uncovering: the beginning of new information.” Even tho to some this “Big Crumble” in the series that takes out most of humanity it is the end, to Aimee Eden it is the beginning. A chance to reevaluate life and her journey and start anew. What makes her so compelling is her understanding of the fact that she has an opportunity to give these children a chance to live in a world led by love, love of one another no matter how different we are and to have the courage to accept themselves as they are. It is her ability to pass along what she has learnt from her past struggles to a new bread of children that makes her character so compelling.

The film’s name (for those expecting a cooking show) is a bit misleading… Tell us if that was intentional or not.

The title is Sweet Tooth because our main hero Gus is given that as a nickname by his unlikely confidant Jepperd. The show is based on the beloved DC comic Sweet Tooth written by the brilliant Jeff Lemire. I believe it is very fitting because this deer boy could not be sweeter amidst all the sour he will encounter on his path to self discovery.

Robert Downey Jr. produced Sweet Tooth. What were your interactions like? Can you share any memorable interactions?

We filmed the show at the height of the pandemic so travel was not a luxury. Our producers had to come in and out like on most productions so I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Robert or his wife Susan yet. Their vision was to take this dark comic and although they wanted to keep the same themes, they put together an incredible team, Jim Mickle – Director/Creator and Beth Schwartz – Show runner, to make the series a more enjoyable world to share with your whole family. I feel so honored to have gotten the opportunity to help bring this very special, different kind of adventure story to life!

Dania RamirezPhoto Credit: Dania Ramirez

I’ve heard your “discovery” story is a good one. Can you share it?

I would have to start from the beginning and say that becoming an actress wasn’t something I grew up thinking I can be. Born in the Dominican Republic of very humble background (for lack of a better word -poor), I spent most of my days climbing trees, stealing fruit and existing without running water, barely any electricity or TV for most of my early years. I believe that is what contributed to my creative mind. My parents had immigrated to the US like most of my cousin’s on the quest of a better life, so I was raised by my gramma and other family members until almost 10 years old. At 10, I moved to NY to join my parents and life was very different than I would’ve imagined. I was very much a fish out of water, not speaking the language and trying to fit in with them. Their journey to want us to better ourselves really gave me the drive to make something of myself. At 15, I used to work at a store checking people’s bags and out of boredom I would always dance while working. I caught the eye of a modeling agent, who introduced me to the entertainment world. Quickly after that, I was finding auditions everywhere I could, and one day at 16 years old, I landed a small role in a Spike Lee produced short story for HBO and that was the beginning of my acting career. Although, it took much more than that to “make it.” I started college also at the age of 16, so I would go on to attend and graduate from Montclair State University with a communications degree while also attending “The Actor’s Workshop Studio” in NY. In a nutshell, at 20, I drove to LA with $2500 dollars in my pocket and the rest is history.

Of all of your roles so far, which has been the most challenging, and which has been the most fun?

Aimee Eden has definitely been the most challenging because I personally was invested in making her journey matter beyond simply entertaining people. This story is one of hope in the darkest of times and I truly am committed to spreading that message in our society today. I want my children to watch me in this role and feel the love and care I put into her and the magic and wonder life can offer. Everyone involved in this project from the creatives to the crew and even those who drove us every day was just so full of love. The most fun role has to be “Lady In Red” in Jumanji -The Next Level. Jake Kasdan give me so much freedom with the role and being on set with all those guys was pure comedy!

Speaking of the most challenging things in life, what was it like being at home with your twins during the height of the pandemic? How did you keep them engaged?

I believe it was a really good thing for our family. Funny enough, I felt like I was already isolating with them prior to it. We really took this time as an opportunity to bond more. I let them know that magic is real if you are able to believe that your thoughts are your reality and it is really cute to watch them try to manifest miracles. Even the homeschooling which was a very tricky and difficult thing to adjust to gave us an opportunity to get to know each other more, and get creative. We spent more time playing outside in the yard and even got into gardening with them. It was very cute because I wasn’t able to bring them with me to New Zealand so before I left we built a small garden and planted some vegetables. I told them the that was me and so they had to water me everyday day while I was gone so we could continue to grow together even though I wasn’t physically home with them. I have never felt more connected to my husband and them!

Dania RamirezPhoto Credit: Nunnally Rawson

Do you have any parenting hacks you can share?

The pandemic helped me really ground myself in how I reprimanded my kids. I came from a different kind of parenting style and although my husband and I are very strict with them, I learned it never helps to try to teach with my kids when we are both heightened. So I make them write in a room alone which I call “quiet time” and once we are both more settled then we can talk about how to make things better.

Some of your show titles have been very descriptive – “sweet,” “devious.” How would you describe yourself and why?

Different. I have always felt different than most people specially because I felt people’s perception of who I really am is very different than how I feel. I think that has helped me try to find a way to connect with people. I have been through a lot in my life, and was bullied from a very young age but somehow I saw it as good thing. It made me stronger and in accepting my life and myself and forgiving others and my own mistakes gives me the super power of compassion and empathy. I am very grateful.

What is the greatest luxury in life and why?

Our ability to love and lead with that. Love is what makes our species different than any other. Once we as a people realize that and commit to that, I believe we will find our true place with each other, with nature, all as one.

WATCH: Dania Will Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth With All The Info On Her Netflix Show

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