INTERVIEW: Playboy Bunny turned actress, Maria Richwine

By Al Carlos Hernandez on December 6, 2010

HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) – Maria Richwine is the first Latina Playboy Bunny to ever become a serious actress and model. She has joined the ranks of such luminary former Bunnies as Gloria Steinem, Debra Harry of Blondie and Lauren Hutton. Born Maria Agudelo in Colombia, her parents viewed the USA as a land of opportunity both educationally and economically.

Her father brought the family to the US when she was just a little girl. In NYC, they took her to see the Rockettes and “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” at Radio City Music Hall. Audrey Hepburn’s performance as “Holly Go Lightly” was such an inspiration to her and made such an impression that she decided that one day she would become an actress.

Richwine’s family later moved to Los Angeles, where she studied ballet, jazz and modern dance for eight years. She attended high school and college and majored in foreign languages with the intention of becoming an interpreter at the United Nations. During that time she began teaching aerobics classes at the Century West Health Club in Century City. Across the way from the Health Club was the Los Angeles PLAYBOY CLUB. One of the students in her class was “The Bunny Mother” who was the person responsible for training and hiring all the Playboy Bunnies. Maria was offered and accepted the job and became a Playboy Bunny for the next four years.

Richwine began taking acting classes. The classes lead to her being cast as Catherine in Arthur Miller’s play “A View From the Bridge” at the Nosotros Theatre. Her reviews caught the attention of an agent who signed her on the spot. Soon after, she was seen by casting director, Joyce Selznick, who was looking for a young actress to play the part of Maria Elena Holly in “The Buddy Holly Story” opposite Gary Busey. The timing was perfect and Maria landed the part – Busey was nominated for an Oscar for his brilliant performance – and for her performance in the film, Maria received the Nosotros “Golden Eagle Award” as “Most Promising Actress” for that year.

Ms. Richwine has appeared in many stage productions including “The Shoemaker’s Prodigious Wife” and “Divine Words” at the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts and “Cuba and His Teddy Bear” at the Callboard Theatre. Most recently she played the part of Constansa in the critically acclaimed production of “Hercules On Normandie” at The Greenway Court Theatre.

She worked in several other feature films and dozens of guest starring roles for television, including “Three’s Company” with the great John Ritter and “Sledge Hammer”, under the direction of Bill Bixby. She was a series regular on Norman Lear’s first Latino sitcom on prime time, “AKA Pablo” starring Paul Rodriguez. Ms. Richwine has worked in over 100 Television Commercials for the Spanish and English markets and numerous voice over projects.

Richwine has also been working as a print model and can be seen in campaign ads for VERIZON, WELLS FARGO, AMERITRADE, TELEFLORA, and AMGEN Pharmaceuticals.

Recently, Maria was cast as a regular in the upcoming cybernovela “The Devil You Know” directed by P. David Ebersole which is now in post production. She is currently working on a new Web series “The Healers” starring opposite Richard Yniguez. Mr. Yniguez is also the writer, director and producer of the new project with the collaboration of the director of photography Armando Acevedo and editor Pablo Picazo. According to Maria, this is a very exciting time in her career and she is grateful for all the new opportunities coming her way. Maria resides in Los Angeles with her husband Andrew, her son Quincy and their dog Homer.

Herald de Paris Deputy Managing Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez was introduced to Maria by their mutual friend Richard Yniguez:

AC: Tell us about your parents. What kind of work did they do, whose idea was it to come to the USA and what where they looking for?

My father was very young when he met my mom; they fell in love, got married and started a family right away. She was a homemaker and he worked for Sears Roebuck & Co in Medellin, Colombia as a repairman. He had high ambitions and wanted a better life and a good education so he decided to go to the US to study and work.

We stayed with my grandmother in Colombia and Dad went to the US. He attended school during the day at the “New York Technical Institute” to study thermal engineering and at night he worked in a restaurant to save every penny so that he could send for me, my mom and my brother Fred. After many months, we arrived in NYC to a completely different world.

AC: What was your first memory of the USA? Did you have a hard time learning English, and how was it in school? Were you introverted or extroverted?

I remember it was the dead of winter; everything was covered in snow and ice. My Dad had rented a little single-flat in a 4 story walk up in the middle of Manhattan with a big a bay window. All I could see where buildings everywhere, hundreds of windows, thousands of lights, millions of strangers. I was in heaven, it was magical.The four of us together again in the same space in this new land.

I had to wear almost every garment I owned to keep warm. Coming from the tropics, we were not prepared for the incredible change in climate, frozen fingers, toes and noses. For the next few years I looked forward to winters so that I could put on my mittens, boots and hooded furry jackets.

School was very difficult; I would come home crying every day because I did not understand a word. Eventually, with the help of sweet little schoolmates and some great teachers, my vocabulary improved and things became easier for me… and yes, I was very shy.

AC: What was it about the Rockettes and Audrey Hepburn that inspired you? Was it the fame, the glamour, the adulation? Does it still inspire you?

When I walked into Radio City Music Hall with my dad, the auditorium felt like a microcosm of the universe. The stage and the lights were like the stars and planets floating by me. It looked like the sun was illuminating the long legged ladies dancing in unison, it was breathtaking!

I was inspired by them to learn to dance but Audrey Hepburn’s performance left such a lasting impression on me that I wanted to grow up to be just like her.To be an instrument of illusion, pretending to be different people, on a big screen and tell stories that would somehow move and inspire other little girls. I’m still moved by great performances and I love to go see plays and films whenever possible.

AC: Why did the family decide on LA? Did your ambitions have anything to do with it? What were your first impressions of LA?

With his new vocation in air-conditioning and refrigeration, my father realized that the hot climate in California was the place to be. A new industry was booming. We headed west for a new adventure and a better lifestyle.

My ambitions were kept quiet for some time; my parents really didn’t know that I had a burning desire to dance and act.

LA was very quiet compared to NY. No tall buildings, noisy traffic or subways to catch. At first, I was homesick for the Big Apple – but eventually, I made some good friends and came to love the palm trees, the sunshine and the beach.

AC: You studied ballet. Did you plan on being a dancer?

While in NY, my mom had given me a pair of tap shoes that said “Hollywood” on the inside. Little did I know that this was to become my destiny. I wanted to learn how to tap like the Rockettes at Radio City but ended up taking ballet class instead.

I met a little girl in LA named Danielle who was taking ballet lessons from the acclaimed Ballerina, Madame Kathryn Etienne so I begged my parents to let me study with her. They could only afford one lesson a week so I spent much of my free time practicing at home on my own.

Within 6 months, nurtured by Madame Etienne and my fierce desire, I was on point and was able to dance on my toes, it felt powerful. I continued with the lessons and studied modern dance and jazz, however my desire to dance ballet diminished but I will always be grateful for everything I learned from Madame Etienne and all the other great teachers I studied with.

AC: What do you remember about your high school and college years? You wanted to be an interpreter – has being bilingual helped or hindered your career?

I was very shy in High School I studied French and Italian and wanted to take Portuguese in college with the intention of becoming an interpreter but the road took a little turn. I needed a job so I applied to several airlines and was hired by Braniff International Airlines. I am sure that being bilingual had a lot to do with it. Braniff flew through Mid and Southwestern US, South America, and Europe. Speaking another language could never hinder anyone; I am surprised that some schools have the “English only” rule.

I didn’t like being away from home so I left Dallas, where I was based and came back to LA. I met and got married to my first husband and began teaching aerobics at an exclusive health club. Those were sweet times.

AC: This may be an embarrassing question, but has being stunningly beautiful your whole life been a help or a hindrance to your career?

Stunningly beautiful is not how I would describe myself. I have always been aware of my flaws and have had to work to hide or alter them. As I get older, I see how hard I was on myself as a young girl coming up.

My first acting coach would say, “There will always be greater and lesser people than you.” He made me understand that we all have to be happy with ourselves and appreciate the unique gifts we were born with.

There are so many beautiful actresses who try to make it in this business but they want the fame more than the work. On the other hand, many average looking actresses transcend their physical appearance and are beautiful on screen and stage because of that inner quality that shines through and you can see that in their commitment to the work.

AC: What did your dad say about you becoming a Playboy Bunny? Any stigma attached to that type of work and what are some of the misconceptions?

My dad was very supportive. He thought it was a great opportunity. The reality is that a Playboy Bunny is basically cocktail waitress in a sexy costume with ears and a tail. I loved the costume; we all looked beautiful, sophisticated and elegant in it.

This is a very unique sorority with ladies from all over the world. They just don’t make Bunnies anymore; we are a rare and dying breed. I still keep in touch with many of the girls from the LA Club.

The biggest misconception is that folks often mistake a Bunny for a Playmate. Playmates are models who pose nude for the magazine. Bunnies worked at the Playboy Clubs as cocktail and food servers.

AC: Tell us about the four years you worked for Hefner. What was the good and bad, and if you had the chance would you do it over again?

That was probably the best and most fun job that I have ever had and I would do it again in a nano second. At first I was reluctant because I was a bit of a feminist back in the 70′s. As I grew into it, I knew that Mr. Hefner was giving the girls great opportunities. He set up scholarships for anyone who wanted to continue with an education. There were girls who were going to Law School, Medical School, training for the Police Academy, single mothers, actresses etc… I was studying acting during that time and was grateful for the job which gave me so much freedom to pursue a new career.

AC: How did you feel when you got your first big break with the Buddy Holly story? How do you view the work now?

I was doing a play at Nosotros Theatre and going to acting class at the same time. Everything I thought about was acting. During my breaks at work, I was studying scenes for class and in the evenings, I was rehearsing “A View From The Bridge” (my first play). It didn’t take very long from the time I began to study and get an agent to the time I was hired to play Maria Holly. When I heard I got the job, after having gone to four callbacks, I was floating on air. I really had to pinch myself. Sometimes I fell asleep with the script in my arms. I knew I had to just get on that train and ride it all the way and never look back. There was no room for fear or insecurities; I just had to step up to the plate.

When I see that film now I get a bittersweet feeling. I was so young and inexperienced, working on pure instincts and a small amount of training. There are so many things I would have done differently, but it’s set and done and I will always cherish that experience.

AC: How did the instant fame and Golden Eagle Award affect you?

You know how sometimes you can’t remember if it was a dream or a memory of something that really happened? I went for about a year feeling like that. Did I really do this? Did this really happen to me? Then one day the phone rings and someone on the other line tells me that I was nominated for a Golden Eagle Award. WOW, I can’t explain… it was like a veil of warm light, I felt so happy and proud.

A few months later, Jerry Velasco (President of Nosotros) told me that I was chosen along with Edward James Olmos to go to the White House for President Carter’s signing of “The Hispanic Week Proclamation”. After that, I was called on to appear at many other events as presenter or Host. Things were really happening for me and I was very excited during that time.

AC: It’s seems like you took a break from film work after the Buddy Holly project. Did you become jaded about the business? What have you been doing?

My marriage ended and I was doing a lot of commercials and small guest starring roles on TV. The work was not coming as fast as I wanted and I needed a change of pace so I moved to New York to study and find myself. I ended up doing lots of voice over work and more commercials but I realized that TV and Film work was in LA.

After working and traveling for about ten years, I met my second husband and we decided to start a family. I took several years off to raise my son and be a

stay-at-home mom. Then, a few years ago, I got the urge to do a play, got a new agent and started booking commercials again – I booked five in a row and I thought, “Hey, what am I waiting for?” I decided to go for it once more! Unfortunately, I got out of line so it seems that I have to start all over again but I am really enjoying the work this time around…

AC: Which performance platform do you enjoy the most: stage, TV, film, and now webcasting?

I love all of them. For obvious reasons, I love to do plays, the immediacy and moment to moment with an audience. Film because it will last forever and TV because of the large audience one is able to reach. Webcasting is so new to me and I am still getting the hang of it but it seems the possibilities are endless.

AC: You have done over 100 commercials. How hard is it for a working actress to make it in Hollywood today?

Commercials are the bread and butter for an actor. I see many more big stars dong commercials now, when it used to be frowned upon before. I did a national campaign ad for AT&T with Forest Whitaker; he directed and starred in the spot with me. That was like doing a mini movie. I it was just before he won the Academy Award for “Last King of Scotland”.

AC: You do print modeling as well. Tell us about that. What kinds of campaigns are your favorites?

Print is so much fun now because I get to do lifestyle work instead of all the glamour stuff. The Baby-boomer demographic is fabulous and there is a lot of work for us now, being the largest portion of our population, we need to be well represented.

My favorite campaigns are for the big name brands. The locations are exotic, everyone is extremely professional and it’s always very relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. This kind of work can be very lucrative and I am always grateful when I get booked on a job.

AC: Tell us about the project you are working on with our friend Richard Yniguez?

Richard is a very talented actor with an amazing imagination. He comes up with the most interesting concepts and fills the scenes with profound images and symbolism.

He wanted to take matters into his own hands and decided to develop a series of stories for the Internet utilizing this new medium that is accessible to us now. Hopefully we can inspire sponsors to take an interest and facilitate the making of more stories with great production values. So far, we are just in the beginning stages and I am looking forward to what is ahead.

MARIA RICHWINE’S WEBSITE HERE

Edited By, Susan Aceves


Comments
Richard Yniguez December 6, 2010

Hola Al & Maria!

I am so proud of you both for such a down to earth picture of a very talented and beautiful actress! I can say that she not only has that outer glow of an Olivia de Havilland and Audrey Hepburn but also the passion of a Bette Davis or a Sophia Loren. She is very committed to her craft and works tirelessly to make it come together. She’s inventive and charismatic, the crew fell in love the minute they met her. She’s humble and caring for those around her, she’s just so easy to work with. I can’t say enough about my leading lady and good friend Maria Richwine and yes, she’s like a fine aged wine, she just gets better with time!

Thank you again Al and The Paris Herald for a very special opportunity to meet a very special performer from our diverse Latino community!

Love you Maria!

Richard Yniguez

Al, your column takes my breath away every time!!!

Mike Chinea December 6, 2010

Fantastic. Maria has the beauty, grace, elegance and je ne sais quoi that the camera and audience love.
Simply terrific.
Mike Chinea

Mike Chinea December 6, 2010

Terrific. Maria has the grace, beauty, elegance and that je ne sais quoi the camera and audience love.
all the best.
Mike Chinea

Julia Vera December 6, 2010

Maria I have known for several years now. We run into each other at auditions and I have always known that she is a wonderful person and actress. This interview really revealed her to me. I am proud of her career and I am glad she has been recognized for her talent and very exciting and interesting life. She shows to those that want to act that it takes work and dedication. I wish you the very best in everything. Thanks Richard for putting this article on face book. Love you.

Gretchen Griffith-David December 6, 2010

What an interesting interview.My Husband and I watched “The Buddy Holly Story” recently,one of our favourite movies,and as always thoroughly enjoyed the very convincing performance of this lady.

Maria and I have been friends for a little while and I am always delighted by her humour,compassion and utmost professionalism.Being a member of British Equity myself we often swap tales of our varied careers.

As the previous contributor writes Maria is improving like a fine wine should and becoming a true “Richwine”.I shall follow her continuing career with interest.

With Love and Blessings to you Maria from your pal across the Pond,
Gretchen xx

AP December 6, 2010

Maria is a lovely soul. She also cracks me up…… Her looks go with out saying, ok I’ll say it, beautiful……

patricia Chimienti December 6, 2010

I have known Maria for over 10 years and in that time I have found her to be not only a wonderful and compassionate woman, but someone who is truly committed to her craft. She is the type of person who gives 110% to each project and then performs it to perfection. She is a true artist and displays beauty and poise in all that she does.
It is a true pleasure to know you Maria Richwine.
Love Patrica

Jane C Kennedy December 6, 2010

I’ve known Maria for a few years now through a mutual friend. She’s as beautiful inside as she is out. She’s funny and can be quite shy. Maria never flaunts her “stardom” or success in the media…she’s just always “one of the girls (women). Maria has a fabulous sense of humor and is a delight to know. I’ve seen her films & tv work and she is as sweet as the “Maria” she portrayed in the “Buddy Holly Story”. I am so blessed our paths crossed and I can call her a friend!
Jane Kennedy

Thelma Lou December 6, 2010

What a wonderful background story and interview. I’ve known Maria for several years, and this article touches on so many interesting aspects of this lovely lady. I’ve seen her intensely serious and uproariously uninhibited. She is as comfortable stepping back and letting someone else shine as she is being the centre of attention. And she is always, always, kind, gentle and gracious. Maria is able to unite all of these qualities to breathe life into real characters that anyone can identify with.

Al, thanks for a great article on a talented lady. It was truly enjoyable.

Maria, love you girlie! Wishing you much continued success!

Judy Coady December 6, 2010

My dear friend! You’ve always been so humble talking about your past and I love you for that. You are talented, funny gorgeous and kind and I am so very fortunate to have known you as a friend for a number of years. I’m so very happy that your career is moving along, as you deserve each and every accolade received. That being said..

How do you feel about playing the part of Loretta Caretta Loggerhead when my book gets published? :)

Dan, Meg and I wish you all the very best and will be watching! xoxoxo

Anna Stenseth December 6, 2010

How interesting to read about your life and accomplishments!

Tania Machado December 8, 2010

Maria , my darling friend, I have known you for years now and truly did not know of all your accomplishments – you are so down to earth, so humble about your career. I have seen how talented you are just being you, and how much joy and fun you bring into all your friends lives. I have watched the Buddy Holly Story a few times now and I get blown away by your acting and your beauty and I am proud to brag about you to my friends and family and to proudly say – “Maria is one of my best friends.” Love you!

Eduardo Enrikez December 8, 2010

This is a fantastic article on one of the greatest actors i’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with. I was fortunate enough to play Maria’s son in HERCULES ON NORMANDIE @ The Greenway Court Theater.
Such an insightful article on a wonderful career she has.
I hope to work with her again one day..
Sending mucho Amor
Eduardo

Amber Trujillo December 10, 2010

Maria, What a lovely article and very interesting to learn about your life, I am truly blessed to have worked with you on “Healer” and anticipate what the future will bring to us all. You are truly an amazing person and I am honored to call you my friend. All my love to you and your family.
<3 Amber ;D

Bob Henry Baber March 21, 2012

Dear Maria, Many years ago, you “played” a real life Florence Nightinggale to a young hippie (me) who was shot by the LAPD and later charged with attempted murder of a police officer. Still later you testified at my trial. I still recollect it all, including the first time I saw you walking across the LACC square. It turns out you are the star female lead of my new novel, Pure Orange Sunshine, recently published after 40 years!. This is the piece d’ resistance of my literary career. You are depicted on the cover holding me in the van. Alas, the artist did not capture your stunning beauty. I’ve taken some liberties with the truth, or course, but your character is beautiful, strong, sexy, and kind–just like you!
I’ve often wondered about your life after the Buddy Holly Story, and now, after googling you, I know. Congratulations on your many achievements. I would adore a phone call from you. My work number is 304-462-4125, cell 304-904-2440. You can find out more about my also amazing life by googling me or at http://www.bobhenrybaber.com and/or http://www.bob4governor.com.
Affectionately yours, Bob

dates April 30, 2012

Kia ora Maria my names kaf but al my frds cal me dates im kiwi born n breed dats AOTEAROA( the land of the long white cloud)NEW ZEALAND RUGBY WORLD CHAMPIONS THE GAME OF THE GODS Yeah…………….Nah lol.jus finishd watchin the movie buddy holly story thort u were very stunnin n great actin so dcide 2 lookd u up n wow…prtty kool bio anyways HE AROHANUI KIA KOE ME TANGA WHANAU b gud.

F. Gibson June 21, 2014

Good reading on a very talented women.

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