For Colombian-born actress Paula Garces, the best part of working with Tommy Lee Jones was going to his ranch and meeting his daughter. Filming Man of the House in Texas for four months, Garces says Jones extended himself and his home to the cast. “He has this whole vibe about him. You feel like maybe he’s going to be a grumpy old man, but he was very smart. I was very surprised he spoke fluent Spanish and was interested in South American culture,” she says.
Man of the House, which comes out nationwide this month, is an action/comedy starring Jones as an agent sent to protect a cheerleading squad after they witness a high profile murder. The role of a cheerleader gave Garces a chance to do her own stunt work. “We had a cheerleading camp the girls had to go through for about three weeks prior to filming. At the time I was very excited about it. Getting paid to exercise is a big plus because I hate to exercise,” she says. Garces says she quickly found out cheerleaders are athletes and don’t just stand around and look pretty. Nearing 31, she didn’t think she could keep up with her younger cast, but ended up doing OK. “At the time it seemed like a pretty good idea to do the stunts ourselves. Now that I look back on it, I’m like, ‘Oh my God I could killed myself.’”
In the biz for over a decade, Garces has been on Guiding Light, The Sopranos and movies like Clockstoppers, Marci X, The Station Agent and the indie film Spin. She also had a role in the surprise hit movie Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Later this year she’ll star in National Lampoon’s Pledge This! with Paris Hilton. “I always seem to be playing someone completely different,” says Garces. “But that’s why I like the characters I play. I get to live different lives and experience different things through my characters.”
Her real life character plays several roles, one as a mother to 12-year-old daughter Skye, who she says helps keep her hip. “I learn a lot from her. She’s very cool.” Between movie and series shoots, Garces focuses on From Earth to You, a Chelsea area café/gourmet deli she runs with husband, Tony Hernandez. “It’s been in my husband’s family for years. It was his grandfather’s bodega and was handed down to his mom.” After taking over the store, she and her husband revamped it into a deli. When they married they remodeled again. “Slowly we’ve changed it into a café and now we do corporate catering.” Catering, like acting, is creative and Garces finds food to be calming. “I’m Colombian and food is a big part of our culture. I think most actors find food comforting. I think that’s why a lot of actors have restaurants,” she added.
Family is everything to Garces and she was able to keep part of her brood close while filming Pledge This! in Miami last summer. Skye spent her summer vacation on set and Garces’ mother flew down while Hernandez stayed north to run the café. Skye was able to see first hand how hard it can be to make movies. “She can see that I don’t lie when I say I’m busy and I’m working hard,” she said. The movie is “really funny, like a girl version of Revenge of the Nerds.” Initially dubious about co-star Hilton, Garces says, “Paris was a lot of fun, very sweet. Totally not what I expected of her. I’d be the first to admit it. I even told her that. She likes upfront, honest people.” So clearly Hilton likes Garces. A lot. We do too.
Originally published in New York Moves magazine as Woman of the House