Marlene Forte was born with the last name Machado, but she changed it to her mother’s maiden name, Forte, as Machado was considered “too Latino” for Hollywood.
A lot has changed for Forte since launching her acting career decades ago; she says now it’s an exciting time to be a Latina in Hollywood.
Born in Cuba, she moved with her parents as an infant to New York City, then later to Union City, New Jersey. It would be 30 years later that Forte would forge an acting career.
Today she’s best known for her role as Carmen Ramos on TNT’s sequel to the “Dallas,” but she’s had a plethora of roles on shows such as “The West Wing,” “ER,” “House of Payne,” “24” and most recently she portrayed Celia Flores on “Fear the Walking Dead.”
“I don’t judge any work that comes my way and I don’t judge any of the characters that come my way," Forte said. “An actor has to work – has to act. If I’m not in front of the camera I’m doing theater."
"I married a playwright – she went on –, I always keep acting. It is my secret. I don’t wait for that phone to ring, I keep working,” she told Fox News Latino
Forte studied English Literature at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, and did some graduate work at Montclair State University to become a teacher.
For many years she ran a video store, then Blockbuster came along, and the store went out of business.
She began taking acting classes at the Lee Strasberg School in New York City and snagged her first role at the Labyrinth Theater Company, working with such actors as Judy Reyes, Sam Rockwell and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
She recently worked with Ruben Blades, an actor on her short list of people she says she’d always wanted to work with.
She also says she’d love to play a Cuban character and better if it's in Cuba — Forte has never played a character of Cuban origin.
Forte is very involved with the Los Angeles Latino community, she recently took a job as creative director of the famed Theater Group, Company of Angels.
She recently made her filmmaking debut, directing a series of webisodes for Latina Magazine.
She also teaches at Eastside Classical Theater Company, going into the East L.A. Unified School System and teaching a 13 week course on play-writing. She calls it her 'soul work'.
When it comes to Latinos in Hollywood Forte told FNL she’s optimistic, but says, that sometimes it feels like an ant pushing a boulder up a hill.
“Are we there yet? No. But we’re getting better,” Forte says.