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Danielle Larracuente was born to play a cop.
The actress, the daughter of two retired NYPD officers, was recently cast as rookie Paulina Calderon in “Bosch: Legacy.”
“This is such a big milestone for me,” the 30-year-old told Fox News Digital. “It’s been a dream come true for my parents in a way to let them see me like them and represent their stories. And I learned a lot of tips from them before I was on set.
“I had two points of view because my father dealt with a lot of tactical things in terms of how he approached situations. There’s a certain way in which you approach a car or touch a trunk. And my mom, she’s five feet and in the field. She would talk to the person that she was arresting and tried to calm them down.”
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But getting in uniform, even on a set, came with its challenges.
“That belt is heavy,” Larracuente chuckled. “And those steel boots? How did they even run in them. I was breaking a sweat every time. I had a fan nearby, and I had to splash myself with water all the time. I don’t even know how they did it. I got a taste of what it was like.”
Throughout her childhood, the star said, her parents taught her the importance of being involved in the community.
“I always knew growing up that they were police officers,” she explained. “They always made their presence known, and they taught us how to stay safe and be cautious around your surroundings. It was a big part of our lives.”
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But Larracuente was eager to perform in the bright lights of Hollywood.
“Whenever I saw a camera, I had to smile for it,” she said. “I look at home videos today, and I was always putting on a show. I would perform in front of a mirror and act out scenes. If I had a new outfit on, I would beg my parents to take a picture of me. One day, we were going to the mall, and somebody approached us. This person remarked, ‘You should get her into beauty pageants.’ So I did that for a while. And then we went off doing commercials.
“But my mom was not a stage mom — far from it,” Larracuente continued. “We lived in Westchester, and we would drive down to New York City all the time for gigs or auditions. My parents were so supportive of my dreams. They always took time out of their day to take me where I needed to go. They were my backbone and kept me positive when I was feeling down. And whenever I was like, ‘Mom, call my agent because I haven’t gotten an audition in weeks,’ they would make it happen.”
Larracuente’s father was in the force for 20 years before he retired in 2001. Her mother worked for 10 years and retired after getting hurt in the line of duty. She described how her parents were open to letting her pursue acting but always checked in to make sure she felt at ease with any job that came her way.
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“My parents would always check on me – all the time,” said the mother of a five-year-old son. “They would ask, ‘Hey, is this something you really want to do? Are you sure? How are you feeling today?’ They were 100% behind me but also made it a point not to push. I still had school, and I still had my friends.”
At 15, Larracuente asked her mom if they could move to Los Angeles to boost her career. After a few months of pleading, her mother finally agreed.
“It was all the way me,” she said. “I realized, being in New York, there’s a lot of theater and I did a lot of it, but I wanted to pursue more television … There was a shift because my mom was retired for a long time. She said, ‘You know Danielle, I want to be a lawyer.’ My brothers were already grown and out of the house.
“So she finally said, ‘All right, you pursue your acting in television and I’m going to be a lawyer.’ She’s now a successful civil rights attorney in Los Angeles, and I’m an actress on television. Pursuing our dreams was always important in our household. For us, it’s never too late, and you never give up.”
Despite earning her parents’ approval to pursue acting, Larracuente noted that education always came first.
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“I was 18 at the time, and I was becoming a woman,” she explained. “I was learning who I was in the world. I was doing acting since the age of four, but was this going to be me forever? Is there anything else that will also bring me joy? I wanted to develop out of the limelight, as a person.
“I wanted to make sure I had something to fall back on and grow. So I went to college and got my psychology degree. I worked in the field for about a year. Then I wanted to learn a new skill. So I went into beauty and got my cosmetology license and worked in that field for a year.
“I learned so much along the way, and I still use those skills in acting, but they weren’t for me,” Larracuente added. “And once I became a mom, I thought to myself, ‘How can I tell my son to do what he loves when I’m not doing the same?’ So, in 2019, I jumped back in. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I feel really strong in who I am now. But I’m also proud that I studied along the way and continue to grow as a person.”
And her psychology degree came in handy as a TV cop.
“One of the biggest things I wanted to highlight in my role is that you’re there to protect yourself and others, but you’re also there to listen and understand,” said Larracuente. “When you’re in heightened situations, there’s a lot of emotions. People want to get heard. It can be dissolved quicker just by talking to them, getting their feelings out.”
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Larracuente said tears were shed when her parents saw her performance for the first time.
“It was such a beautiful moment,” she recalled. “And it was so surreal. I remembered my dad said, ‘Oh my God, that’s how your mom looked.’ My mom became so emotional. She immediately got a side-by-side photo of us in uniform, and now she shows everybody. They’re very proud parents. And, you know, they were always in favor of what we wanted to do. My siblings and I, we’re not in law enforcement. They were a little bit worried about the possibility because it is dangerous. You’re protecting society and putting yourself in hard situations.
“Playing a cop on TV is a lot safer,” she added, laughing.
Larracuente also described how grateful she is to be part of a cast that, like her parents, has been supportive.
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“In this industry, every set is different, and you never really know what to expect,” she said. “But this set treats you like family … My girls [from ‘Bosch’] and I go have Taco Tuesdays once a week. We’ve become so close. We have each other’s backs. And we all just want to tell a great story.”
Larracuente hopes her personal story will inspire others to pursue their goals — no matter what they may be.
“My dad always tells me this, ‘Whatever you want to do in life, look it as if it were the DMV,’” she said. “’At the DMV, you take a ticket and wait in line. But if you get impatient and move out of the line, they’re never going to call your name. But if you stay on that line and keep moving forward, eventually you’re going to get called.’ I’m constantly reminded of that. The message that my parents gave me has always been the same, and it’s one I share now: You put in the work and you keep going.”