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Sonia Braga: 1950—: Actress

Returned To Television Acclaim

After Parador, Braga's career slowed for a few years. She took on supporting roles in the 1990 Clint Eastwood-Charlie Sheen cop-buddy film The Rookie, and in several made-for-television films and mini-series. Yet even as a supporting actress she was nominated for both Golden Globe and Emmy awards for her role in a 1994 HBO project, The Burning Season, about slain Brazilian social activist Chico Mendes. She was also nominated for a Bravo award from the National Council of La Raza for the 1995 CBS miniseries Streets of Laredo. That same year, renowned director Nicolas Roeg cast her as one of the leads in Two Deaths a bleak drama set during the final hours of the regime of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. She played the housekeeper to a wealthy doctor, who is also Ceausescu's personal physician; the doctor had a youthful infatuation with her character, Ana, but she is still uninterested and instead loves a paralyzed man, who also lives in the house. The physician takes care of the man in exchange for her romantic favors.

The following year, Braga served as co-producer for another film adaptation of an Amado work, Tietá do Agreste. She starred in it as well, working with acclaimed director Carlos Diegues for her first Brazilian film in several years. The story is set in a poor village in the state of Bahia, which Tietá had been forced to flee at the age of 17 after her conservative sister ruined her reputation. She returns 26 years later, now a wealthy widow, and the family members and villagers alike court her favor. She manages to save a plot of land for her father, and gets the village wired with electricity. "Braga's sensual beauty and fiery passion are perfect for the bold but emotionally scarred Tieta," declared Los Angeles Times writer Kevin Thomas.

Other film projects for Braga have included roles in the Jennifer Lopez film Angel Eyes, and a three-episode romance on the hit HBO series Sex and the City. For once, this latter part called for her to play an actual Brazilian woman—as a Latina actress, Braga has often had to accept a wide range of nationalities to play. "I started playing Mexicans, Puerto Ricans," she told Los Angeles Times writer Dana Calvo. "I did everything, because I didn't have much problem playing what's out there." One such role was as a Mexican-American mother of five grown children in American Family, the first all-Latino drama, which aired on PBS. A 2002 project from acclaimed filmmaker Gregory Nava (El Norte), the series paired her with Edward James Olmos as her husband. In the first episode, the Gonzalezes, longtime residents of a working-class East Los Angeles neighborhood, are uneasy about moving to a new condominium that one of their more successful off-spring has just bought for them. "Unabashedly emotional and determinedly ethnic, 'American Family' can be quite touching, as well as a little exhausting, especially the opening episode, which introduces the large and complex Gonzalez family, its predicaments and cultural legacy," remarked New York Times writer Julie Salamon. "The show feels unwieldy, and melodramatic at times, but also warm and lively." Salamon praised the show's cast and crew for recognizing subtle differences "between ethnic idiosyncrasy and stereotype…. Even when some of the conflicts between generations seem almost platitudinous, they are handled with grace and intelligence."

Over the years, Braga has been romantically linked to Redford, Eastwood, rock star Mick Jagger, and even Brazilian soccer legend Pelé. She acknowledges that her public persona has indeed been shaped by the frank sexual overtones in some of her on-screen performances. "Sooner or later, everyone asks me about sex," she conceded in the interview with Mann of the Los Angeles Times. "I didn't invent it, but I think it healthy to talk about it. That does not mean I'm not shy. I am. If I'm in love with someone, I often find it very difficult to express myself, to find the right words. But when the camera is on me, everything changes."

Selected filmography

O Bandido da Luz Vermelha, 1970.

O Casal (The Couple), 1974.

Doña Flor e Seus Dois Maridos (Doña Flor and Her Two Husbands), 1977.

Eu Te Amo (I Love You), 1981.

Gabriella, 1983.

Kiss of the Spider Woman, 1985.

The Milagro Beanfield War, 1988.

Moon Over Parador, 1988.

The Rookie, 1990.

The Burning Season, (television movie) 1994.

Streets of Laredo, (television miniseries) 1995.

Two Deaths, 1996.

Tietá do Agreste (Tietá the Goat Girl), 1997.

Angel Eyes, 2001.

American Family, (television miniseries) 2002.



International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 3: Actors and Actresses, St. James Press, 1996.


Advocate, July 3, 2001, p. 42.

Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), June 19, 1998, p. L16.

Entertainment Weekly, September 16, 1994, p. 98.

Guardian (London, England), August 9, 2001.

Houston Chronicle, January 23, 2002, p. 10.

Los Angeles Times, August 18, 1985; January 30, 1998, p. 6; June 23, 2001, p. F1.

New Republic, June 4, 1984, p. 24; April 18, 1988, p. 30; June 24, 1996, p. 33.

New York Times, January 23, 2002.

People, August 19, 1985, p. 10; April 18, 1988, p. 66; September 12, 1988, p. 17; December 17, 1990, p. 21.

Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), June 24, 1998, p. 13D.

Time, August 5, 1985, p. 71.

Variety, February 5, 2001, p. 41.

—Carol Brennan

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Shennen Bersani (1961-) Biography - Personal to Mark Burgess Biography - PersonalSonia Braga: 1950—: Actress Biography - Went From Secretary To Television Starlet, Switched Roles And Languages With "spider Woman", Returned To Television Acclaim