Vanessa Benavente as Virgin Mary
Courtesy The Chosen

After playing Mother Mary since 2017, Vanessa Benavente feels that she knows the mother of Jesus like the palm of her hand. She knows "how she interacts with friends, her fierce love for her son, and how far she is willing to go for him," said the Peruvian actress during an interview with The Latin Times about her character in the TV series "The Chosen."

"The Chosen" is a pioneering American television series in the Christian historical drama genre, created and directed by Dallas Jenkins. This multi-season show uniquely portrays the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, set against the backdrop of 1st century Judaea and Galilee. It delves into the stories of Jesus and the diverse group of people who encountered and followed him.

The series, starring Jonathan Roumie as Jesus, is a worldwide phenomenon, to the point that season 3 and 4 opened in movie theaters with record ticket sales.This June, Season 4 premiered globally across all platforms of The Chosen, with 3.5 million streams representing an estimated 4.2 million viewers across households in the US over the first three days.

An ascendent career

Her perfect English and remarkable career hide Vanessa Benavente's challenging beginnings. Her journey from fleeing terrorism in her native Peru to portraying the most revered woman in Christian faith is a testament to her resilience and talent.

Born and raised in Peru, Vanessa's early life was marked by turmoil. At just nine years old, she and her mother fled their homeland due to the devastating wave of terrorism that swept through the country. Seeking safety and a better future, they arrived in the United States. She was a student, and her mom was an undocumented immigrant. Despite the immense challenges, Vanessa found a sense of stability through her education, enrolling as a foreign student, which provided her with a legal status in the country.

"We were very lucky. I came as a foreign student, which gave you, or at least gave me a legal status in this country, but to stay, we were undocumented," Benavente recalls. Her mother, an industrial engineer, initially struggled but eventually found work at Visa, leveraging her skills and becoming a liaison with Peru.

Her quest for self-improvement led her to Spain and other parts of the world, where she met her husband, Sergio Lanza. With his support, she relocated to Los Angeles, California, to chase her dream of becoming an actress.

Vanessa's breakthrough came after numerous auditions and roles in independent films and shorts. Her portrayal of a Salvadoran mother in the drama "At The Gates" marked her first leading role. Her persistence paid off when she was recruited by a talent agency that connected her with Netflix. This led to her casting in "The Chosen," where she plays Mother Mary, and in the miniseries "Griselda," portraying a Cuban woman opposite Sofía Vergara.

Becoming Virgin Mary

Her role as Mary in "The Chosen" has been a profound experience for Benavente.

"We see María at such vulnerable times in her life and. And I at least had forgotten how strong this woman must have been too, not as a fighter," she reflects. The role allowed her to delve into the strength and resilience of Mary, a woman who faced immense challenges with unwavering faith and tenacity.

Despite the progress, Vanessa acknowledges the ongoing challenges for Latina actresses in Hollywood. "I feel things are opening for us, but the only way to really have opportunities is to have more Latinos behind the camera, writing, producing, and directing," she concludes.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.