The Brooklyn Nine-Nine scene-stealer, who plays sexy/scary NYPD detective Rosa Diaz, talks sexual awakenings, childhood fears, and shutting down thirsty dudes.
The first fictional character I had a crush on:
David Bowie’s character in Labyrinth, one of my favorite movies ever. As an 8-year-old, I had no idea I was staring at an adult man’s package through his pants, but I was utterly fascinated by it. That was the first time I thought, “What are these feelings?” I didn’t know how to work through sexual feelings as a kid. But, yeah, David Bowie opened me up to all of that.
The last fictional character I had a crush on:
Freakishly, Francis Underwood on House of Cards. Watching him struggle to maintain and gain power is sexy. Also, his relationship with his wife—I find it extremely sexy that they’re in it to win it together. Horrible power couples are attractive to me for some strange reason.
The first thing that scared me silly:
Freddy Krueger. When I was 7, a babysitter let me watch the first Nightmare on Elm Street. I knew I shouldn’t be doing it but it was exciting. Then I had nightmares for weeks. I’m still scared of horror movies today.
The last thing that scared me silly:
My boyfriend and I adopted a 10-year-old Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix, named Banjo, and he has really bad arthritis. He was with us for a month without his meds, and one morning, he woke up but could barely walk. I thought he was dying. He’s my first pet, so now I know what it feels like to be an animal’s caretaker. I’ll never have children, so this is as close as it’s going to get.
The first time I rejected a guy:
I was an awkward teenager and a late bloomer. I broke up with a guy for the first time after college. He was bad news. I didn’t know how to get out of it, and then I got a job in a touring theater company. I broke it off before I left town. Up until that point, I was searching for self-worth and looking to guys specifically for that, so I’d never been the one who ended things.
The last time I rejected a guy:
When I was living in New York, I was bowling at a bar. This tall hipster guy offered to buy me a drink, but I rejected him. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, though. I went to the women’s bathroom and he got on the line with me. Finally, I said, “Look, I’m so flattered, but I’m going to keep saying no.” Guys, a pro tip: after the third time you hear no from a girl, fall back. I wish I would’ve been more like Rosa then. I’ve never been able to be like her in public.
This article appears in Complex's August/September 2014 issue.