Idalis De Leon first caught the worldwide attention of fans, and Derek Jeter, as a perky MTV VJ. Idalis now turns heads in scandalous movie roles as a stripper in HBOís Six Feet Under and as a prostitute in the new film Running Scared.
Idalis phoned SOAK while juggling her broad-casting coaching business at idbroadcast.com (ĎIDí for ďIdalis De Leon,Ē) to talk about her MTV heyday (sorry, no talk about Paulie Shore), why she passed on doing the ďBada BingĒ with Tony Soprano, and what itís like to play an angel prostitute.
SOAK: Your work on MTV has probably opened a few doors for your career.
Idalis: I had two jobs before MTV, and I had several jobs after that. I worked with a lot of different people with Access Hollywood and Extra. So, I just figured Iíd use my experience to help people and make a business out of it.
SOAK: What was it like being a VJ for MTV from 1994-98?
Idalis: It was awesome. Itís the greatest job in the world, it really was. You donít buy clothes for four years, because people send you clothes. Itís really a lot of fun. But I really learned; I really cut my teeth there. I learned how to be a real communicator and broadcaster. They actually hooked me up with a mentor (a trainer), whoís still my mentor to this day. She taught me how to do interviews really well. I met a lot of great people, a lot of great stars, legends. I did a lot of great interviews. I interviewed Biggie Smalls six months before he died; I was one of the last people to interview him. I also had a lot of great interviews with LL Cool J and Sting. I met Gwen Stefani there. I just saw people coming up.
SOAK: It sounds like you had quite a positive experience at MTV.
Idalis: At the time, I think we had the best talent pool in MTV history, besides the original VJs. When I was there, it was me, Daisy Fuentes, Bill Bellamy, and John Sencio. He was less of a name, but he was really funny. He had a ďGreg KinnearĒ type of delivery. Also Kennedy, the Republican; it was just a really good talent pool. We also had Ed Marquez and we had, whatís his name, umm, the sports broadcaster, he was big tooÖumÖit will come back to me.
SOAK: You must not have been too ďbigĒ of friends with him.
SOAK: Dan Cortese?
Idalis: Yep. He was there too.
SOAK: With MTV, I bet you bumped into a lot of celebrities. Were you ever approached by male celebrities?
Idalis: All the time. EveryÖ singleÖ basketball, football, baseball player, they all did. That was ok. It was flattering. But, you have to really be professional. At first, I would kind of flirt back. Obviously, when you interview someone they have to like you, but you have to also keep it professional, and I learned how to do that over time. You want to keep your personal life separate from your job. So you can be flattered, but you have to wait until your term with the job is over. You just kind of pursue with caution, because some people could be talking.
SOAK: Whatís your most memorable instance of an athlete or an actor asking you out?
Idalis: The 1996 Yankees were about to enter the World Series and Derek Jeter was the new rookie who I had to interview. He asked me out. We ended up going out and they ended up winning the World Series that same year, so that was kind of cool. I met up with him the same day they won the Series. New York was really going crazy and it was really cool. We all went to a restaurant afterwards. He was a little busy at the time, so we kind of ended up just being friends.
SOAK: With being on MTV, acting in movies, and at one time dating Derek Jeter, do you still have guys approach you when you go out?
Idalis: Well, Iím married. I got married last year, so I donít even notice. But you know what? I think men are great. I was in the car with my roommate the other day and we were just driving around. She stopped at a light and these guys stopped too. She just looked and she smiled. She looked at me and said, ďI love men.Ē I was like, ďI know. I do, too.Ē Women admire you guys, too. We check you out when youíre not looking. We check you out from head to toe.
SOAK: Speaking of checking things out, you played Sophia, a stripper, on Six Feet Under. What was that like?
Idalis: On the show, I played a stripper and Rico (played by Freddy Rodriguez) was kind of helping me out with my kid. He met me and he was kind of intrigued by me. Yeah, [laughs] those are the best parts. I did just one episode in 2003. In 2004, they invited me back to do eight more, so I did the whole season last year. So when they got nominated for a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Award for best ensemble, they put my name on the ballot so I got nominated for best ensemble cast. CSI won that year, but earlier this year we went to the SAG Awards in February, so I was part of the group.
SOAK: How did you get cast to be a stripper?
Idalis: They had me read lines and they had three scenes written out. The first scene is where he sees me in the club. First we have to read and then we had to dance. When I went there, it looked like 40 real strippers were there. I didnít even feel like I was dressed right, because I was kind of covered up. I was wearing pedal-pushers, like these little pants that stop at your kneesóthey were tightóand wore a little tank top that was sexy and tiny heels, because it was summer. When I got there, there was this girl wearing a big jump suit and it looked like she was going to jump out of the suit and strip. [laughs] There were real strippers there with these really high heels on and they were dancing all around and I said, ďYou know what, Iím just going to be a great actress.Ē I went in and I really rocked the read! Alan Ball, the creator of Six Feet Under, was there and he handpicked me out of 40 girls. I had to dance a little bit, but I used to bartend in a strip club in New York when I was studying to be an actress.
SOAK: Sure, ďbartend.Ē
Idalis: [laughs] Itís a great money job. So I knew how they dance; I watched them, so I just imitated a stripper.
SOAK: You must have done a good job then.
Idalis: Hey! Thatís like a lot of the roles Iíve been getting now: stripper, crackhead, prostitute. Each project is like, great scenes, pages and pages of great dialogue.
SOAK: How did you get put into such racy roles?
Idalis: In this latest film, Running Scared, (due Jan. 6) with Paul Walker, Iím a prostitute. [laughs] But I have four great scenes. Every actor is allowed into the business through a certain door, and at first I was kind of the pretty girl, the glamorous girl, and then I went for more gritty roles and got more episodes that way. Then we started getting more films. This is just part of the second door that I have to go through, to play these characters. I donít mind at all, because theyíre all really interesting. But Iím ready to go to the next door, which is more leads and legitimate characters like lawyers, politicians, and strong women; things like that.
SOAK: On Six Feet Under how racy did the scenes get with you playing a stripper?
Idalis: In the opening scene, when I first meet him, he was watching me do a dance. Then we had this amazing dream sequence. Iím going to go down in history, because I did one of the dream sequences on Six Feet Under where Iím topless. Iím making the sign of the cross and I have like white burlap, gauzy fabric around my waist and middle to cover a bathing suit bottom. Itís almost kind of depicting Christ. This is a dream that Ricoís having and in it, his wife is next to me. Sheís kind of like Mother Mary dressed in a veil. Sheís taking a robe and covering me. I go down to him (heís on a couch), I pour oil on his feet, and I wash his feet with my hair like Lady Magdalene.
SOAK: Damn. Thatís crazy.
Idalis: Iím actually Christian, so it was kind of crazy when I first read it, but they did such a good job with it. It came out so beautiful and it was a dream. Itís the way we dream. It was the way his conscience dealt with what he was doing; he was feeling guilty. They did it in such a respectful way that I thought it was ok for me to do it.
SOAK: Did they have to talk you into being topless?
Idalis: Both scenes I had to be topless. When you do nudity, itís usually pretty fast. I didnít normally do nudity; thatís the reason why I didnít go for this other part. It was for a role on The Sopranos. When I read the script, she was screwing Tony Soprano all over the room! I was like, ďOh, I canít do that!Ē Then, I saw the show and the girl who got the part. They did the nude scene and it lasted for 30 seconds. Then, in the other five episodes, it was all just great acting. I felt like a crazy woman! Now, I say Iíll never let nudity stop me from working with a great director and a great project. So, when Six Feet Under came up Iím like, ďIím doing it, I donít care where it is, Iím there.Ē Doesnít it always just last 30 seconds? I mean if it lasts any longer, itís a porno, and thatís something Iíll pass on to other actresses.
SOAK: True. Itís not like people havenít seen boobs before. Well, most people.
Idalis: Right. Exactly. And the guys love it. [laughs]
SOAK: Youíre in the new film Running Scared. Whatís that like?
Idalis: It has passionate adventure and passionate cinematic scenes. Itís about the people Paul Walkerís character meets along the way. He runs into three different situations and Iím one of them. We just go on the run for a little bit and then I get arrested. Itís called Running Scared and arenít we all? Everybodyís running in this movie. Youíll be so at the edge of your seat.
SOAK: As a prostitute, do you show skin in this movie?
Idalis: Nope. Nope. Iím a prostitute, but I help him. Iím like an angel. [laughs]
SOAK: Youíre an angel prostitute?
Idalis: Yeah. Iím a prostitute with a good heart.
SOAK: That sounds like a Halloween costume I saw a couple months ago.
Idalis: [laughs] I swear I am. [laughs] Iím one of the few people that help the kid.
(She now realizes she shows a lot of skin as an ďangel prostituteĒ)
Idalis: But I am showing a lot of skin, actually. Iím wearing this teeny, tiny skirt, the tiniest skirt they could find. And I have these high, high, heels on. StrappyÖcrazy! I mean, theyíre so high. I donít even know how I walked in them. Iím wearing this crazy outfit: white and blue. They put me in white and blue for a reason, they wanted me to look like a blue angel.
Check out more of Idalisí latest show Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner at sitv.com