It was her exotic, raven-haired beauty that initially brought her fame, but actress Roselyn Sanchez went from modeling to striking a different type of pose – effectively landing roles as tough-minded law enforcement figures with gun in hand. Coveting the part of butt-kicking customs agent Isabella Molina in “Rush Hour 2” (2001) and reprised for “Rush Hour 3” (2007) – as well as her series regular role of Agent Elena Delgado on the popular hit series, “Without a Trace” (CBS, 2002- ) – Sanchez knew something about toughness, having started fresh in the U.S. after leaving behind early success in her native Puerto Rico.
Born in the city of San Juan on April 2, 1973, where she was raised, Sanchez was the youngest sibling behind three older brothers. With a big interest in dance and acting, Sanchez knew even as a child that performing would factor heavily into her life. As the 1990s ushered in, Sanchez, was attending the University of Puerto Rico with the intention of earning degrees in business administration and marketing like her brothers. That experience, however, was not as fulfilling as the one as a co-host, dancer and choreographer on the popular comedy/variety series “Que Vacilon.” Getting a small taste of Hollywood, Sanchez landed a bit part in the Touchstone Pictures comedy, “Captain Ron” (1992) when production hit San Juan, before hitting the beauty pageant circuit. She was crowned Ms. Puerto Rico Petite in 1993 and, a year later, went on to become Miss America Petite.
In 1994, a then 21-year-old Sanchez moved to New York City, looking to study acting, dance and singing. Unfortunately, she knew very little English. She immediately took acting classes to help herself cross the language barrier and also began picking up the language through American television. Sanchez struggled to find work, but landed a restaurant hosting job to make ends meet. Humbled by the realities of her quest for success, she ran out of money a year later while living with a cousin in the Bronx. The experiences led her to write a one-woman play, “Out Here on My Own” which she performed at The Duplex in Manhattan in front of her teary-eyed parents.
Sanchez’s big break came when she scored a role as Pilar Domingo on the CBS soap “As the World Turns” (1956- ), becoming its first Latina character throughout 1996-97. Shortly after, a revitalized Sanchez made the leap to Los Angeles, where she soon was making appearances on “Fame L.A.” (1997-98). Her role as dancer, Lili Arguelo, led to a 1998 ALMA Award nomination. She next found herself stuck playing a robber in the Jamie Foxx movie vehicle “Held Up” (1999), but switched to the other side of the law as officer Kim Veras on the short-lived series, “Ryan Caulfield: Year One” (Fox, 1999).
Because of her ALMA nominated role on “Fame L.A.,” she landed an audition with the producers of Brett Ratner’s mega-hit comedy, “Rush Hour 2” (2001) for the role of customs agent, Isabella Molina, who joins up with the film’s police detectives Carter and Lee (Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan). The actress’ dynamic appearance connected with audiences, helping yield yet another box office success for the franchise.
Taking advantage of her burgeoning career opportunities, she became a series regular in the unaired NBC pilot, “Miami Jonez” (2002) before returning for big screen silliness with another mismatched pair, actors Horatio Sanz and Cuba Gooding Jr. on the gay cruise ship comedy, “Boat Trip” (2002). After appearing in the studio thriller “Basic” (2003), Sanchez focused her attention on aiding the Hispanic film community by appearing in “Chasing Papi” (2003), a Latin-flavored comedy in which she played the harried attorney Lorena. Sanchez also tried to keep her ties to the entertainment community of Puerto Rico. After appearing in the film “Angel” (2003), shot in her hometown of San Juan, she was back with “Cayo” (2005), a drama about a terminal cancer patient and the maiden project from Puerto Rico’s film commission. At her second home, she was happy to find her Hollywood roles tailored to strong professional occupations, further reflected in her roles as ADA Carmen Warrick on USA’s update of “Kojak” (2005) and as a teacher in the big screen action feature, “Underclassman” (2005).
By 2005, with a bit of clout under her belt, Sanchez could be seen in the company of Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey in the oft-delayed cop drama “Edison Force” (2005). She turned to producing with “Yellow” (2006), a labor of love conceived in the late ‘90s, in which Sanchez retraced her real-life footsteps as the fictional dancer-hopeful Amaryllis Campos, who journeys from Puerto Rico to New York City to start her career.
That same year, Sanchez finally broke into the mainstream by slapping on the badge as FBI Missing Persons Unit Special Agent Elena Delgado, on the wildly successful procedural drama, “Without a Trace.” Joining up with the team in season 4 and fast becoming a fan favorite, Sanchez’s Delgado was a former NYPD vice squad member with an aggressive, streetwise attitude. After the series continued to do well in the ratings and receive its fair share of publicity – with her character often singled out – Sanchez saw her profile increase exponentially. Coming full circle, she found time from her busy TV schedule to reprise her role as Isabella Molina for more international crime fighting in “Rush Hour 3” (2007).