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Gwen Stefani

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Monica Barbaro studied ballet in college at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Though she didn't pursue acting in school, she always knew it was what she wanted to do. "I dedicated a lot of time to ballet, and I was very much immersed in that world, but I always had one foot out the door," says the 28-year-old actress. "I was always really drawn to acting. I had a feeling early on that I wanted to live as many lives as possible, and playing different characters was a way to do that." So, she took a leap of faith to pursue her dream. "I wanted to act for years, and I kept shying away from it until I graduated college with a dance degree and I realized that I wasn't getting any younger. I knew I'd spend my life in regret if I never followed my passion." After graduation, Monica moved back to her hometown in the Bay Area to try her hand at acting. "I started to put my name out there and going to auditions." She looked for commercial work, student films, and indie films. "I had taken some acting classes at Tisch, so I did have some things to work with and I had spent the summer reading a lot about the industry, so that I would know some key terms." In 2016, she landed the role of Yael on Lifetime's UnRE AL. "It was a wild ride as my first major charac ter. I learned so much ever y day on set. My favorite par t was the friends I made. Not to sound corny or cliché," she chuckles, "but I love the fac t that we still stay in touch and get together when we can. It's a smar t, talented, passionate group of people." Nex t came a role in NBC's Chicago Justice and Chicago P.D. as Anna Valdez. Then, she por trayed Lisa Apple on the ABC sitcom, Split ting Up Together. This September 21st, The Good Cop —the new Netflix series Monica stars in alongside Tony Danza and Josh Groban— premiered. This is Monica's first time working on a Netflix original. "The major difference, for me, is the same difference for the viewer. The fact that the whole season comes out at once. I haven't decided to binge watch it or take my time," she laughs. She adds that they will never know the rating of the show. "I've never done a pilot, so the straight-to-series aspect was familiar territory for me. I know a lot of actors appreciate that they don't have to do a pilot, and then wait over six months to find out if the show is going to get picked up." In The Good Cop, Monica plays Cora Vasquez. "I've been known to have sass and determination in my life," she says about how she relates to her character. "I think I'm a way bigger dork than she is though," she laughs. "She is much cooler than I am." Cora is a cool, confident woman with a tough side and sharp wit. She doesn't put up with a lot, but her party-girl past gives her a playful edge. "She is more of a rule bender than Josh's character, so she gets to have a lot more fun." The Good Cop was amazing to work on, she tells me. "Tony and Josh are both lovely," she exclaims. "Josh and I had more scenes together and we both goof-off a lot, and that was really fun," she says with a laugh. "Tony is a lot of fun, too. He has a great musicality to the way he works with dialogue, so that was really fun to get to play with." Monica feels lucky to have played so many different roles, but there's one character she'd really like to take on: Maggie from Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. "It's a huge undertaking, but I just think there is something about her that I just get." The actress is slated to appear in the highly- anticipated film, Top Gun: Maverick. Slated for release in 2020, the film features an all- star cast that includes, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, and Jon Hamm. Monica sets goals for herself and goes after them, and despite the tough journey, she maintains a positive attitude. "It's hard to put your hopes and dreams out there. Because you're putting it out there for other people to see, it becomes the expectation that you should somehow achieve that. It lands on your shoulders. I know I want to do it. If I don't, it's OK, but it's a goal." When Monica is not auditioning or filming, she is hiking, visiting museums in New York, and out getting some fresh air. "I go to the ocean when the water is warmer than the air." Currently, Monica is watching The Americans, and while she only has two episodes left, it doesn't seem like she will be wrapping that one up soon. "I'm weird. I have issues saying goodbye, so I actually don't know when I'll finish it. I'll leave the last chapter of a book for a month, even though I've read the whole thing in the matter of a week," she laughs. And as far as dancing goes, she has picked up some new moves. "I've been loving salsa. I know I have a lot to learn, but it's a great way to get loose." ML Keep up with Monica on Instagram and Twitter: @MonicaBarbaro

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