The New York Times
“If I take this home and my kids don’t like it, I’m going to kill them all,” said actress Morena Baccarin, 42. It was a humid morning and we were at Rio Supermarket, a Brazilian store in Astoria, Queens. Baccarin, an Emmy-nominated actress, moved from Rio de Janeiro to New York at age 10.
She continues to miss the food of her childhood, such as drumsticks — described as chicken-and-potato dumplings shaped like a big golden dot, in the NYT. She ordered two portions – one for her and one for her children – in quick Portuguese, and then bit into one of the drumsticks, without staining her lipstick.
“It’s not part of my diet, but there’s no way I can’t eat these things,” she said. “They’re fried, and they’re heaven.” Baccarin had gone to the Rio Supermarket on a recent Friday morning at the suggestion of two cousins, the same ones who had given her the pink earrings she was wearing.
In the afternoon, she had recordings of “The Endgame”, a thriller series that recently premiered on the NBC television network. But she hoped to have time to buy the ingredients, run home and make a moqueca, a Brazilian fish stew, for her three children: an eight-year-old boy from her first marriage to producer Austin Chick, and a five-year-old girl. and an 11-month-old boy, the result of her marriage to her current husband, Ben McKenzie, who starred with her in the series “Gotham”.
Baccarin picked up a shopping basket and began filling it with frozen cheese breads, bay leaves, herbal tea and a packet of brigadeiros — Brazilian sweets made from condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter, reports the NYT. “The kids will forgive me for working all day if I take this home,” she said, walking down the halls in her brown trench coat.
His manner was energetic, efficient, and discreet. Baccarin’s hair hung like a silken curtain, impervious to the damp air. She started acting very early – her mother had been an actress in Rio, and her father was a journalist at Rede Globo. “I love hiding myself in a character,” she said.
“I mean, obviously it’s me, but I like to pretend it’s not. I tell myself I’m creating someone else, completely new.” So, at a time when she was still struggling to assimilate to life in Manhattan, Baccarin persisted in her art, first at Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and later at the Juilliard School. She never felt she fit into this last institution.
“I wasn’t one of the favorites,” Baccarin said. “He had a lot of attitude.” Juilliard taught him technique, stamina, survival, but not how to embrace the strengths of his ethnicity. After graduating, she imagined she would do classical theater; instead, Hollywood summoned her. “I felt like I was letting everyone down,” the actress said.
Her first major role was as a courtesan in “Firefly”, a space western by Joss Whedon that was quickly cancelled. (Baccarin was not abused by Whedon, but he does not dispute that others may have.)
On set, she found that her training helped her handle elevated, stylized text in a way that sounded natural, which likely explains why she’s worked on so many superhero-related projects such as “Gotham,” “Deadpool” and ” Justice League Unlimited”. Her work on Showtime’s thriller Homeland earned her an Emmy nomination.
Baccarin’s character in “The Endgame,” an arms dealer and criminal leader named Elena Fedorova, has no superpowers. And she doesn’t even need them. “What’s really fun about this character is that I can constantly interfere with people, poke them in their weak spots,” the actress said. And she also does action scenes. In high heels.
That day, she was wearing sensible boots, the heels of which echoed on the floor as she added cooking oil to the shopping basket, and then a bottle of hot sauce for her husband. She saw a package with 12 cans of guarana. “It’s great,” she said. “Very sweet”. Baccarin exchanged his shopping basket for a cart.
After adding coconut milk, herbal tea, hearts of palm, crackers, juice, cheese, and a pair of Havaianas sandals for her babysitter, she paid, and took the groceries to the waiting car. Half an hour later, the groceries had arrived in her kitchen, on the bottom floor of a house in Brooklyn.
Baccarin rarely cooked as a teenager. “My mother swore I wouldn’t cook for any man,” she said. But as a professional actress, she learned to cook, for herself and for her friends. “Cooking seems like the most caring and loving thing you can do,” she said. She learned how to make some Brazilian dishes from her cousins, and others from recipe books. Her husband, despite growing up in Texas, taught her a few others.
After taking off her coat, she gathered up the ingredients and quickly put on a pair of swimming goggles to protect her eyes as she sliced an onion, which she placed in a pan of boiling oil. Then minced garlic, sliced peppers, and leeks, a makeshift substitute for lemongrass. “I’m changing the recipe a little bit,” she said.
From the refrigerator, she took a package of fish and a package of shrimp, which her husband had bought that morning. The shrimp still had shells. “Men are never right to buy shrimp, but it’s so sweet you can’t complain,” she said. The shrimp, still with the shell, went to the pan, accompanied by a bottle of coconut milk, the juice of a lemon, salt and cilantro.
“And bay leaves,” she said. “I’m rebel”. She stirred the mixture, blew on it, tasted a spoonful. She added more salt and more cilantro, and experimented again. Afterwards, she took a sip of a guarana taken from the fridge. “I’m the most complete Brazilian at the moment,” she said.
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