Wanda De Jesus is an American actor. She is a 'City University of New York' alumna. Wanda decided to follow her passion for acting at the age of 12. She, however, began her acting career through theater. By the end of the 1980s, she had ventured into TV and films, focusing majorly on the action genre. After a few brief appearances in TV series, Wanda proved herself as an actor with the soap opera 'Santa Barbara.' She is the fourth actor to play ‘Santana Andrade’ in the ‘NBC’ series. Some of Wanda’s other notable TV projects are 'CSI: Miami,' 'Law & Order: LA,' 'Live Shot,' 'All My Children,' and 'Sons of Anarchy.' She has also appeared in several TV movies, of which 'Almost a Woman,' based on the autobiography of Puerto Rican writer Esmeralda Santiago earned Wanda her first award. Some of her notable silver-screen projects are 'Illegal Tender,' 'Water & Power,' 'Blood Work,' 'Ghosts of Mars,' and 'The Ministers.' Wanda is in a live-in relationship with actor Jimmy Smits.
Childhood & Early Life
Wanda was born on August 26, 1958, in Manhattan, in “Little Italy” East Harlem, New York. Her parents were first-generation immigrants from Puerto Rico. Wanda is of Hispanic–American descent.
Wanda attended the 'High School of the Performing Arts' in New York. There, she discovered her passion for acting. She then attended the 'City University of New York' and graduated in 1981, with a major in performing arts.
While at the university, Wanda took a year off and joined the popular New York punk rock band called 'Coney Island White Fish,' as a singer.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Wanda began her career as a stage actor. She was cast as ‘Lourdes’ in the 1986 Broadway 'Cuba & His Teddy Bear.' She worked with actor Robert De Niro in the play. Marked as De Niro’s ‘Broadway’ debut, the play earned Wanda huge critical acclaim and helped her establish herself as a talented actor.
The same year, Wanda ventured into the TV circuit with the 'NBC' soap opera 'Another World,' in which she was seen as ‘Gomez.’ In 1987, she got her first regular TV role, as ‘Leda Cervantes’ in the series 'Mariah.' After brief appearances in a few more TV productions, she made her film debut in 1990. Wanda was cast as ‘Luisa Diaz’ in the buddy-cop action–comedy film 'Downtown.' She also appeared as ‘Estevez’ in another action flick, 'RoboCop 2,’ and as ‘Suzita’ in the 1990 TV miniseries 'Lucky Chances.'
From 1991, Wanda began playing ‘Santana Andrade,’ one of the most recast characters in the 'NBC' soap opera 'Santa Barbara.' While still on the show, Wanda appeared in the 'ABC' legal drama 'Civil Wars' (as ‘Linda Rodriguez’) and the TV film 'Fatal Friendship' (as ‘Darlene’). She had a recurring role as ‘Liz Vega’ in the 'UPN' series 'Live Shot,' for which she was nominated for a 'NCLR Bravo Award' for ‘Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series.’
Wanda has been part of two videos, as ‘Debra Skelly’ in the political thriller 'Executive Power' (1997) and as ‘Magdalena Scanlon’ in the crime drama 'Time to Pay' (1999). After appearing in the TV movies 'Gold Coast' (as ‘Vivian Onzola,’ 1997) and 'Almost a Woman' (as ‘Mami,’ 2002), she bagged the recurring role of ‘Detective Adell Sevilla’ in the 'CBS' police-procedural drama 'Crime Scene Investigation: Miami.' In 2003, Wanda received the 'Imagen Award' for the ‘Best Actress in a Television Film’ for her performance in 'Almost a Woman.' In 2007, Wanda received an 'Imagen Award' nomination for her performance in the film 'llegal Tender.'
Some of her significant TV roles were that of ‘Iris Blanco’ in the 'ABC' soap opera 'All My Children' and ‘Carla’ in the 'FX' crime drama 'Sons of Anarchy.' Her role a brothel operator in the latter was well-received. In 2010, Wanda was seen in the role of a commanding officer of the ‘LAPD,’ ‘Lt. Arleen Gonzalez,’ in the 'NBC' police and legal drama 'Law & Order: Los Angeles.' The role had undergone several significant changes after Wanda joined the cast. A few episodes of the series were shot with some other actor even after Wanda had completed filming two episodes.
Wanda was cast as ‘Officer Siler’ in the 2013 film 'Water & Power.' directed by Richard Montoya, The film was an adaptation of his 2006 play of the same name. Wanda had watched the play and was heavily impacted by Richard’s writing. She met Richard at another event later and discussed the potential of the play to be made into a film. After about a year, Richard asked Wanda to listen to the script as a film and even offered her a role in it.
Family & Personal Life
Wanda is in a relationship with actor Jimmy Smits. They began dating in 1986, a year before Jimmy divorced his first wife, Barbara Smits, with whom he has two children, Taina (born in 1975) and Joaquin (born in 1983).
Though secretive about her personal life, Wanda has revealed that she had first met Jimmy in New York in the early 1980s. She was then working on a play. Eventually, her friendship with Jimmy transformed into a passionate affair. They later began living together.
Wanda was first introduced to director Kurt Sutter and actor Katey Sagal (the duo from 'Sons of Anarchy') at a 'Barclay' event. She had attended the event with Jimmy. Wanda had been a huge fan of 'Sons of Anarchy' and especially of Kurt’s excellent script, which included strong women characters. She persuaded Jimmy to start a conversion with Kurt. The conversation later landed Jimmy a role in the series. It had Wanda in a recurring role.