She Played Molly in "Showgirls." See Gina Ravera Now at 56.
The actor has criticized the cult favorite for sidelining her character.
Fans of the 1995 NC-17 flop-turned-cult classic Showgirls will remember Gina Ravera for her role as Molly, best friend of Elizabeth Berkley's Nomi. While Molly is unfortunately relegated to the sidekick role, she helps the protagonist find her footing in Las Vegas and, later, provides means for her redemption when Nomi avenges a horrific crime committed against her.
Showgirls may live in infamy, but afterward, Ravera stayed active in Hollywood with roles in a number of notable films and series—including a pivotal appearance in 1997's Soul Food in that one writer described as "one of the most iconic moments in Black culture, Black movie history, Black history." Keep reading to find out how the actor views the role of Molly almost 30 years later, and see her now, at age 56.
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She played a doctor and a detective.
In the years following Showgirls, Ravera had supporting roles in Spike Lee's Get on the Bus, Kiss the Girls, and the miniseries The Temptations before wrapping up the 1990s as a regular on the Party of Five spin-off Time of Your Life.
Her role in the movie Soul Food, in which she plays the cousin and romantic rival of Vanessa Williams' Teri, entered the pop culture lexicon when it inspired Williams to ad lib a now-iconic line. After Teri catches her husband having an affair with Ravera's character Faith and is told not to let it tear the family apart, Teri exclaims, "Oh, [expletive] the family!"
In the 2000s, the Showgirls actor appeared in guest spots on The Fugitive, Charmed, and Boston Legal, and was cast as a regular in the TNT series The Closer and in a 13-episode arc on ER from 2006 to 2008, playing radiologist Bettina DeJesus, the love interest of Mekhi Phifer's Dr. Greg Pratt.
She left her most recognizable role at its peak.
Ravera would remain on The Closer through the fourth season in 2009, noting that her character Irene Daniels—who was once described in The New York Times as "a young, attractive detective who also happened to be the only member of the squad with no distinct personality"—was quite a departure for her.
"I'm very passionate and very expressive," she told Fanbolt in 2008. "This character, Daniels, is far more reserved than I've ever played. It was very difficult to play someone who was so buttoned down, so straight."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ravera left the series after just four of its eventual seven seasons, with Daniels deciding to transfer to another unit after her breakup with fellow squad member Sgt. David Gabriel (Corey Reynolds).
In the years since, Ravera's acting career has slowed to occasional appearances on series including Lie to Me, CSI: Crime Investigation, and Castle. Ravera posted no credits between 2014 and 2018, before returning to television for three episodes of the CW comic book series Arrow. She has appeared on screen just twice since, in two episodes of Station 19 in 2020 and as the voice of Room Service in an episode of the Apple TV+ series Calls.
While Ravera has been mum on why she left The Closer and what's next for her, her IMDB profile does credit her as a writer on a production titled Exit, suggesting that she may be putting her creative skills to new use.
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She started a nonprofit.
In 2007, Ravera started Project Reina (PR), a non-profit focused on preventing the spread of HIV among Latina and Black adolescents and young women. Alongside The Closer assistant director Anna Notarides and fellow actors Angel Moore, Ana Ortiz, Teresa Randall, and Lisa Vidal, Ravera sought to empower young women with the message that "they deserve to be cherished and adored," as well as to provide them with information on sexual health.
"We function as big sisters, giving young women information about life and sharing our experiences from when we were young," Ravera said in a 2010 interview. "It's not just about AIDS prevention; it's an acknowledgment that life is a gift and it's your responsibility to do something with it."
In addition to her work with Project Reina, Ravera has teamed with organizations including Until There's a Cure, which works to end HIV and AIDS, and Common Threadz, devoted to assisting children in rural Africa.
She has regrets about her role in Showgirls.
As Showgirls reached its 25th anniversary in 2020, Ravera reflected on the role of Molly in an interview with Yahoo! News. While she noted she "felt seen" by director Paul Verhoeven, who she said acknowledged the difficulties of being a Black woman in Hollywood and gave her room to make the character her own, she also expressed misgivings about Molly's place in the script.
"It's the Hattie McDaniel role, where you take care of the needs of the white woman, and you don't have a storyline of your own," she said.
Ravera also shared the emotional difficulties of filming a scene in which Molly is brutally assaulted, noting that she has since refused to take on jobs involving sexual violence and commenting on the problem she sees with the film using Molly to redeem the protagonist.
"You're just brutalizing this character; you tear the character apart and you don't do anything with it—she just sits there broken," she said. "That I still have a problem with. We're watching a Black girl be completely gutted for no reason except to have this character [Nomi] vindicated, because she has no redeeming qualities whatsoever."
Amid for the film's campy comeback, Ravera has remained skeptical and skipped the reunions, noting she has only seen Showgirls once since its release. "People want to just call it camp, but it isn't camp," she told Yahoo! News. "There's too much darkness in it to avoid all of the weight."