Rosie Perez is playing a high school drama director in Rise, NBC’s inspiring and emotional new drama about a group of students in Stanton, Pennsylvania, and the ways their lives change when they ban together to work on a new musical.

And though the 53-year-old actress may play one of the 10-episode series’ authority figures, she was very much in touch with her younger self — reflecting on her childhood during a recent visit to PEOPLE Now.

“I was a cool nerd,” the Oscar nominee said. “I knew so many people, but I was a book worm, my head was down. I had an agenda. I was going to like take life by the reigns and just go with it. So I understood at a young age that education was my path to success I was very, very serious.”

Though she may have been serious about her education, Perez said she was “also the class clown” — something she did to hide from the truth of how she was feeling inside.

“The class clown aspect of who I was as a young person was a complete facade because inside, I had a bittersweet childhood so I was kind of a very …read more



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