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Rosie Perez Settles In As The First Latina Co-Host On 'The View'

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This week, Rosie Perez celebrates one full month in a job she never expected to hold in the first place, co-host on ABC's revamped version of "The View." She told NPR TV critic Eric Deggans what's fun about the job and what's not.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: There was a time when people turned on "The View" just to watch the fights.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE VIEW")

O'DONNELL: OK, did Iraq attack us, Elisabeth?

ELISABETH HASSELBECK: Iraq did not attack us, Rosie...

O'DONNELL: Correct.

HASSELBECK: We've been there before. I'm saying our enemies, al-Qaida - are you hearing that?

O'DONNELL: I hear it, but where do you want to go?

DEGGANS: But ask new co-host Rosie Perez about tabloid reports of conflict between stars Rosie O'Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg, and she pushes back.

ROSIE PEREZ: It's a little sexist - sorry - because when men may have a disagreement or have whatever, I don't think the same response would have occurred. If everyone's expecting us to have a catfight, it's beyond insulting.

DEGGANS: Perez says the latest version of "The View" features four women who can go from serious to silly in an instant while still respecting each other - like this moment, when Perez asked co-host and former GOP strategist Nicolle Wallace about the first time she met Sarah Palin.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE VIEW")

PEREZ: Can I ask three specific questions?

NICOLLE WALLACE: Yes. (Laughter).

PEREZ: OK. One, what was it like when you first met her? Two, did the winking get on your nerves?

(LAUGHTER)

PEREZ: And three, when did you want to just pop her?

WALLACE: OK. (Laughter).

(APPLAUSE)

PEREZ: This is what I mean about sexism. You have somebody like a wonderful man that I admire, Jon Stewart. He talks about the news in a very, very cheeky way. When women do it, are we being silly? Yes. Is Jon Stewart being silly? Yes. What's the difference?

DEGGANS: Perez joins "The View" this season as part of an extensive revamp that's toned down the conflict. Nicolle Wallace is a conservative with a less combative style, for instance, joining longtime co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie O'Donnell, who had quit the show in 2007. Perez is also the first Latina permanent co-host in the show's 17-year history, a revelation that even surprised her.

PEREZ: It didn't even dawn on me that I was the first, and that says a lot too. Sometimes, we're so preconditioned to not seeing ourselves that you go, oh, yeah, oh, my goodness.

DEGGANS: Now Perez regularly brings Latin culture to "The View," schooling her co-hosts.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE VIEW")

PEREZ: Salsa music used to be one thing, you know, with these great groups like Conjunto Clasico...

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Right.

PEREZ: And in Fania All-Stars there's these young, wonderful Latin...

DEGGANS: Those kind of conversations didn't happen often when Perez was starting out. Her career took off in 1988, when director Spike Lee gave the ex-Soul Train dancer her first major acting job. She played his girlfriend in the classic film, "Do The Right Thing."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DO THE RIGHT THING")

SPIKE LEE: (As Mookie) Trust me.

PEREZ: (As Tina) Trust you? Mookie, the last time I trusted you, we ended up with a son - remember your son?

PEREZ: When I started in the entertainment industry, the wounds of the racism that Latins had to endure - or all ethnicities had to endure - were so open and wide. And I'm like, what do you mean you have an issue with my accent? Do you have an issue with Arnold Schwarzenegger's accent?

DEGGANS: Since those early days, she's earned an Oscar nomination, acted on Broadway, written a revealing memoir and spoken out about AIDS awareness. And when it comes to those who still see her as that young spitfire character...

PEREZ: That kind of perception is old and tired. And I let that go in the early '90s. It's not my issue; it's everyone else's issue.

DEGGANS: That's the kind of attitude that just might help Perez and "The View" surprise a lot of viewers. I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.

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