SOUTH BRONX — As Jaina Lee Ortiz's audition to play a detective on the new FOX show "Rosewood" was winding down, she decided it might be worth saying something about her family to the team putting the series together.
"At the very end of my audition, I mentioned to the producers and the writers that oh, by the way, my dad’s a homicide detective," she said, "so I felt like that was a little cheat sheet going in."
Lee Ortiz landed the part and now plays Detective Annalise Villa on the show, which focuses on a private Miami pathologist named Beaumont Rosewood, played by Morris Chestnut, who helps the Miami Police Department solve some of its toughest cases.
"I don’t have to transform into this other person," she said of her role, "because I basically lived it."
He said his daughter had been curious about his work from a young age, but he was initially reluctant to talk about it.
"I try not to share too much, but when I do, she’s very curious on how we handle things, how an officer in general conducts himself in public and with people," he said. "I guess she was taking notes as she was growing up."
Lee Ortiz said her father has become a valuable source of information for her when it comes to playing Detective Villa on "Rosewood," helping her decode the lingo of law enforcement and giving her advice on aspects of the job like carrying a gun and dealing with suspects.
"Instead of Googling it, I would just call my dad and say, 'Hey, what does this mean?'" she said. "How do you make this arrest? How do you speak to this perp? Things like that."
"If there's anything I'm not sure of," she continued, "I always ask him."
Ortiz said he can often see his influence on the show reflected in his daughter's body language and gestures, and he described it as a great feeling to watch her start looking a lot more like him, albeit hopefully with more hair.
"I watch every episode numerous times," he said, "and you can see her gradually get better as the season went on. You can see her get into the feel of it."
"To have law enforcement as her dad’s background, it comes quite natural for her because she lived it," he said.
His assistance with "Rosewood" has even extended to briefly appearing in it for the first two episodes.
He gets chewed out by one of the precinct's suspects in the second episode of the series, and in the premiere, he helps to make an arrest, a role that he said did not require much acting on his part.
"I do that for a living," he said, "so I know how to put cuffs on people."
However, both acknowledged that playing a detective on TV is still much different than being one in real life, with Lee Ortiz noting that they tend to solve crimes much faster on "Rosewood" than they do in an actual police department.
"There's a lot of paperwork that goes on that we don't actually show," she said.
"It's Hollywood," her dad echoed. "It's a little different from what we do."
Ortiz stressed that he would be happy to see his daughter get almost any role, given how difficult it is to find success in the acting business, and the fact that she landed a part as a detective was merely a bonus.
"To play a part as a detective in her first role, it’s an incredible feeling as a parent. Incredible feeling," he said. "We’re very proud of her."
"Rosewood" has already been picked up for a full season, and although Lee Ortiz isn't sure about season two yet, she is hopeful that she'll get to keep playing Detective Villa.
"She is very strong, very smart, very tough. She holds her own," she said. "I feel that she’s definitely a character that I’ve always wanted to play ever since I started acting."