Blanca Camacho is a native New Yorker, a NYU grad and is lucky to have worked with the late Marvin Hamlisch. Blanca is a proud original Broadway cast member of In the Heights, where she played Camila, Daniela, and Abuela during its run. She is known for her work on “Chicago Fire,”” Ice Age” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”.
Blanca has worked in TV, film, theatre, commercials, radio, animation, industrials, audiobooks, web series and was even the voice of Chiquita Banana!
She was awarded the ACCA Award from Actor’s Equity and the Leading Light Award from HACA.
T2C: How did you first hear about Manhattan Plaza?
Blanca Camacho: This was when Manhattan Plaza was not yet opened and was actively “recruiting” potential tenants. I was a student at the time with dreams of being an actress. I picked up a trade paper and saw an ad. My mother and I were living in an old building in the neighborhood and were so excited at the prospect of perhaps being accepted as tenants.
They held an open house where one could pick up an application and write in which apartment line one would like to apply for. We went from model apartment to model apartment ooh-ing and ah-ing, almost afraid to get our hopes up too high. We lingered in each one, they were all so beautiful, before deciding on which ones to write in as our first, second, and third choices.
T2C: When did you move into Manhattan Plaza and how did you get into the building?
Blanca Camacho: We moved in December 1977. We were selected as part of the 15% that would go to people already living in the community. We were original tenants!
T2C: Who have you make friends with in the building and have those relationships lasted?
Blanca Camacho: We made friends with many of our elderly neighbors over the years, and many of them have passed but will certainly be remembered. Lovely persons. Inversely, I’ve had many of my theatre buddies who have moved in over the years and so, yes, they are my very good friends in the building!
T2C: What shows did you do while living in the building?
Blanca Camacho: In terms of theater, I started off with my first show after graduating from school at INTAR, on Theater Row, which was also brand new and part of the rehabilitation of the street. Since then I’ve done many shows and had the honor of eventually making my Broadway debut as an original cast member of In the Heights and have even performed at the renowned Kennedy Center. Definitely the two highlights of my career.
T2C: What has been the biggest changes to the neighborhood and your business?
Blanca Camacho: Certainly the cleanup of Times Square, which was mainly thanks to Manhattan Plaza. But many of us who have been here for a long time have somewhat mixed emotions about the direction that the cleanup took and what it has become today.
T2C: What has living in the building allowed you to accomplish?
Blanca Camacho: That would be the fulfillment of the original purpose of Manhattan Plaza: to give struggling artists the boost they needed to become working artists and financially secure enough to have long-term successful careers.
T2C: What was your greatest accomplishment thanks to living in the building?
Blanca Camacho: That would be having my three children and being able to raise them here. How is Manhattan Plaza responsible? Well, again, as a young actress I was reading a trade paper one Saturday morning a few months after moving in. I noticed an audition at INTAR across the street on Theatre Row that I was right for. But while reading it I noticed that the call was about to be over. Had I lived ANY place else I never would have made it in time and for that reason wouldn’t have gone. I raced over there just in the nick of time and was cast. Not only did that audition introduce me to the New York Latino theater community, which I eventually became a part of, but it also introduced me to the fellow actor whom I would eventually marry several years later. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!
T2C: What would you change from your time living in Manhattan Plaza?
Blanca Camacho: Nothing at all about the living itself that I can think of. However, the yearly volume of paperwork required is another question entirely! Lol. Daunting.
T2C: What is your fondest memory of New York?
Blanca Camacho: It would have to be my city before 9/11. Our family was almost cast for a reality show which would have found us in North Dakota on that terrible day. I remember thinking how relieved I was that we were actually IN our city at that time! Strange, right? But I couldn’t imagine not being “home” at my beloved New York’s most vulnerable when it needed us most. (Or being away from my mom who still lives in Manhattan Plaza as well.) And, yes, I am a native New York City, Hell’s Kitchen/Chelsea born and raised New Yorker. To this day, whenever I watch a film on TV I always check the release date to see if it was made before or after 9/11. It’s just a thing I do.
T2C: What would you like us to know that we haven’t asked you?
Blanca Camacho: I have to express my great admiration and gratitude to the security officers of Manhattan Plaza. They have always been there for our community. I remember in the early days, during the era of the old Times Square, the great relief one would feel when arriving at the corner of 43rd and Ninth under the awning. We knew that Mr. James Burgess was holding down the fort at the desk inside and that you were safe and sound while he was on watch.
On 9/11, as I was trying to get my car out of the garage to go pick up my son from school uptown, I saw one of the guards standing at the entrance to the garage and I asked him if he was OK and whether he’d be able to get home to his family. His response? “I don’t know. But if I can’t I’m here to protect yours.“ Is there anything more to say?
The documentary Miracle on 42nd Street, is available on Amazon and will soon be available to stream.