Born the year after the Swingtown era, Parrilla, 30, did research "about the sexual revolution and how people dealt with it. This was before AIDS so there wasn't that fear. It was free love." She also attended a real-life swinger party. "I felt like I was on a porno set or at an orgy. It was very uncomfortable," she confides, stressing that she "didn't partake." But her observations gave her valuable insight into the swinger psyche. "I got how touchy-feely everyone is, and how everyone devours you with their eyes. I took a lot of the physical behavior with me."
Parrilla, a native of Brooklyn, New York who is Italian on her mother's side and Puerto Rican on her father's, grew up closer to her dad's large (including 20+ cousins) clan. "I'm still trying to perfect my arroz con gandules," she says—and her Spanish, but she's made more headway with the latter. She explains that she knew the language when she was young but lost it once her parents split and she spent more time with her mother. Two years ago she decided she was going to be fluent, and when her 2006 series Windfall ended she moved to Granada, Spain, having visited two months before on vacation and fallen in love with it. "I was in Spanish class five days a week, four hours a day for about four months."
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She returned to L.A. in January 2007 with the intention of landing a pilot to make enough money to fly back. "But Swingtown came my way and when I read the script it derailed me from living a life in Spain. I'm so grateful for it," she says of her favorite job to date. "But my heart cries for Spain every day. I want to go back. And I feel like my Spanish has suffered some because I don't get to practice here," she says. She enrolled in a UCLA Extension Spanish class but had to drop out due to work, and finds that practicing with the set caterers and friends like Esai Morales isn't enough.