'Dead to Me' star Diana Maria Riva honored as CCM Distinguished Alumna

The Acting alumna has established herself as a dominant force in TV, film and theater

UC College-Conservatory of Music alumna Diana Maria Riva has more than two decades of experience working in television, film and theater. Best known for films including McFarland, USA and What Women Want, Riva most recently appears as Detective Ana Perez on the popular Netflix series Dead to Me. She shares stories and advice from her career in the lastest episode of CCM's School, Stage & Screen podcast series.

Riva  (BFA Drama, ’91; MFA Theatre Performance, ’95) is a recipient of the 2021 CCM Distinguished Alumna Award, which recognizes outstanding professional achievement and engagement with the college by graduates and former students above the age of 40. Fellow 2021 CCM Distinguished Alumni Award award recipients also include Stuart Skelton (MM Voice, ’95) and Xian Zhang (DMA Orchestral Conducting, att. ’98-01). The awards will be presented as part of CCM's Virtual Graduation Convocation Ceremony, which streams on Saturday, May 1, 2021. 

In an impressive career spanning over two decades, Riva has established herself as a dominant force in television, film, and theater. This year, she appeared alongside Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini in Netflix’s hit series Dead to Me. Riva plays Detective Ana Perez, the lead investigator in the hit-and-run collision that killed the husband of Applegate’s character. She will also be seen in the upcoming indie film Kajillionaire for writer/director Miranda July, which is now playing in select theaters.

Riva also co-stars on the new NBC/Hulu comedy Sunnyside from executive producers Kal Penn and Michael Schur. Riva plays Griselda, the Dominican immigrant with a multitude of jobs, who needs the help of a former New York City councilman (Kal Penn) in order to become a US citizen. In addition, Riva can be seen in the Apple TV+ series The Morning Show with Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon. Riva can also be seen with Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader, Billy Eichner and Shirley MacLaine in Disney’s holiday film Noelle is streaming now on Disney+.

On the big screen, she most recently starred in Disney’s McFarland, USA, with Kevin Costner and Maria Bello and Love and Mercy with Elizabeth Banks and John Cusack. Riva also had a supporting role in the critically acclaimed Short Term 12 starring Brie Larson. In 2010, she starred opposite America Ferrera in Fox Searchlight’s Family Wedding. The film also starred Carlos Mencia and Forest Whitaker. Other notable film credits include 17 Again, What Women Want, Employee of the Month, Chasing Papi and The Third Wheel, among others.

Riva starred with Eva Longoria in NBC’s half-hour mid-season comedy Telenovela. She played Mimi, the stylist and best friend to Longoria’s character. Soon after, Riva played Mrs. Rodriguez in CBS’s Man with a Plan, starring Matt LeBlanc. Other series regular television credits include FX’s Saint George, Fox’s The Good Guys and FX’s The Bridge. She also recurred on such prominent series as Madam Secretary, Everybody Loves Raymond, The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Less Than Perfect, The Hughleys, and Family Law as well as The Drew Carey Show, Strong Medicine, The X-Files, The Pretender, Party of Five, The Ghost Whisperer, and In Plain Sight.

She was first discovered by ABC Studios. They quickly signed her to a holding deal and placed her as a series regular in their half-hour comedy Common Law. Though the show was shortlived, Riva parlayed her experience into an impressive small screen resume. She starred as Kim Delaney’s colorful and confident office manager on the ABC/Steven Bochco series Philly.

Prior to her dynamic role on Philly, Diana had already made quite a name for herself as part of the Bochco family — having appeared in recurring roles on City of Angels and NYPD Blue, as well as doing guest-star work on Murder One. She also co-starred on the long-running hit sitcom Sabrina, The Teenage Witch as Annie, Sabrina’s boss at Heat Magazine. Riva received rave reviews in the original Lifetime drama series Side Order of Life, where she played Vivy Porter, a feisty outspoken woman who refuses to allow her diagnosis of cancer get the best of her.

Riva was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio with her native roots going back to the Dominican Republic. She attended CCM where she received her MFA in Theater Performance. While not hard at work, Riva dedicates her time to her family. She and her children reside in Los Angeles.

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