Los Angeles Insider: Venice Actress/Environmentalist Leonor Varela

Appearing in films such as "The Tailor of Panama" and "Hell Ride," and on television in "Arrested Development" and "Cleopatra," Leonor Varela has worked with much of Hollywood's top talent in her more than 10-year career. The Chilean-born Varela, also a model, isn't content with just her role in front of the camera; she's gotten involved with many environmental causes, too.

Living near the beach in Venice, Calif. has helped nurture a passion for environmental causes. It's also where she's happiest in L.A.

Varela tells us about her favorite pockets of Venice and where you can find calm in the artsy community.

Name, Age, Occupation: Leonor Varela, 37, actress and environmentalist.

Neighborhood: Venice, Calif.

Abode: Two-bedroom house. It's a big, modern house with a very airy downstairs and kitchen.

How long have you lived in Venice? I've lived in the Venice/Santa Monica area for seven years now. It's where I'm happiest.
What do you love most about your neighborhood?
In short: Being close to the ocean; I love the beach.

Venice has a great mix of the ocean and having an outdoorsy kind of life, plus it has the urban, artsy feeling that I really enjoy and that I feel comfortable in. It's a good mixture of urban and outdoorsy, which is kind of who I am at heart.

In Los Angeles it makes sense to me to live by the ocean. Here it all comes together in a place I love and a lifestyle I have come to embrace and thrive in. Before, I lived in Hollywood, and I think I was much less happy than I am living here by the beach. I just went for a surf this morning at 7 a.m. That's how my day starts here, it's wonderful.

Do you talk to your neighbors? It's very friendly people and they all watch out for each other. I've had people knock on my door and tell me I'm parked on the wrong side of the street so as to not get the annoying ticket. It's a very homey neighborhood.

Best kept secret in Venice? It's a little pocket, a little neighborhood behind the Whole Foods. There's a little park on Ozone and Dewey, and it's a tranquil area with lovely people. I so enjoy sitting in this park! You see kids playing and all the moms with their kids, people walking dogs and you lay in the grass. I love taking my book and reading there. I love how calm that pocket of Venice can be, since Venice can be noisy with helicopters, police sirens.

You are from Chile and travel the world all the time (she speaks Italian, French, Spanish and English). Is this how you got involved in environmental issues?
Actually I think I became an environmentalist and aware of wanting to take care of the ocean from living by the ocean here in Venice and Santa Monica. It's made me want to be more proactive and take care of the ocean I enjoy. Because of my love of the ocean, I started getting involved in my country of Chile. It's been more urgent to me there, as it's where my heart is. So I will go down and work with Oceana, which is a nonprofit that focuses on care of the oceans around the world. We will do work to protect the marine areas, to construct a thermal electric plant and work with fishermen, so that safer fishing is implemented for the benefit [of wildlife].

Another nonprofit I work with is NRDC and I've been working with them in the south of Chile's Patagonia region, to stop damming in one of the most pristine areas in the world. It's a sweetwater reserve and they want to dam the whole thing. I did a documentary called "Caleta Tortel" about a small town in Patagonia around the area they want to dam. It's a town completely on stilts and so beautiful and unique. I thought it was a way to show people the area -- and they would fall in love with it because it's so picturesque and the people are so lovely -- and then would want to help. It's a little jewel on stilts, and they are so remote and live in nature. It's so beautiful and it should remain.

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