Saundra Santiago is best known for her role as Detective Gina Calabrese on the hit 1980s television show Miami Vice. She spent three years playing the role of crime boss Carmen Santos on the long-running CBS soap opera Guiding Light. Coincidentally, she appeared simultaneously in a recurring role on The Sopranos as Tony Soprano's next door neighbor, Jeannie Cusamano, and as her twin sister, Joan.
Saundra also had a role in the movie Beat Street (1984) as Carmen Carraro, the girlfriend of Ramo the graffiti artist, and appeared as teacher Louisa Rodriguez in the made-for-TV film sequel To Sir, with Love II (1996), opposite Sidney Poitier.
Additionally, on television, Santiago did a short-term role on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live after leaving Guiding Light. She was a guest star on Law & Order in the 1992 episode "Prince of Darkness" (episode 3.8) and in the 2004 episode "Veteran's Day" (episode 14.15). In 2009, she returned to One Life to Live, taking over the role of Carlotta Vega. In 2011, she took a guest role as Patti D'agostino in the Person of Interest episode Witness. In 2014, she portrayed Marciela Acosta, the wife of gang leader Javier Acosta, in the Fox TV Series Gang Related. In 2016, she played the role of Carmen Baez the mother of Detective Maria Baez in "Stomping Grounds" the 13th episode of the 6th season of the CBS police procedural drama Blue Bloods.