There are people who impress you with their talent and there are people who make you feel hopeful. And then there is Gina Rodriguez who can impress you with her talent and make you feel hope for a more positive image of Latinos in Hollywood. A stellar performance in “GO FOR IT!” set Gina on the path to her first starring role. In the title role in “Filly Brown,” Gina received great reviews and came away from the Sundance Film Festival with movie and TV offers.
The youngest of three daughters, Gina grew up in Chicago where she states that her blue-collar parents emphasized education. Her early years revolved around church, family, school, and salsa classes. She danced with Fantasia Juvenil and Los Soneros Del Swing; Gina laughingly admits to dancing in the city’s Puerto Rican Parade every year.
Being Latino recently had the pleasure of a conversation with Gina.
About life in front of the cameras:
I entered because it was a passion. God gave me this gift and drive to work. I entered because I didn’t see role models, on the screen, like the ones I had at home. At home I had doctors, lawyers, and investment bankers. On screen, we didn’t play professionals. The extent of actors’ abilities was not seen.
As an artist, I have to play the pretend that becomes the reality. It’s a struggle to say no to roles I don’t like, it’s more important to be a role model than to accept every role that may come my way. We all have a chance to shine brightly.
About being a role model:
I want to be on a platform where I can speak to the greatest number of people. We need to be the writers, producers, and directors in order to raise the image of Latinos. There are so many maids, drug dealers, and pregnant teens portrayed. I am not going to play “that” role. I am not going to perpetuate the stereotypes. TV and film have become a place to see reality, I want to bring a new reality. It’s important to be a role model, I have to look myself in the mirror and know I did my best. Edward James Olmos has been a great mentor for me. He tells me that poor decisions take your integrity bit by bit.
About rapping and singing:
I had already performed as a spoken word artist. It was a way to express myself and I liked the rhythmic flow. I’m going to try everything that scares me, at least once. I want to be a Puerto Rican folksinger and sing songs that you and your five year old can enjoy. I want to sing like Will Smith and deliver a message without cussing, sex, or drugs.
About staying grounded:
My church, my boyfriend, and my family all keep me grounded. My journey has played a huge part in shaping who I am. You have to remember where you come from and that it’s all about the journey and not about the end result. It’s not always you who changes, sometimes it’s the people around you who change. Hollywood will tell you to lose weight, or that you’re not pretty enough. At the end of the day, I want to be left with a full heart.
What’s up next:
I’m doing a biopic about a girl who grows up watching boxing with her father and then decides to become a boxer. It’s a great story about their relationship and it’s something I could relate to because I watched boxing with my father all the time. He was a referee for the Golden Gloves Tournaments.
What does being Latina mean to you?
It means family, art, and passion. It means being different and embracing that. It’s strong, independent women who embrace their curves. It’s La Isla. It’s my Abuela. It’s my faith. It’s arroz con gandules.
Gina Rodriguez. A woman with talent. A woman with passion. A woman with faith. A woman whose star is on the rise.