Definitely. Do you ever gather inspiration from your heritage for characters you play?
Well I think that there is sort of an innate passion and it’s true what they say it’s almost like a hot-bloodiness you grow up with…I think it’s a cultural thing. I don’t know if it’s a Latin thing or a Caribbean thing or what, but there is definitely a spark there that I don’t have to dig that deep to find, you know? Maybe because of the way I was raised, but I think it’s also like a cultural thing.
As far as like playing characters, I’ve played characters that are Nicaraguan, I played characters that are Mexican. One of the things I love about being an actor is that I could totally suspend my disbelief [and] really try to feel how [it] feels to be other people and be in somebody else’s shoes. It’s not something that I kind of fall back on. So I think I approach every character differently. In The Americans I played a Nicaraguan and I definitely had to, more than most characters, consider my heritage and consider where I was from and try to find the place that she live. And I think that playing a Latina woman from Nicaragua in the 1980’s, that’s a very specific time and place and a very specific sort of political situation that you have to have some knowledge of and opinions about in order to play that character.
Right, of course. Looking a bit into your career beginnings, was there a Latino in Hollywood who influenced your decision to go into acting?
You know, it’s really funny because sometimes I look at Latin people in the industry and I think to myself, “this is really great, we are making strides,” but I think my goal, really I think the goal of any person that’s part of a minority or a majority that feels marginalized, is for it not to even be a thing. You know what I mean? For me to walk into a casting office and for them not to see anything… or see me for the work that I do and not what I look like, that’s the dream. You know what I mean? When I look at someone like Desi Arnaz, I think to myself, this man invented the sitcom…he invented it. Invented how to do the cameras, invented the style and the format and he very rarely gets credit for that. So, I think as a little kid watching I Love Lucy I thought, “wow this is really someone”… and it wasn’t until later when I read his autobiography that I realized how much racism played a role in his career. But from the outside you think wow this is a guy, un cubanito…you know what I mean—moved to Miami, moved to LA, and created this style that we are still using today. We wouldn’t have Friends without Desi Arnaz. We wouldn’t have even like Cheers, or any of these great sitcoms that we love if it wasn’t for a Cuban guy who played the bongos. So, I think that it was more so the contribution in spite of the prejudices of people like Desi Arnaz, Chita Rivera, that I look to and say, you know what I can only imagine how hard it was for you to get there and the doors that you opened for people like me. That’s really… monumental.
Yeah. That’s an awesome answer by the way. Is there any Latino in Hollywood now that you would love to work with at some point in your career?
Oh my god. I mean, if I could just be in a room with Salma Hayek I think I would faint. I just think that she’s so wonderful. I would love to work with a really great director like Robert Rodriguez. I would love to work with Michelle Rodriguez because I think I have a girl crush on her, [Laughs] so that would be great. Also someone like Penelope Cruz who is technically not Latina, but is Hispanic. I think what she is able to do…she is such a talent, her and Javier Bardem. I think they are really great and they are doing amazing work and it’s not just like, hey, look how funny I can be with my accent, you know what I mean? It’s beyond that. It’s about not playing into stereotypes. Those are the types of actors and industry people that I sort of look to and say thank you for doing that because now it’s not just a minstrel show, it’s something we can all be proud of.
Yes, for sure! Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Just watch the show, [Laughs] I think it’s really great. And hopefully my work will speak for itself.
Young & Hungry premieres tonight, June 25 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC Family!