EXCLUSIVE: Jeanine Mason Talks 'Default' & Being Latina in Hollywood

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Best known for her role on ABC Family's Bunheads, Cuban American beauty Jeanine Mason is getting ready to hit the big screen.

The Miami-born actress, who just graduated from UCLA this spring, is starring in the new thriller Default. Directed by Colombian-born filmmaker, Simon Brand, Default centers on an American news crew that is taken hostage aboard a chartered jet off the coast of Seychelles by a mysterious crew of Somali pirates.

We spoke with Mason about her role in the film, being Latina in Hollywood, working with LL Cool J, and more. Check it all out in our exclusive interview below:

You made your claim to fame by becoming the youngest winner on season five of SYTYCD and since then you’ve done a lot of work including being Cozette on Bunheads, and now you have this feature film. What has the journey been like for you?

It’s been really fun. I feel like, growing up as a dancer, I trained like an athlete for many years. My dad’s an athlete, so approaching my artistry with an athletic sensibility was really important to me. Training in that way and saying okay I’m going to put in the hours and that’s going to equate to success, and that’s how I’ve approached acting and making this transition in my career. So it’s been fun to me. I’m a bit of a workaholic and I enjoy the hours and I enjoy putting in the sweat, so it’s fun to work and it’s nice now to have these fun projects underneath my belt and popping up this year to sort of celebrate some of the work I’ve done.

Did you ever think that you would end up doing so much acting work after SYTYCD or did you have a different plan?

This was actually always my plan from the beginning. SYTYCD wasn’t my initial plan [Laughs]. I was hesitant to do the show because I was very serious about coming out here and pursuing acting while going to college at UCLA. I thought that doing SYTYCD might hinder me pursuing acting [but] it was an incredible blessing because it set me up in the city — in a financial way and emotional way. Having a support system out here and all that stuff, and having a team to represent me, it ends up being the biggest blessing doing that show. So I’m really happy with where I am.

You were also the first Cuban winner, and that’s also such a huge deal!

Thank you, I’m very proud of that. I had so much support from my family back home — I’m from Miami — and that was too funny. When you’re in the middle of something and you’re entirely consumed by it to get those little texts or pictures of your crazy Cuban family watching the show and having a get together at someone’s house, to this day that’s such a huge part for me. When this film [Default] premiered at the Miami Film Festival earlier this year, my crazy extended family and friends — my aunts and uncles, all my tias and tios, who aren’t actually my tias and tios but they’re my tias and tios [Laughs] — the whole family showed up. They filled up like the entire auditorium. I think there were a few screenings of it. I mean, I don’t know if anybody other than the Mason family saw this film [Laughs].

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