You were in the film Filly Brown. Tell us what it was like to play among greats like Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips. When you are a Latino that is a big deal!
Oh my god, yes! That is a very big deal. It was incredible and it was like I was in school everyday and learning from the masters. I specifically remember having a scene with Lou Diamond Phillips, where it was really emotionally and the camera wasn’t on us, and he was still giving a 110 percent performance.
While he was still crying, Gina [Rodriguez] whispered to him “You know the camera is not on you,” and he was like, “I know but I know that this will affect your performance, so I’m giving you so you can give it back to me. I was like, “Wow, that is a professional right there!” This is a business and people get lazy.
But I learned so much from him, Edward James Olmos and even Jenni Rivera. This was her first film and she knocked it out of the park. So much heart, it was an incredible experience for sure.
What was it like playing Jenni's daughter? Was she very motherly on set?
I was so nervous to meet her. My mom was like “Chrissie, tu hablas mucho,” meaning I talk too much and that is when I get in trouble. She was just like don’t talk too much because this is “La Diva de la Banda," and she is a big deal.
So I meet her and say, “Hi Jenni, I’m sorry but my mom just made me extra nervous to meet you, and so I’m very nervous.” And she said, in true Jenni form, “You're nervous?! I’m nervous because I’m the rookie here.” From that moment it was just so comfortable. She was learning from us and we were learning from her. It was awesome!
What sort of emotions ran through you the day she passed away? I know that was a shocking and heartbreaking moment for everybody.
I’m going to get emotional now. It was a lot to process. I was driving to my friends house and I heard it on the radio, and I was like, that can’t be because she is larger than life, so that isn’t true. I thought to myself, they are going to find her. When her dad got on TV and said she was gone I was devastated that we lost her because she had so much more to give.
I was really upset for a long time. So I went to her celestial graduation and just seeing how they celebrated her life really helped me with accepting that she wasn’t here. Her work lives on now in Filly Brown and with her music. We still have her. They say, “Jenni Vive,” because she still does.
Are there any Latino stars that you look up to or aspire to be like?
I just met Jimmy Smits the other day, and I just had a fan moment. I was like “Oh my god, you need to play my dad in something,” and he said “Dad?” He is amazing! And Rita Moreno. I told you West Side Story is my favorite. She is a legend and just incredible. I find that a career like hers will be amazing for sure!
What's next for you?
There is something happening, but I can’t really talk about it yet until it is for sure. But for me, it’s also about looking for the work that will not just help my career, but also give a purpose to acting. So I am looking for projects that will help change stereotypes of Latinos in Hollywood. That is where I am at. I am kind of being a little selective in what I do, so it takes a little bit longer, but it's worth it in the end.
Disney Channel's Teen Beach Movie airs July 19 at 8 p.m.