Aimee Garcia is used to playing a teen. The 32-year-old actress is probably best known for her role as bratty Veronica Palmero on The George Lopez Show, and in her newest film Go For It! Garcia plays a 19-year-old Chicago-bred Latina who struggles to fulfill her dreams of becoming a professional dancer despite a slew of obstacles. The film, which hits theatres today, was written, directed, and produced by Latina Carmen Marron and features a mostly Hispanic cast.
We caught up with Garcia to talk about her new film right before she made the big announcement that she had been cast on the new season of Dexter (congrats Aimee!) and here’s what she had to say about her film, playing a character so much younger than she is in real life, and her celebrity crush:
Tell us about Go For It!
It’s an inspirational coming-of-age story about a Chicago student. Her name is Carmen and it’s based loosely on the real life of an aspiring dancer—Carmen Marron, who wrote, directed, and produced the film. It’s a story about how this girl reaches for her dreams even though it’s not easy and things get in her way like her parents are both immigrants and not college-educated and her best friend has terrible taste in boyfriends and ends up in an abusive relationship, and she doesn’t come from a lot of money but she really, really wants to go to a good school. She’s dealing with all these things that a lot of first-generation Latinas have to deal with. It’s a brave movie – it’s funny and heartbreaking but most importantly, I think it’s inspiring. When I was a kid, it wasn’t very often that I could go to the movies and see an entire movie carried on the shoulders of someone who looked like me. I’m really excited to be part of a story that portrays Latinas like human instead of we’re just one thing. A lot of times you go see movies or watch TV shows and we’re just stratified sometimes – where it’s the tough Latina or the sexy Latina or the funny Latina where I think I feel very lucky in this role to get to be all those things in one movie. In one scene I’m tough, in one scene I’m flirty, in one scene I’m vulnerable. It was such a joy to read a script that had a Latina protagonist. Unless you’re Angelina Jolie, it’s hard for Hollywood to make a movie that stars a woman and less often stars a Latina.
Do you feel that Latinas will relate to your character?
Definitely. My parents are immigrants and Spanish is their first language. I am first-generation and I speak Spanish and English and I feel like I have one foot in two different cultures and that’s exactly what my character Carmen is like. Both of her parents are immigrants – they didn’t have more than a fifth-grade education and they really want her to go so school. She really wants to pursue her dreams of becoming a professional dancer and her brothers want her to stop dancing all the time and get a job and start helping pay the bills. I think that absolutely – this story was written by a first generation Latina, for Latinas, and acted out by first-generation Latinas. I think that Latinas will absolutely be able to relate and I also don’t think you have to be Latina to relate either. I think you just have to be human and want to have a good time. I think Latinas will be able to relate and see themselves represented on the big scene with integrity – and realistically.
You’ve danced professionally since you were very young. Did portraying a dancer come easily for you in this film?
I feel I have a great responsibility because dancers work just as hard as athletes but get paid significantly less. They have a very short professional life span and spend hours rehearsing. I started my career as a dancer when I was really young, but I started in ballet and jazz and for the film, it mostly hip-hop. For eight months, I trained with hip-hop dancers and I was sore! I had bruises all over my body, I was exhausted and was icing my muscles every single day. I was changing my diet so that I can sustain the level of energy without being weighed down. I had to do all my own dancing and I was lucky enough to practice with some of Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku and Beat Freaks. These girls have danced with the best performers in the world. If they’ve traveled the world with legends, then I better step it up and represent them. I found it difficult because I knew that I wanted to represent them well because they are so hard-working and they’re like professional athletes without the fame, fortune, and endorsements. They’re a very special group of people and I wanted to represent them with integrity and character.
Was it interesting to play a teenager even though you’re not one?
I feel like a teenager! In George Lopez, I played Veronica, who’s a bratty 18-year-old and so I feel like it’s much easier for me to play that because I feel like a late bloomer. It wasn’t difficult or challenging at all because it’s not like I haven’t been a teenager. I think it’s probably more difficult to play older because you don’t know what that’s like. I was a teenager so I can go back and revisit when everything seems like it’s the end of the world – sometimes I still think that.
We don’t hear too much about you in the gossip blogs. Are you a very private person?
I guess so – I guess I’m too busy working and hanging out with family and friends. I’ve been really lucky going from ‘George Lopez’ to ‘Trauma’ – job to job to job. I don’t really have time, I guess I am a really private person. I get very territorial with my family. That’s where my Latina comes out. You can mess with me, but you mess with my family and friends – you’re going down!
Are you dating anyone? Would you care to share?
I’m dating a very high-maintenance career. It takes up all my time – but if you run into Ryan Gosling, tell him to give me a call!
Any upcoming projects that you can share with us?
I should know something within the next 24 hours, but I don’t want to jinx it. But it would be very cool. It’s not official so I don’t want to say anything yet.
Watch Aimee and her costar Gina talking about their roles in Go For It! below: