‘Filly Brown’s’ Gina Rodriguez Remembers Jenni Rivera

Gina Rodriguez still misses Jenni Rivera—we all do. Fortunately, Rodriguez co-starred with JR in her first film role, Filly Brown, which hits theatres nationwide today. In the film, Rodriguez portrays the titular character, an aspiring L.A.-based rapper with a mother (Rivera) in jail and a father (Lou Diamond Phillips) struggling to make ends meet. Think 8 Mile with a Latina spin. Here the up-and-coming actress remembers her time with "La Diva de La Banda."

“Jenni and I worked together for about a month and half leading up to the Filly Brown shoot dates. I remember when the directors (Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos) went to have dinner with Jenni they were so nervous to meet La Diva de la Banda. So they go and offer her this role for a tiny bit of money and not only does she take it but she pays for their meal, which they were hoping she was going to pay for because they couldn’t afford it. I love when they told me that. I thought, ‘This woman already rocks my world.’”

“They told me that I was going to meet with her to start acting lessons and so I met with her at the production office. So she comes in, beautiful as ever with her curly long hair, the perfect beach waves, and I ask her, ‘How do you get that?’ and she goes, ‘Girl, you need to talk to Jacob [Yebale, Jenni’s hairstylist who also died in the crash]!’ She was so human, humble, and so easy to connect with. Her personality was larger than life but she came in, like, ‘so, here I am, stripped down, equal.’ She was ready to learn, I guess. To me that was beyond admirable.”

“When she helped me with the film’s music, she told me, ‘It’s a story, you’re telling a story.’ So I’d be like, ‘Jenni, how do I do music? How do I do the scenes in the studio?’ She was like, ‘Gina, it’s just the way you act, just tell a story.’ That’s what she did onstage, when you saw her, she was so emotionally connected, she was so raw, that’s why everybody related to her. Her fans are like, ‘You’re talking to me!’ And that’s what she did on Filly Brown. This woman had a heart you could truly see.”

Filly Brown is in theatres nationwide today.