Introducing Sundance Scene Stealer Gina Rodriguez

Gina Rodriguez is soaring right now with buzz for her new film Filly Brown, which is due to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this month. The 27-year-old Chicago native of Puerto Rican descent stars as the title character in the film opposite Jenni Rivera and Edward James Olmos. Rodriguez, a graduate from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, plays an aspiring hip-hop artist struggling to make the right decisions. She shared exclusively with her love for hip-hop, what it was like working with Olmos, and where we can see her next.

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Were you a fan of hip-hop before shooting the movie?

I grew up in the inner-city of Chicago where hip-hop thrives. I used to do a lot of spoken word. I loved poetry. I loved lyrical poems and mixing writing with my own personal desire to perform. When I went to NYU, I was in some hip-hop theater courses and I helped co-write a theater mainstage performance. But I had never done rap. So I always kept to spoken word, but I always admired emcees. So when Filly Brown came to the table, they said Filly Brown was a spoken word artist. Then, there were rumors they were going to change her from a spoken word artist to a rapper so I threw down a little rap piece I had written and a week after booking it, I was in the studio recording my first song ever.

Would you want to be a hip-hop artist now?

I would love the opportunity to be that positive, motivating, inspirational voice for young girls who don’t think their dreams will come true and grow up poor in the inner-city like I did. So hip-hop artist is definitely a goal of mine along with obviously being an actor, which I’ve been working on for so many years. Let’s hope the hip-hop community accepts me. Hopefully they have some room for a Puerto Rican chick! 

What was it like working with Edward James Olmos? 

It was a dream come true. I mean, he’s a godfather to the Latino community. I never stopped watching him from Stand and Deliver to his directorial debut in Walk Out. I would have to keep pinching myself because I would look over and he would wave and say ‘There’s my star.’ I would just want to crumble and start crying. It was such a blessing.

Jenni Rivera's 'Filly Brown' to Debut at Sundance Film Festival

What’s next for you?

A really great thing is in the works with a wonderful network. I am also working with Michael Olmos, one of my directors from Filly Brown. Right after the film, he came to me with another project about a girl boxer, an autobiography about her and her single dad. It struck a chord with me instantly because my father is a referee for professional boxing and I boxed my whole life with my dad. It really brought us together with the sport. So [Olmos] said, “I don’t know if you like boxing…” and I was like “What?! Come on now.” So we’re hoping to get back to that when we come back from Sundance.