EXCLUSIVE: Selenis Leyva on ‘Orange is the New Black’ & Latinas in Hollywood

If you’ve turned on a show in the past decade, chances are you’ve seen Selenis Leyva. From her time on the Nickelodeon show Taina to Law & Order to HBO's Girls, the Dominican and Cuban actress has been busy making her mark in entertainment. And now, as a star on Netflix’s star show Orange Is the New Black, she’s bringing another character to life: sassy Gloria Mendoza, the Latina inmate with the fantastic one-liners (“Great, another f*cking coconut.”)

We caught up with the actress to talk about what we can expect in season 2, her obsession with SNL and how she sees Latinas in Hollywood:

Tell us a little bit about your background and where you grew up.

I grew up in the Bronx – born and raised. My mother is Dominican and my father is Cuban.

How did you get into acting?

At a really early age, I was imitating telenovela actors. My parents watched them and I would play as them, acting out scenes. As I got older, I realized there were places you could go to do that sort of thing. I ended up going to LaGuardia High School [a music and performing arts high school based in New York City] and majoring in drama. It was the first time where I felt like, “this is what I am.”