Wealth and class are themes that frequently appear in your plays, such as El Nogalar, your retelling of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. Why?
We have such a limited view of who we are. We have stereotypical images that have been fed to us in TV, film and commercials. In fact, we are 27 complicated, rich, diverse countries. We are Jewish, we are Lebanese, we have the richest man in the world in Mexico—but we are still viewed as the person who buses your table and who cleans up after your kids. I have to complicate the people I put on stage. Class is one way to do that.
What led you to start Teatro Luna, the first all-Latina theater ensemble?
I came to Chicago to be an actor and a writer. All the available parts were what I call “the Marias.” They were all named Maria. Maria with no lines, Maria wiping the floor. After a year I thought, “Is this it?” The Maria roles are worth being told, but not if you’re just saying, “Yes, Mr. Johnson.” The opportunities weren’t there, so I said, “I’m going to build something.” I’m so glad I was 23 and stupid about business, because now I would never do that!
How did you go from writing plays to writing for television?
I listened to some agents who said, “You can write for TV—do you want to come to L.A.?” I was single at the time and I had the freedom. I didn’t have the money, so when I got to L.A., I stayed on people’s couches. They offered me the possibility, but I still had to hustle. Six months after arriving, I got the job at Devious Maids.
What’s next for you?
I left Devious Maids and I’m now working for HBO on this beautiful little show called Looking, about gay boys in San Francisco. After that I’m going to go try and sell some shows with Latina leads.
What’s the most important piece of advice you can give young aspiring Latina writers?
Keep writing, even when people tell you that no one will like it. Keep believing in the writing even if you don’t believe in yourself. Our stories are worth telling.