Gina Rodriguez has a giving spirit and smiling soul that instantly makes everyone sit up and notice. After her breakout role in ‘Filly Brown’ which recently opened the HBO New York International Latino Film Festival (directed by Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos and co-starring Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips and a slew of underground rappers from Cali), Gina has seen a meteoric dream like rise in her star potential.
LatinoBuzz: Do you recall the exact moment you realized, “Yeah, this is what I want to do!”
Gina Rodriguez: “The exact moment is hard to pinpoint because with each accomplishment, each role, my love for acting grows deeper. It reaffirms that this is what I was put on this earth to do, to be a voice for those that need one. With each dream accomplished, bigger ones are put in their place. I started performing very young as a salsa dancer and every time I was on that stage dancing all I knew was that I wanted to speak. I wanted the music to stop and I wanted to speak. Then in high school I tried out for harlequins and landed the role of Diana Morales in ‘A Chorus Line’, whether or not I was the only Puerto Rican in the school is neither here nor there regardless I BOOKED IT. Opening night came and I was on that stage belting my heart out (I can’t sing by the by) and I felt this sense of calm. Looked out onto the many faces, contorted, smiling, half asleep, it didn’t matter because I knew that was my heaven. That was where I belonged”.
LatinoBuzz: A book you will never forget is…
Gina Rodriguez: “The Bible”.
LatinoBuzz: Five people you would like to have fine wine with and just listen to them talk?
Gina Rodriguez: “Jesus and the Virgin Mary because come on, who doesn’t want to meet her really, let me holler at Gandhi, Frida Kahlo and Albizu Campo the Puerto Rican activist that gets my grandma all worked up! Oh, can I just have a 6th? My French great grandfather, I would like to have a chat with him too”.
LatinoBuzz: Tell us a crazy on set or audition story.
Gina Rodriguez: “I’ve learned a lot about what kind of actor I want or do not want to be while being on set. I sit back and observe how other actors treat the totem pole of set politics. And truthfully growing up in the hood, mad broke and the youngest of three I was my siblings slave, I had to learn to share, help, accept leftovers and hand me downs with a smile oookaaayyyy…so this one time, there was this one time ya hear, I was on set with name escapes me of course and I watched this person just be straight nasty to the people on set. Being the lead that just makes for an uncomfortable environment. I finally had the opportunity to go and talk to said actor and they straight put their hand up (like TALK TO THE HAND steez) and said “NO, I’m working on a scene!” No you weren’t, ‘you nasty, you’s a nasty. Well from that moment on I knew one, I didn’t want to work with them no more and the image of them I had in my head was quickly destroyed and all in all it put me in check. So ‘Filly Brown’ being my first lead I kept reminding myself, you can set the tone on set, you can make it amazing or atrocious. Why not make it amazing for everyone, right? Seems pretty simple to me. Being a good person seems pretty basic to me. Sad story but true”.
LatinoBuzz: What would you like to see more (or less) from in Latino film?
Gina Rodriguez: “Wow, okay, I mean this is a never ending conversation that can be taken in many different ways. I love Latino films, there are some amazing Latino films ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, ‘Grindhouse’ (what it do Robert Rodriguez), hey I say ‘Fast Five’ was a Latino film there were so many in it, ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’, ‘A Better Life’ (Wepa Demian Bichir), ‘Stand and Deliver’, ‘American Me’ (get it EJO, the legend!) etc. But to me its not what I want to see more or less of its a conversation of why are there not more Latino films?? Why are there not more mainstream commercial films being produced, directed and starred by Latinos that get seen by absolutely everyone because they are well made, well shot, well written etc?? The problem lies in that Hollywood clumps us in one category, we are Latino, not Puerto Rican or Mexican etc but we as Latinos do not do that we see ourselves as Puerto Rican or Mexican. So when a Mexican flick comes out the other Latinos say “oh well that’s a Mexican film.” Not “hey lets go support that Latino film because if we do and it does well in the box office then maybe the Guatemalan film will come out next or the Dominican film.” If Hollywood is going to put us under one umbrella then we need to unite and support that umbrella whether it be Mexican, Cuban, Venezuelan and so on. We are 50 million plus and make up the highest amount of movie goers. If we work together under the umbrella they have placed us under we will see our box office sales sky rocket and then Hollywood can’t deny the money. More money more movies with our beautiful brown faces all over them billboards. I want to SEE more UNITY!”
LatinoBuzz: Who’s hotter, Lou Diamond Philips as ‘Richie Valens’ in La Bamba or Lou Diamond Philips as ‘Chavez Y Chavez’ from Young Guns? Or Can Erik Estrada as ‘Ponch’ from CHiPs have ‘em both beat? – (Random we know).
Gina Rodriguez: “Have you seen LOU?! The man gets more and more handsome with age. No denying HOT in ‘La Bamba’, Banging in Young Guns’ but wait till you see him in ‘Filly Brown’. And his gorgeous wife Yvonne, oh she knows. Sorry Erik but you ain’t got nothing on Lou!”
Gina Rodriguez: “Hahahaha now I know the good stuff is the juice but the truth is Filly Brown is feisty, Gina Rodriguez is a flower. I’m pretty gentle and when it comes to another person I just could never get that angry, especially if I loved that person”.
LatinoBuzz: What have you learnt the most about the industry since the debut of Filly Brown at Sundance?
LatinoBuzz: “5 years from now I will…”
Gina Rodriguez: “…be in a position to use my voice in order to make a difference in the way minorities are viewed in the media. To take what Tyler Perry did for the black community to a whole other level for the Latino community. Distributing good non stereotypical stories from immigrants, first, second, third generation and beyond. Putting our stories on the mainstream screen so that little brown babies everywhere know they can do it to, know that they see their faces as doctors and lawyers. I will fight the good fight so its not so easy to count Latino stars on two hands”.