Gina Rodriguez recognizes there’s a problem in Hollywood. She also knows what she can do to help fix it.
Gina Rodriguez lives by her own terms and conditions. So when the Jane the Virgin star — whose primary language is English — was tapped to partner with AT&T for its new Unlimited Plus streaming plan, she jumped at the chance, even if it meant the ad campaign was in Spanish.
“To be honest, to be someone who Spanish is their second language, and being Latina and feeling very lots of orgullosa para ser Latina (“proud to be Latina”), I am very much my culture for sure,” she told A Plus. “I was feeling like Selena (Quintanilla), like, ‘Soy muy happy!’ I was definitely living that moment.
“I need to start embracing that and practicing my Spanish. It was a challenge, but a very, very cool one. And it was to make my parents proud and my grandma proud.”
Her confidence and unyielding ability to go for it is something Rodriguez has used to win over the hearts of millions. Not only has the Golden Globe-winning actress set the stage for making big dreams become reality, but she doesn’t hesitate to share her knowledge and leads by example, especially when it comes to diversifying Hollywood.
“As much as I can say what I think other people need to do, I don’t find any solution in that. I find solution in what I can do,” Rodriguez explained. “Instead of saying, ‘Those people need to do it, Hollywood needs to get it together,’ no, I’m a part of that community now, and I need to get it together. And I need to use my platform in order to create opportunities for others, because if I want to see the change, I gotta be the change. I’ve been creating avenues for others to have success the same way others have created it for me.”
Earlier this year it was announced that her I Can And I Will production company inked an overall deal with CBS Television Studios. Under that, her company will develop a wide range of projects for network, cable, and streaming platforms. And she proudly joins the movement of female filmmakers who are “standing up, creating organizations, and making their imprint known.”
“We just sold our first show, and it’s a Latino-led show and it’s written by a Latina. We’re going to have Latinos both in front of and behind the camera, both female and male,” she said proudly. “It was really important that our first project — and mind you, it’s going to be every project — but it was really important that we dove head first into, ‘How do you create a solution for the lack of representation?’ You make projects that have representation.”
Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass was recently sold to Hulu and is written by Meg Medina. Rodriguez boasted about the show being inclusive of several subcultures within the Latino community, something rarely seen in movies and TV shows.
“Our lead is a Cuban-American, Yaqui Delgado is Dominican, her boyfriend’s Mexican, their best friend is Panamanian, ’cause it’s New York City and guess what, we’re all over the damn place,” she said. “It’s going to be an opportunity for us to show the world how all these different Latinos interact and how specifically different we are, these subcultures, but at the same time how we do represent this community as a whole, and it’s under the theme of bullying, which is universal and color-blind.”
This is just the beginning of Rodriguez’s fight to diversify Hollywood to not only be more inclusive of Latinos, but to represent the diversity within the community and all the unifying factors that come with it, which are often difficult to understand from the outside looking in.
“We’re united under the language, under this dual identity, and under this stigma of being Latino in this country,” the Puerto Rican actress explained. “I represent and will always represent Latinas as a whole.”
Growing up in Chicago, Rodriguez felt a closeness with the African-American community early on. Today, she says that community’s strides and accomplishments in the film and TV industry are something Latinos can learn from — she definitely has.
“The African-American community has done it so well when it comes to integrating themselves into the industry without saying, ‘You need to cast me.’ They’re casting themselves!” she said. “They’re making their own movies. From Jordan Peele to Hidden Figures to Ava DuVernay, Oprah smashing it forever in time. I take a lesson from that community that I’ve always felt attached to.”
As a kid in Chicago, she grew up on shows such as The Cosby Show and A Different World.
“Those were my heroes because they were the closest to my skin color. It was the closest to my father’s skin color. It was the closest to my roots,” she said. “They aren’t waiting for anyone to give them the opportunity. They’re making it themselves.
“And Latinos are doing the same thing. We are,” she continued, reiterating the importance of a unified front among Latinos, “as one, versus I’m Salvadorian, I’m Cuban, that girl’s Dominican, that girl’s Puerto Rican, which continues to divide ourselves.”
In a country that feels so divided these days, Rodriguez is also standing up against small-mindedness and ignorance in the age of a new administration. After all, it’s what she saw her parents and grandmother do when she was a little girl.
“My grandmother is a huge activist. She was always fighting against injustice, always my entire life. My parents were always politically active in Chicago,” she said. “So one thing I learned from a very young age is that you do not stay quiet, you do not stay silent, especially if someone is being hurt, marginalized, disenfranchised … you speak up when you have the opportunity and if you are educated on it. So you best believe I keep myself quiet until I am fully informed. But if I am, I’m gonna make some noise.”
By A Plus’ ZAYDA RIVERA
The A Plus Interview reimagines the celebrity interview by inviting artists to answer a short series of brief, poignant questions that strive to be more meaningful than those asked by others. Visit on the last Thursday of each month for the latest installment.