For the first of our Hispanic Heritage Month series w/Startup to Storefront, we had the pleasure of speaking with renowned actress Justina Machado.
With an acting career that has spanned over 20 years, Justina has a multitude of acting credits to her name. Some of these include include Penelope Alvarez in the Netflix and POP sitcom One Day at a Time, Darci Factor in the The CW dramedy Jane the Virgin, & Vanessa Diaz in the HBO drama Six.
Startup to Storefront host Diego Torres-Palma had the opportunity to cover several topics with Justina ranging from she got her start in acting, some of the major challenges she’s faced in her career, and what can be done to better improve Latino representation in the entertainment industry.
What made you want to get into the World of Acting?
Justina: I just kind of fell into it to be honest. I mean I’m born and raised in Chicago, and when I started out, I was working at a bank. I had just graduated from high school and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. My best friend’s Mother was Myrna Salazar, the first Latina agent in Chicago. She called me up one day and said that there’s a play at the Latino Chicago Theater and they’re looking for a young Puerto Rican girl that’s 16 years old. She told me. “I know that you’re not an actress, but I think you have great stage presence”. I was so desperate because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life so I went and I never stopped.
The artistic director, Juan Ramirez, was my mentor and he kept inviting me to be in plays. I remember he would say “Do you think you’re an actress now?”, because I thought that [calling yourself an actress] was so corny because in my world nobody was an actor. so I didn’t start calling myself an actor until I left Chicago and I moved to New York.
What was your first role in LA?
Justina: There was a show called “Second Noah” The pilot got picked up, and I got fired from the pilot. I had never experienced anything that happened [on the show]. That was super devastating but I just kept going.
The next thing after that, I did a movie with Sean Penn called “She’s So Lovely” and I was terrified I was going to get fired because after that [ Second Noah] you’re like “Oh God I’m gonna get fired from everything” & I was terrified. It was late at night and I do remember in 1995 I think and it was shooting downtown. I remember when I went there they always thought I was a background artist and they were always shocked that I actually had a speaking role because I was Latina.
Why do you think that there isn’t a ton of Latino representation on TV today?
Justina: It’s better, but it’s not as good as it should be. I mean what Latino shows do you see on the air? What Latino families do you see on the air? When people call me from certain news outlets and want to talk about it, they need to start asking the studios that question and not the actors. It’s almost as if they just don’t think we’re viable enough. I also don’t think we don’t make enough noise. We [latinos] buy the most tickets tickets and we consume so much media and yet you we’re not out there in the content.
What do you think like Latinos need to do to be successful to break through in the Industry and change the problem of representation today?
Justina: We just need keep talking about it and keep getting people in positions that are more powerful. My old boss, Gloria Calderon Kellet, she’s one of the best, and is just doing everything to move us forward. Eva Longoria, America Ferrera, these women are really doing stuff, so we just keep doing that. it’s a constant fight.
What I like about the younger generation that’s here now is that they’re not scared to speak out. When I started out you really couldn’t say anything because then you’d be in fear of never working again or somebody blackballing you. Now because of social media, and so many movements that doesn’t really happen. So I do like that everybody is really talking about it and that’s the way it changes, but we also have to support.
To see the full interview with Justina head over to Startup To Storefront’s Youtube Page here
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