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‘Miss Bala’ star Gina Rodriguez on Latinos being heard in Hollywood

Updated January 30, 2019 - 12:28 pm

As a girl growing up in Chicago, the youngest of three daughters, Gina Rodriguez had some lofty dreams. “I was 14 when I decided I wanted my own TV show. But it was tough. I didn’t see color on the small screen. I used to think we didn’t exist. Latinos weren’t part of the conversation.”

Rodriguez, 34, has been working hard on changing that fact. She stars in “Jane the Virgin,” returning this spring for a fifth and final season. First up, she has a starring role in “Miss Bala,” in which she plays Gloria, a young makeup artist from Los Angeles who comes into her own power when she is kidnapped and forced to smuggle laundered money for a drug cartel.

“She has to draw on her strength and smarts,” Rodriguez said. “You’re watching a girl go from ordinary to extraordinary.”

What is your idea of the perfect Sunday?

It’s important that we have the time and a day to take care of ourselves. I relax, sleep, exercise and surround myself with the people I love. It’s really about recharging.

What has been the oddest thing about playing a character called “Jane the Virgin”?

For so long fans would stop and ask me, “So, are you a virgin?” My answer was always “None of your business!”

And now you’ve gone a different route with “Miss Bala.”

I’m so lucky to be a part of a film where a woman gets to be the hero of her own story. I was ready to scale down the side of a building to make that happen. I’m ready right now to do it again.

Did you always want to do an action film?

I’ve been searching and hunting for the opportunity to do one. Action films don’t come along too often for women of color. This was a godsend because it’s not only about a female hero, but I also got this beautiful, amazing female director and an incredibly insane — in the best way — Latino director of photography. Also, it’s not often that you get to participate in a film that’s about 95 percent Latino production from cast to crew. I had the opportunity to speak two languages on the set, and I was immersed in a culture that is beautiful and glorious.

Why is it important for you to bring Latino stories to the big screen?

Latinos make up one out of every four tickets sold at the multiplex. They are among the highest population of moviegoers. We need to hear our stories. We want movies to reflect our culture.

You’re scaling out of windows! Are you athletic?

I started out boxing for fun when I was really young. And I was always that person who craved adrenaline. I love the rush, which is why I asked to do my own stunts. Ever try climbing out of a bathroom window and scaling down a wall in heels?

The guys are scared of you.

Taking down a few men was pretty easy. I was like, “Bring it on.” I thought of the action scenes like stepping onto a crazy roller-coaster.

“Jane the Virgin” is coming back soon. Can you believe it’s Season 5?

I’m so proud of the show. We’ve seen Jane go through a big transformation. She went from thinking her life would look like this perfect picture. Then it didn’t happen. Then she became a mom and found a different way that was still so sweet and still full of surprises. I’m proud that we also tackle issues without judgment.

Why do audiences love Jane?

The heart of the show is the three generations. They lead with love and always have each other’s backs. It’s beautiful.

Didn’t your father, Genaro, a boxing referee, give you a mantra that has served you well in life?

He did. When I was a little girl, he would drop me off at school. One day, he stopped at a light and told me to look into the rearview mirror and say, “I’m going to have a great day today. I can and I will.”

So, did you?

It funny. When he first told me to say it, I was like, “You’re out of your mind. I’m 15. I’m not looking into the mirror and saying those words.” Then I said, “Fine, today is going to be a great day. I can and I will. OK, Dad?” But then he made me say it the next day. And the next day. After a little while, it became a part of me. It was a calling of my inner self to say, “Wake up. You got this.” And you know what? You can make it a great day.

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