I first saw Rodriguez in an independent movie called Sleeping with the Fishes – I remember it being a Sunday and it was incredibly quiet in the neighborhood. As people were congregating at their churches, I quite possibly the only person in my street still at home. As the leaves hit the pavement, I was enjoying watching Rodriguez portray a troubled young widow deal with disappointing her mother (a character that eerily reminded me of my own grandmother) and trying to get back on her feet with the help of her older sister. Fishes introduced me to Rodriguez and her comedic and dramatic abilities as an actor. I watched as she easily navigated from one end to another and wondered why the film wasn’t well known in Hollywood.
Then I realized that the film was written and directed by (award-winning) Latina Nicole Gomez Fisher, and starring a Latina – there was no way this was going to hit Hollywood’s radar – but I digress.
At the time I saw Fishes, I hadn’t had the pleasure of Rodriguez in Jane the Virgin but knew that her performance in the title role had to be something great since she was awarded a Golden Globe. Then I was able to stream the series that gave her so much recognition on Netflix and binge-watched the shit out of it. I couldn’t stop laughing and I couldn’t stop seeing parts of my life as a Latina in all aspects of the series. It’s like I saw myself in her performances, and also in her body type – something that’s proven to be rare.
One of the things that I love about Rodriguez is that she not only has great comedic range, but gives spellbinding dramatic performances with the same ease.
Her performance in Filly Brown is riveting. She easily tears at every emotion inside you, and along with the late Jenni Rivera (who performs her character so well it made me hate her) Brown is a film that any person who loves good movies would enjoy. The story is strong, the performances are stronger – even if you don’t like hip-hop or rap, you can appreciate the fact that Rodriguez’s Brown is trying hard to make her dreams come true. This movie was one of the few, or probably the only one other than La Bamba where I didn’t mind Lou Diamond Phillips playing a Mexican-American. Don’t get me wrong, Phillips is a strong actor, but I’m always remiss that he’s continuously cast as a Mexican-American when there are many other actors who actually are Mexican-American and can play the part just as well (example: Yancey Arias).
But I’m moving away from the point of this post – Gina Rodriguez. She’s impressed me so much with her versatile performances that my wish is to one day direct her in one of my films. Rodriguez has personally faced criticism for “not being Latina enough” something I’m quite familiar with as well. She eloquently dealt with her haters and continued on proving people she was worth all the awards and recognition by performing flawlessly on screen and working with several philanthropic agencies to help women in impoverished countries, and the National Bullying Prevention Center.
In closing, besides wanting to work with Rodriguez in the future – I can see her career blossoming and opening doors for many more Latinas. She’s real, she’s honest, she’s an inspiration to many people both in her acting and personal life.