JoAnna Garcia is open and enthusiastic, and so are her dogs! Her canine friends sporadically burst into barking frenzies throughout our interview, but Garcia is completely unfazed by the noise, which tells me this is nothing compared to what she’s used to. Based in Southern California, the 28-year-old actress is the proud owner of 11 animals: four dogs, five horses and two chickens, and with names like Grace Kelly, June Carter, Priscilla Presley and Skynyrd, they’re just another reminder of Garcia’s passion for acting and music.
Despite being born to a Cuban father and a Spanish-American mother, Garcia doesn’t land typically Hispanic roles. From 2001 to 2007, Garcia played Reba McEntire’s somewhat-ditzy daughter Cheyenne on the popular series Reba. Before that, she played a cheerleader on the short-lived but loved show Freaks and Geeks. Garcia is now starring in the new CBS comedy Welcome to the Captain, which airs Mondays at 8:30 p.m., Eastern Time.
Tell me about your new show “Welcome to the Captain”…
It’s a comedy with the backdrop of a bunch of kooky and zany characters in an apartment building. It’s about how our lives are intertwined. [My character] Hope is really cool. She’s very quirky, which I love about her. She’s studying to be an acupuncturist, but she’s not incredibly good at it.
So, horses and chickens. That’s not exactly the lifestyle you’d expect from a young Hollywood actress…
It brings so much peace and sanity to my life. Yesterday we were on the trail for about four hours. We have about 50-something miles of trails right in the hills of Hollywood. It’s something we really enjoy doing together, and it’s such a blessing in our lives. It really is an escape that’s 10 minutes away. It’s something that disengages us from our normal lifestyle. [My boyfriend] Trace [Ayala] and I are always traveling; we’re always busy. It’s a nice escape for us to not worry about our lives and care for these animals.
Does that peace help you avoid the problems that are taking so many young stars to rehab?
I’m glad they’re getting help. I know there are a lot of pressures in this town especially being so young, and especially for the really successful ones who have a million adults bowing down to them. It’s a psychological thing. You don’t know how to fit in. I certainly have made my fair share of mistakes, but I’m blessed to have a good family and Trace. Our animals offer unconditional love. They definitely bring such joy to our lives, maybe it does keep up out of trouble. But I certainly had my fair share of fun.
Are you thinking about doing any Spanish-speaking roles?
I’d really love to. I know that the project will present itself when it’s the right time. When I was starting out, that would have been the time that I could have taken any Spanish-speaking role and never would have been nervous about it. [But] I didn’t look [Hispanic] in a stereotypical way, and the roles just never presented themselves. I was always going out for the cheerleader, or the ‘girl next door,’ but I definitely want it to be a part of my life. It would mean the world to me.
Why do you say you don’t look Latina?
I was born really blonde. My mom and I look identical to each other, and they call us the ‘gringas’ of the family. [But] I have a booty. I got all the good stuff from the Latin side.