Exclusive: How Aimee Garcia is Championing Latin Talent in Mainstream Spaces within Hollywood
For more than three decades, Aimee Garcia has championed what it means to live the American dream for Latinas in the arts.
The Chicago native of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent has been a trailblazer in Hollywood, where she has broken the mold of stereotypical Latina roles through her performances on The George López Show, Dexter, Lucifer and now the Netflix original holiday film Christmas With You, where she stars alongside Freddie Prinze Jr.
In collaboration with her writing partner, New York Times bestselling author, AJ Mendez, Garcia recently launched Scrappy Heart Productions, a content creation company dedicated to elevating diverse voices and giving life to representation across the board.
The pair has collaborated on many projects like Universal's Blade of the 47 Ronin, for director Ron Yuan, a women-led samurai movie as well as penned a G.L.O.W.-inspired comic and a Dungeons and Dragons-inspired comic.
In an exclusive interview with People Chica, Garcia dives into her 20-year career in Hollywood, how she is uplifting the new generation of Latine artists and how she connects with her fans on a daily basis.
We're seeing a rise in Latinas being cast in important roles, not just playing the roles of stereotypical Latinas, but as lawyers, teachers, lovers, mothers and main characters. How do you think we can continue striving for these roles while honoring our cultura?
I am so proud to be Latina and as you said, we are nurses, we are teachers, we are mothers, we are wives, we are businesswomen—finally! I think we should continue supporting projects, actresses such as Jenna Ortega, who is Latina, playing Wednesday on Netflix and Christmas With You. In the cast, there are many Latinos not only in front of the camera but also behind.
We have a Latina director and Netflix has given so much support to this movie because they see that people love the trailer and they love the Spanish. I think we should continue supporting our projects. Melissa Fumero, who is Latina, is Cuban, is premiering in a Netflix series called Blockbuster, I think that we continue seeing what we see and also supporting.
You and your writing partner AJ Mendez recently launched Scrappy Heart Productions. What can audiences expect from this collaboration?
Well, we wrote a movie that just now came out on Netflix called Blade of the 47 Ronin, which is a samurai movie with two women protagonists that we're very proud of. She [AJ] is Puerto Rican, I am half Puerto Rican, [and] we've written many comics. For example, we have a Wonder Woman comic, I put a Latino family in this book and that made me so proud because I thought, "You know it's small, it's a small thing," but I cried seeing a Latina in the world of DC.
We started the Scrappy Heart company because we didn't see ourselves represented. So we said, "You know what, we're going to write the roles, we're going to write the stories," and we're writing another movie for Universal that's about a Latino family.
We also just sold something to a network and we're very excited about it. In other words, we want to write the change that we want to see on the big and small screen.
As a Latina, what elements of your cultura do you bring into your work?
Spanish is my first language, my mom is Mexican, my dad is Puerto Rican, they work so hard, they have a big heart, they have a lot of ambiance, they appreciate life, family is super important. They give security with their love. I have been in Hollywood for a long time and I believe that my culture and my family have given me the courage to dream big even though 20 years ago I was one of the few Latinas in the American market. I did not care because I had the support of my family although they are not in the industry.
They didn't know what I was doing as an actress, they didn't understand anything, but they gave me their support. I always had a house, I always had a family, I always had words of "you're going to make it, you're going to make it." And I believe that it has given me the opportunity not only to be part of one world but of two. I spend a lot of time in Mexico, I think I bring that Latin soul to all my roles, from George López [to] Dexter, I always try to put a bit of Spanish in everything I do. In Lucifer, Ella López was speaking Spanish and I am very proud when I have a Latin last name.
I've been working hard, which I think is also something for Latinos, we work so hard, but we also enjoy life. For me 20 years ago, I auditioned for Selena—imagine, I was like five out of five actresses that long ago and I was so young and didn't know anything. They even plucked out my eyebrows, they told me, "Your eyebrows are from Halloween."
I didn't have much support, like Zoe Saldaña, Carla Souza, we all got together at these events now. I felt very alone, but I really have to thank the Latino community, because even though we weren't having a moment and even though we didn't exist on the big screen in America, I always, always, always felt the support from the Latino community.
Scores of Latinos and Latinas have said that "you can't be what you can see" and have begun rewriting the American dream for new generations. If you had a chance to rewrite the American dream, what would you modify?
I think that I would like to say that no matter where you come from, no matter what country you are from, no matter what language you speak, no matter how much money you have, how much education you have, that you can achieve your dreams.
We have such a rich culture, and that's what I love about this movie, Christmas With You, which is a very classic American Christmas movie. It has everything. It has jokes, romance, heart, it has humor, it has dance. I did all my dancing, I dance with professional dancers because I only had a week to practice and sing all my songs.
I went to sing all three songs, I learned them all in three days and for me personally, it's an American dream to be the lead in a movie that is completely [an] American Christmas, but it has tamales, it has tequila, it has a little of Spanish, it has elements of culture, but it is for everyone. They always ask me, "What do Latinos like?" Well, like everyone else, we like Harry Potter, the Marvel movies, I don't know.
So, I think that would be my dream, that everyone can achieve and know they are only limited by their imagination. I don't know if the Latino community knows what power we have. I mean, we can really change the world. And right now is the moment in which the world is giving us the stage. There's a lot more work to do in Hollywood, but I think that we're in the right direction, the American dream is to really start from anywhere and achieve what you want.
In Christmas With You, you play a burned-out singer who is connecting with her fans in a new way. How do you, Aimee, connect with your fans in real life?
I'm going to Comic-Con all over the world. In just three hours I'm going to Bahrain. I just went to Mexico, Australia, [and] New Zealand, I just came from Paris. Every time I see a fan I always take pictures with them.
They just made me a book from fans all over the world, so whatever a fan gives me, I have it here, it's like a big billboard. For me, I only have a career because of the fans and I honestly thank my mom so much for only speaking to me in Spanish, why? Because I think I would like to speak all the languages, but I love going to Mexico and when people say, "I love Dexter, I love George López."
I love representing, I'm American, but I'm also Latina. But I always connect with my fans through my Instagram or on the street when I see them and through these Comic-Cons. The fans fascinate me and they give me life, I am here for them and I am super grateful because I have had them for years.