Dominican American star Dascha Polanco dishes on working with Lin-Manuel Miranda on the musical film In the Heights and raising her daughter Dasany to be a fearless Latina.

By Lena Hansen
July 09, 2019 05:42 PM

Besides starring in the much-awaited final season of the hit show Orange Is the New Black, Dascha Polanco will wow audiences with her role in the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical In the Heights. "I play one of the roles of the salon ladies. That's something that I'm really proud of," she says of this project. "It will come out in 2020, during voting. These are crucial times when we need to be involved as a community, and I think that In the Heights is going to be very important for us, to tell our story, to remind [people] that we are all part of this country-as much as we feel attacked, that we do belong, and are part of the fabric of it," the Dominican American star, 36, tells People CHICA. "It's great to shoot in Washington Heights. It makes me really happy."

(Photo by Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

She is also proud of her role in the Netflix series When They See Us, based on the true story of five African American and Latino teens from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman jogging in Central Park in 1989. "I learned about the story and I auditioned for it. There is a beauty in being able to portray this role," she says about playing the stepmom of one of these teens. "It's very politically charged. These are the types of stories that are important in entertainment."

(Photo by Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

Polanco is not one to shy away from strong characters that have a message for society. "I feel like when we come from a Latin community we are not taught to believe that we can be actors or singers. We are taught to go the safe route because we come here as immigrants and this is not obtainable, it doesn't seem real," she admits of her privileged profession. "I didn't know anyone in the industry, my parents weren't actors. This all came about by divine intervention. As a woman and as an artist, to be able to do what I love and make a living out of it, is a true blessing. It comes with a responsibility. I try to be an advocate for us," she says about her Latinx community.

The actress has also made sure to raise her 17-year-old daughter Dasany Kristal Gonzalez to be proud of her heritage and not afraid to face any challenge. "It's about teaching her that there are opportunities out there and that they are limitless. Whatever you set your mind to, you can accomplish, as long as you have perseverance and you are relentless," she says of her advice to her daughter. "I'm definitely her parent before anything else. I try in my household to embrace our roots, that's very important. We have open conversations. I had my daughter at a young age and we've grown together, but I'm the parent in the household," she adds with a laugh.

Polanco and her late mom were also very close. "With my mom we had a great relationship, we had an open dialogue," she recalls. "There was a lot of respect and trust. She instilled in me things that are very necessary. I'm lucky and blessed to have that."

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