"We’re humanizing a political subject that is something that the screen needs more of," she says. "It’s such a blessing and an honor that we get to portray these stories."

At just age 21, actress Emily Tosta has already appeared in series like Mayans M.C., Rosewood and NCIS: Los Angeles, but in 2020 she’ll take on her biggest project to date: the new Party of Five reboot, premiering January 8 on Freeform. The original ’90s series revolved around a family of five kids and young adults raising themselves after their parents died in a car accident; in the new version, the family’s parents have been deported to Mexico.

Tosta plays Lucia, a straight-A student and the eldest daughter in the Acosta family. “She always played by the rules until her parents got deported, and that changed her so much,” Tosta tells People CHICA. “That changed her perspective toward life. It changed the way that she viewed the people around her, the way that she saw school and her surroundings and her environment, and she developed this anger toward the world.”

Tosta says the reboot’s political twist is one of the things that drew her to the show in the first place. “We’re humanizing a political subject that is something that the screen needs more of,” she says. “We’re talking about something that’s very realistic. It’s happening right now in this country, it’s very timely. There are families that are being taken away from each other … and it’s something that I haven’t seen much of on screen. It’s such a blessing and an honor that we get to portray these stories.”

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Tosta says there was a lot of American TV she missed out on, but she’s been catching up on the original Party of Five with her on-screen sister Elle Paris Legaspi. “We got hooked!” she jokes. “It was very addictive.”

Meanwhile, on FX’s Mayans M.C., Tosta shows a different side of herself as the fearless and murderous Leticia Cruz. “So Leticia — she’s actually a killer, she’s a little bit crazy sometimes,” says Tosta. “She grew up in the streets, and she grew up around things that no 16-year-old should grow up around, that honestly not anybody in this world should grow up around.”

Lucia and and Leticia are very different from each other — and from Tosta’s own experiences — but she enjoys the variety. “I get to play an adventure with different depths of my characters and different layers, and that’s always fun as an actor,” she explains. “Both are equally as fun. I love both.”

When she’s not working, Tosta makes time to give back to the community. “The charity that I have with my mom is called Karttos International, and we help the people of Venezuela because they’re going through a horrible social and political crisis,” she says. “Our target is to be able to bring basic needs such as food, medicine, and clothing, and we try to target at least two cities a month.” She’s also worked with Feeding America and Thirst Project.

“I know this sounds a little cliché, but when you leave this world, the things you take with you aren’t how much money you made, how successful you were, what kind of car you drove, or what kind of house you had,” she concludes. “The thing that matters is what you leave behind, and the best way to leave a good legacy behind is to help others and be kind, and to use whatever resources you have to make the world a better place.”