The actor talks to CHICA about his role on Grown-ish, his Cuban pride, and how depression inspired him to become an advocate.

By Lena Hansen
March 05, 2020

In the new season of the Freeform series Grown-ish, Henri Esteve plays Javier, a handsome grad student and Republican activist that Ana (played by Francia Raísa) interns with at Cal U. "I'm happy that I'm getting the chance to play a Cuban character, which I haven't done before," he tells People CHICA. "The Latino characters I've played before, it's been ambiguous where they are from, so it's refreshing and nice to be able to play someone on screen from where I'm from."

The actor, 30, of Cuban and Spanish descent, was born and raised in Miami and is happy to travel back to the 305 for the holidays to enjoy family time. "We speak Spanglish at the house and make coffee or cortaditos with a lot of sugar and the espumita at the top. It's nice to go back. Miami is so Latin it feels like a different country," he jokes. "I go back and go straight to Enriqueta's and get a pan con bistec and have a very Cuban Miami experience whenever I'm there."

Courtesy of Bobby Quillard

He says breaking Latinx stereotypes on screen comes down to "picking the right projects." "Javi being a Republican is great. I know a bunch of Cuban Republicans but I don't think society at large or America has seen that on TV," he adds about his Grown-ish role. "We rarely see Latinos in politics on TV, so I'm happy to be doing that also. My favorite thing about Javi is that he is trying really hard to grow and to be better and more disciplined."

The actor, who started his career in theater, moved to Los Angeles and made his small-screen debut in the ABC series Revenge, in the role of charming hacker Javier Salgado. "Revenge was my first job on TV," he recalls. "It had a huge impact and it started everything off. It was like a boot camp into TV, initiation by fire. I didn't start with this small one-day role, I just dove in and learned what it was like to be on set." He also played Abel in Amazon's series Homecoming with Julia Roberts. "It was a very surreal experience. She is amazing in every capacity," he says about working with the Pretty Woman star. "I got to see why she is Julia Roberts."

Henri Esteve in a scene from the series Revenge
(Danny Feld/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

Esteve — who enjoys writing, sculpting, and playing basketball in his free time — became an advocate for mental health after his own struggle with depression. "Talking about it in general is important. We've been talking to a few different foundations I want to get involved with," he says. "I had struggled with it and I wanted to talk about it and be open and honest and vulnerable about it. I'm happy to do so and to make anybody else dealing with depression — or any mental illness — feel less alone and just bring awareness. We talk about physical health a lot and we don't really talk about mental health much, especially in certain communities. In the Latino community, the generation before mine, many of our parents don't even understand the concept of therapy. I talk about therapy with the older generations and they're like, 'Why are you going?'"

Courtesy of Bobby Quillard

He hopes to change those taboos. "It's a constant taking care of yourself mentally, it's the same as eating healthy or going to the gym. It's just checking in on your body and it's going to be a daily journey," he reveals about what helps him beat depression. "Therapy helped me a lot, nature certainly does help, and talking to people that I trusted and could be open with and having their support."