Actress Isabel Arraiza talks about her diverse roles, breaking negative stereotypes and how she stays connected to her native Puerto Rico.
In Pearson, Isabel Arraiza plays Yoli Castillo, the protagonist’s executive assistant. “She is very bubbly, energetic, outspoken, passionate,” the Puerto Rican actress says. “We just found out that she is a DREAMer, so her mom is in danger of getting deported. It’s very relevant.” Playing a successful character dealing with immigration issues in a real way is fulfilling, she says. “Acting is also a political act and the fact that the writer decided to raise the bar by putting this experience out there, that helps conceptualize and humanize a character that is undergoing such a relevant political issue is so important, because it makes the audience ponder these issues from another perspective,” she reflects. “It’s a reality in this country and it’s affecting thousands of families right now, so I’m very proud that I’ve been chosen to tell that story.”
She also has a role in the movie Driven, as a supermodel trophy wife, and in American Dreamer, she plays a drug addict. “It’s so violent and so dark, it’s completely different from anything that I have played. It’s a character with no redemption whatsoever,” she says. “That’s super challenging.” The diversity of her roles is something she enjoys. “There is still a lot of work to do, but it’s a super exciting time to start a career in Hollywood for a Latina.”
After graduating from the prestigious Juilliard School, the actress hasn’t stopped working. “It’s a good problem to have, to go from project to project,” she admits. “I have a really cool trajectory that I’m super thankful for. I’m still learning as I go.”
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, she left her beloved island to attend acting school in New York City and follow her dream of making it in Hollywood. “I go back every year. I’m extremely proud of being puertorriqueña and representing our people by doing good work,” she says, “and hopefully inspiring other people to be able to know that we can partake in the conversation now in the industry in a more diverse and real way, not playing the stereotypical roles.”
Arraiza’s parents are her number-one fans. “They help me keep my head in the game and make me laugh. I have a really fun family,” she reflects. “They keep me grounded.” What is her life like outside of the set? “I read a lot, I go hiking,” she says. “I pamper myself and I try to open up my curiosity by learning new things. I take boxing, I try to put myself in circumstances that enrich my life. If you want to be a good actress, you’ve got to live!”