Chicago Fire Star Jeff Lima Explains Why He Founded a Scholarship for Latinx Film Students
Chicago Fire's Jeff Lima and Jane the Virgin's Andrea Navedo talk about their mission of advancing the Latinx image on screen.
Chicago Fire star Jeff Lima talked to People CHICA about his mission of advancing the Latinx image on screen with a special scholarship program. The Jeff Lima Production Award was created by the Puerto Rican actor last year and it grants $10,000 to the winner. “Gina Rodriguez was at an audition that I had many years ago and she offered to introduce me to her agent and it all went from there,” he says about the actress that opened the door for him in Hollywood. “It took that one person, also a Latina, to be confident in me.”
Even after he succeeded within the industry, he was appalled to see a trend of stereotypical Latinx roles, “always getting called to play the gangster or the guy from the hood,” he says. His role in Chicago Fire breaks that mold. “That character grows. He is very rough around the edges at first, but then years go by and he has ambition to go to college and do everything right like his older brother, who is a successful firefighter. It gives us the journey of the character, it gives us the full idea of what it’s like to be a Puerto Rican living in the inner city.”
To remedy the fact that he didn’t see many Latinx writers, producers, or directors, he decided to get to the core of it. “That was my catalyst to partner with NYU to create this opportunity,” he says about the scholarship, which funds a short film for a Latinx creator. “Our filmmakers need to make more content that sheds light on our Latinx experience.”
The judges who pick the lucky winner are Sunny Hostin (from The View), Andrea Navedo (from Jane the Virgin), and Alana de la Garza (from FBI: Most Wanted). “I am thrilled to have these amazing and talented Latinas to help us find the best new Latino voices,” Lima said.
“I’m looking for someone who has creative ideas, writing skills, but also who has a strong voice and a message that they are conveying that could help our community,” scholarship judge and Nuyorican actress Andrea Navedo tells People CHICA. After playing Xiomara on Jane the Virgin, Navedo will next appear as Puerto Rican activist Carmen Delgado in the upcoming FX series Mrs. America, also starring Cate Blanchett and Rose Byrne.
“We need to create and direct our own work and sell it,” says Lima. The actor, who grew up in Spanish Harlem in a Puerto Rican family, loved going to the Puerto Rican pride parades as a kid. “I loved the music and the food, the salsa dancing on stage — I took every opportunity to be a part of that culture.”
This year’s scholarship winner will be announced in the spring. Last year the award went to MFA candidate Max Walker-Silverman for his film Chuj Boys of Summer, about a group of Guatemalans living in a small Colorado town. Applicants must be a graduate film program thesis student at NYU (third year and above) or an alum who graduated from the program within the last six years (after January 2014). Applicants must submit a proposal, bio, short screenplay, synopsis, and a director’s artistic statement of intent, which will also include the film’s market validation and a budget. Eligible NYU Tisch Grad Film alumni interested in applying should email email@example.com.