Jessica Marie Garcia is a fierce, passionate and an incredibly powerful Latina actress that is taking Hollywood by storm. The theatrically trained actriz from Orlando, Florida is on the hit Netflix series On My Block (whose season three was ranked #1 on the streaming platform) and has graced our screens with her indelible take on the show’s breakout comedic relief Jasmine. HOLA! USA caught up with Jessica to chat about the strength that she found from within when she first embarked on her journey to stardom, what is was like to hang out with besties like Gina Rodriguez and America Ferrera and how it is to be working on Diary of a Future President, the “Latino Lizzie McGuire.”
HOLA! USA: You’re such a confident and passionate person, something that is common with the characters you portray. What’s something that you’ve learned about yourself through your characters?
Jessica Garcia: Thank you for that! For me it’s something that I look to continuously bring to a character — whether that is a strength that you see physically, mentally or emotionally. I feel like it’s very important for me to portray strong women in whatever I do.
Latinas are often typecast into particular roles that don’t tell our full story. What type of character would you love to bring to life on screen?
“I would love show a darker side to my acting ability and be able to spread those wings a bit. Have audiences see me in a light you haven’t before. I think it would be so cool to be a Latina superhero, especially a curvier one. Another thing I feel would bring a lot of depth to the industry would be updating Shakespearean shows — playing Lady Macbeth would be a dream role for me.”
In November, you shared a picture with the #LatinaGirlGang to end all girl gangs. You were with Eva Longoria, America Ferrera, Gina Torres and Gina Rodriguez to name a few. What was that like?
“My heart was beating out of my chest that day. I’ve know Gina Torres for years, we worked on ABC Family’s Huge, and I’ve been in awe of her since day one. Then seeing Gina [Rodriguez] and having developed that relationship from [the Disney+ series] Diary of a Future President. America was there — when I saw Real Women Have Curves, I thought to myself ‘I can look like me and do this.’”
You are now working on two Latino-focused shows (On My Block and Diary of a Future President) that promote us in a refreshing light. What was your reaction when you heard you had been cast?
“It still feels so surreal for me at times. I got the script for On My Block from one of my best friends Victoria Moroles, who was on Liv and Maddie with me. I read the pilot, and I thought that all these incredible characters would be side characters in everybody else’s show. I also knew from the get that there was more to Jasmine than meets the eye. She and I are equally confident in ourselves: I will lead with confidence, while she leads with her sexuality. Then for you to tell me I’m on the Latino Lizzie McGuire (Diary of a Future President) — that’s a whole other thing. I am so in awe of that, not only is it a Latino-dominated set, but it’s a female dominated set too. I pinch myself every time.”
You’ve had so many changes over the course of your career and life, which have led you to grow into the woman you are today. What is something that you would tell a Latina who’s on the verge of taking a leap of faith in herself?
“I would tell her not to believe anybody who doesn’t believe in her. That this is going to be the toughest thing you’ve ever done in your life, but nothing that is worth it is ever easy. When I was first starting out, I would tell myself ‘you’re going to get a thousand nos, before you’re going to get a yes, but you have to wait in line long enough.’ I’m so happy that I didn’t give up on myself because I wanted to; it would have been a lot easier. I had to learn to be my number one fan. I knew that if I wasn’t, this industry was going to tell me who I was, who I could be and who I couldn’t be. I just had to see myself as more before other people could tell me what I wasn’t.”
You’re a Latina born and raised in the United States. Have you ever felt you like you don’t fit in within your Latin heritage?
“Growing up it kind of felt like being a first generation kid, I felt like I was constantly apologizing for not knowing something or not being enough of something because to anybody who was ‘Latino,’ I wasn’t Latino enough. But then on the other hand, for Americans, I wasn’t American enough either. I was constantly being reminded ‘hey, you don’t fit in here.’ It’s frustrating. Even now, I get nervous to tell people that I don’t speak Spanish because all I keep picturing is that scene in the movie Selena when she’s about to perform and she’s says, ‘Oh my God, I don’t speak Spanish.’ And they tell her, ‘Oh well, you can’t go to Mexico because you’re going to lose all your fans because you don’t speak Spanish.’ I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s going to happen for me.’ Then one day I tweeted about it and received so many responses from people that felt the same way. It was such an interesting response that I was thought, ‘Oh, there’s so many of us in this together.’”