Alexa Demie on Clichéd Latino Roles: “I Think They Just Do a Disservice to Us”

Courtesy of Los Cabos International Film Festival

“They handle situations very differently.” That’s how Mexican-American actress and singer Alexa Demie describes the two characters that have propelled her into the spotlight this year: Maddy Perez in HBO’s series Euphoria and Alexis Lopez in Trey Edward Shults’ awards-bound A24 drama Waves.

“Maddy is much more submissive in her relationship. Alexis is much stronger, she’s always fighting back and setting boundaries,” she elaborates, as she opens up to Remezcla over the phone from Los Angeles – the city that’s always been her home base.

“Alexis is much stronger, she’s always fighting back and setting boundaries.”

Neither of the two young Latinas she’s recently personified on screen, Demie admits, knows what a healthy relationship looks like. In the heart-wrenching Waves, her scenes – opposite rising star Kelvin Harrison Jr. as a high school couple on the brink of disaster – demanded hardcore emotional exertion.

A pivotal long take, a sequence that must play out without cuts from beginning to end, tested their endurance. “We didn’t want to leave the garage until we got that scene right,” she notes. The pair carried it out over and over until the last take struck gold. By that point, their bodies wouldn’t even allow them to go again. “We had just exhausted ourselves.”

Another vicious argument between her and Harrison Jr.’s characters took place during Demie’s first day of shooting in Florida. The fight comes after inexperienced and scared young lovers visit a clinic with the intent of having an abortion. Demie recalls channeling her mother’s anecdotes about her unplanned pregnancy.

“I tried to feel what she would have felt, being scared but also being very strong in your decision, despite what everyone around you is saying,” she adds.

“I tried to feel what she would have felt, being scared but also being very strong in your decision.”

“She got pregnant really young and a lot of people in her life were telling her that it wasn’t the smartest decision to have a baby at the time. Financially it didn’t make sense, emotionally she didn’t have the support of my father because he was in jail at the time,” she explains. “She obviously thought about getting an abortion, but she said she got this feeling in her body that told her that she had to have her baby.”

After wrapping up Waves and Euphoria, both taxing experiences for her mental health, Demie indulged in a vacation to Tulum, Mexico, a destination she hoped would help her stay (mostly) away from social media during the Euphoria premiere. As a result of her multiple visits and personal connection to the country, Demie is determined to buy a house somewhere in Mexico in the near future.

“I went on Twitter, and the show was trending in Mexico, so I was kind of shocked by that,” she says. “So I took 30 minutes looking at reactions, and then I told myself to get off. I only had service in the hotel, so anywhere else I didn’t have access to it. That was good.”

Maximizing on her 2019 momentum, Demie’s next move is to executive produce and star in a feature adapted from the memoir her mother, Rose Mendez, has been writing for the past eight years. “She wrote it just for a healing process, and then realized it could be a movie,” the soon-to-be producer notes. Mendez came to the U.S. as an infant from Michoacán, Mexico and was a teenager in 1980s LA, which is the period the film will zero in on.

“My mom was born in Mexico and she grew up obsessed with David Bowie and fashion,” she says. “But Hollywood would never think of a little Mexican girl loving David Bowie, as silly as that sounds.”

Reading her mother’s text, Demie got the chance to get into her head and learn first-hand how she felt and thought as a young woman.

“I learned a lot about her from reading it, because she spills it all on the pages,” she says. “There are a lot of parallels between my upbringing and hers, the biggest thing being that my grandma raised her as a young girl and my mom raised me as a young girl. They were figuring it out.”

Additionally, the project will explore Mendez’s negative encounters for being Mexican while living in a mostly Caucasian and affluent part of the city.

Mature in how she handles her blossoming career, Demie, who grew up speaking only Spanish with grandmother and English with her U.S.-raised mother, is conscious of the way the jobs she takes portray Latinos and has pledged to stick to her gut in that regard. She constantly tells her team, “‘Don’t send me any clichéd Latino roles.’ Because I think they just do a disservice to us.”

Waves opens in theaters on November 15, 2019.