The Sundance Film Festival is the biggest, most prestigious indie film event in the country and like all things indie — it eventually got saturated with celebrities and brands hawking their newest ridiculous thing you don’t need, but should buy. Inside of the behemoth fest though, many have carved a space to spotlight diverse stories, films, and artists, and created a physical place for these people to join together. Back in 2007, during Sundance, the Blackhouse launched a venue in Park City, Utah dedicated to celebrating filmmakers of African descent and hosted workshops, cocktail hours, and created a fellows program. This year, the Blackhouse opened its doors to their brown brothers and sisters and hosted two back-to-back events, called Latino Reel.

In a surprise to most attendees, one of the panels would be a conversation with the newly-anointed winner of a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy, Gina Rodriguez. Strangely, there weren’t a lot of other press there. I guess the mainstream media thinks it’s no big thing when the third Latina in history to ever win a Golden Globe arrives to a town already crawling with celebs. Well, it was an extra-large, humongously big deal to us. We were front and center, hanging off her every syllable.

As most can attest to, her words often invoke crying spells (i.e. me after her Golden Globe acceptance speech) and our St. Gina certainly did deliver. She got real, talking about her disappointment when things didn’t go as expected after she blew up at Sundance in 2012, what it was like to read the Jane the Virgin script for the first time, and why seeing herself on a billboard, “meant so much more than my face.”

Here are the highlights…


Gina on being the “it girl” at Sundance in 2012 after the Filly Brown premiere

I was excited for it to come to an audience like Sundance. I was excited for the ability to show them what I could do as an artist. When I came here, it was incredible. It blossomed… we’re going to get really real here, right? Why not? I saw opportunities arise, I saw doors start to open. I thought, “I’m going to be the next Jennifer Lawrence…” I was named the it girl. I was like, “Where is my superhero movie?” It didn’t look like that. That’s not what happened after Sundance.

Gina Rodriguez in ‘Filly Brown’

Gina on realizing her career would not be like Jennifer Lawrence’s

I was presented with multiple projects during that time that would have continued to perpetuate the stories that we hear all the time, that are not bad stories but just stories that we all know. I want to be someone new so they can hear a new story. I had to turn down, I had to skip over, I had to be patient in my craft and career, when all I wanted to do is act. Here was the time, everybody says, “You gotta go, the ball is rolling.” But it doesn’t look like Jennifer Lawrence’s career. I can’t play Sam, the office nerd. Why not? I’m a huge nerd.

Gina on demanding the industry give us more Latina movie stars

How do we explain to the industry that this Latino umbrella, includes lots of cultures. If we don’t bind together and show them that we are powerful, then we’ll never get these movies out. We’ll only have one Sofia Vergara, only one Gina Rodriguez, but I want more. I want my opportunities to open doors for other girls. I want it to be like Emma Stone, and Kate Winslet, and Cate Blanchett, and Keira Knightley… I can name them left and right; I want to name us left and right.

Gina on dealing with continually being offered stereotypical roles

I’m not really concerned with what the industry will do to me because I control my path.

Gina Rodriguez at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival’s Latino Reel panel

Gina on being blown away when she read the Jane the Virgin script

I read the the script and five pages in, I was like, “This woman is outstanding.” Because this woman, Jennie Snyder Urman, a redhead from Boston, she’s writing a story about a girl who is a Type A personality who decides to stick to her convictions and this crazy thing happens to her — and she happens to be Latina and her grandma happens to speak Spanish… and it was smart, and it was clever, and the tone was different and unique.

Gina on helping her fellow Latinos get into the movie biz after her Golden Globe win

It’s helping the other person get to where you are because you got there. It’s opening the door for the next freakin’ person. When that Golden Globe happened, I was like, not only am I going to keep the doors open, I’m going to be like, “Run… come on run… before they shut this shit.”

Gina on seeing her face on a giant billboard

We want to see ourselves in the mainstream because that means that we belong, that means that we’ve been accepted, right? We want to see that. That’s what I want to see. When I got to see that billboard, it meant so much more than my face, it meant that we belonged and there’s a little girl that is going to look up and be like,“Look, she’s brown like me.”

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