Best known for playing semi-regular character Carmen, the monotone, goth best friend of main character Elena Alvarez (Isabella Gómez) on Netflix’s Latino family comedy One Day at a Time, actress Ariela Barer is continuing her television career in fantastic fashion.
Premiering in November on Hulu, Barer will star in the new Marvel Comics series Runaways, which is based on the superhero comic book that debuted in 2003. In the show, Barer stars as socially conscious high school student Gert Yorkes, one of six teenagers who band together when they discover that their parents are members of a criminal organization known as The Pride.
In the first episode of Runaways, Gert is introduced as a strong, independent, cynical, and outspoken teen who wants to make a difference in the world. Dressed in a blue jean jacket with the words “Do not disturb me” embroidered on the back, and sporting purple hair and some nerdy granny glasses, Gert has a style all her own. She’s not shy and isn’t easily discouraged, even when she can’t get any of her peers to sign up for her new club Undermining the Patriarchy.
She even finds time to pick on her younger sister Molly for wanting to try out for the dance squad: “Dance squad is just cheerleading without pom-poms. You’re just reinforcing hegemonic masculinity while marginalizing women’s identity,” she says.
We’ll have to wait to see how close the Hulu series follows the comic book as the season progresses (Will she have a pet dinosaur? Can she communicate telepathically? Will she be known by her superhero name Arsenic?), but it’s easy to see from the first episode why Gert will probably become a fan favorite.
During an interview with Remezlca, Barer, 19, talked about why it was so easy to relate to Gert, why more characters like her are important to the entertainment industry and how playing a Marvel superhero was always something she thought about as an actress.
Runaways premieres November 21 on Hulu.
On her ethnic background
Both my parents were born in Mexico. They’re also both Jewish. We’re pretty much from everywhere, in all honesty. I feel most connected to my Latina heritage, for sure. Most of my family, except for my parents, lives in Mexico. So, whenever we visit anywhere it’s to Mexico. I’ll be going there for the holidays.
On auditioning for the role of Gert Yorkes
I didn’t really know what I was auditioning for, which was sort of a blessing because it took a lot of the pressure off. I went in without hyping myself up too much about how big the Marvel Universe truly is. I got to go in and just connect with the script and the story and the people. The superhero elements just came naturally after that. I originally auditioned for the Molly Hernandez role, but they were like, “We really liked your audition, but there’s no way we believe that you’re 14 years old. Do you want to read for this other part?” So, I went in and read for Gert and was like, “Oh, this is entirely me.”
On connecting with her character
I looked up the character before going in for the screen test and got so excited. She is someone I relate to completely. She’s exactly who I was when I was 16. I felt immediately connected to the character and was able to let all my insecurities go out the window. It was so liberating, which is exactly who Gert is as a character. It was a huge weight off my back. It was so perfect.
On more strong female characters on TV and on Gert being a feminist
Often in the past, a female character like this has been deemed an irrationally emotional and angry woman. To be able to explore her on a human level allows for justified emotion. I think what’s great about having mass quantities of these types of characters is that we get to explore so much nuance within these roles and it’s no longer tokenism. It’s no longer one person trying to represent an entire group of people. You get to explore the characters flaws and real human behavior. She becomes relatable.
On researching the role
I knew about the comic because I was the type of person that would look up any possible Marvel role that I could ever play. They were always in the back my mind. After I booked the role, I went to the store and bought the first two issues. I read the first issue 10 times. I really love the way it captures the teenage experience. It’s set in this super fantastical world but it’s meshed together real nicely with the real world.
On her preference for lighthearted or darker Marvel content
In the movies, I really like the lighthearted stuff just because it’s a genuinely entertaining experience and it holds my attention for two hours. But for the TV shows, I like the dark, brooding stuff. Jessica Jones was a game changer for me. I think [Runaways] is creating an entirely new thing. It’s in this nice middle ground, which I enjoy playing with as an actor. It has those lighter moments, but also ventures into darker places.