Jessica Marie Garcia

‘On My Block’s Jessica Marie Garcia Loves Supporting Latino Shows: “We Have to Raise Each Other Up”

Jessica Marie Garcia attends the Prom Night photo call at Netflix FYSEE At Raleigh Studios. Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images.

Range? Let’s talk about it. Jessica Marie Garcia shows some serious range between her boisterous character Jasmine on Netflix’s On My Block and her fix-it-all persona as Camila in Disney+’s Diary of a Future President. As Jasmine, Garcia is a rambunctious high schooler who’s sex-crazed and fiercely nosy, until season two of On My Block expanded her character beyond caricature and looked at why she behaved so outlandishly. In Diary of a Future President, Camila is the paralegal Robin to the show’s lawyer Batman, Gabrielle “Gabi” Cañero-Reed (Selenis Leyva). Although she’s mostly smoothing ruffled feathers in the law office where she works, Camila will soon have to face her own drama when she decides to come out to her family

So far, Garcia has loved the challenges of bringing these characters to life, and she’s thrilled to have so many new shows to audition for and new talent to champion. Remezcla spoke to Garcia about her ascendant career, supporting others and what she’s looking forward to seeing in Jasmine’s future

Remezcla: Many of the characters in On My Block are Mexican American and the central family on Diary of a Future President is Cuban American. What was your experience of switching between the two cultural differences?

Jessica Marie Garcia: Well, I’m half-Mexican, so that helps. But what’s so funny is, being from Florida, I was surrounded by Cubans and Puerto Ricans. I was like a rarity being Mexican. It wasn’t until I came here [to Los Angeles] that I was like, oh my God, this was a whole new half of me. I had no idea there was so much more culture and colors to me. I felt like I was so repressed. Coming here has been such a great journey. I feel like I’m so lucky that I get to play such young characters because I feel like I’m growing up with them, too. Not only in age, but culturally as well. 

What about Diary of a Future President, caught your attention? 

First and foremost, it said Disney, and I was like, OK, I can’t wait to go back home. [Disney Channel’s] Liv and Maddie was such an incredible experience for me. I met friends for a lifetime — they are my family. The creators of that show were literally the officiants for my wedding. We’re very, very deeply connected. So, going back home was nice, but then it was a brown home on top of that because I always felt like I was the sole brown girl in Wisconsin in Liv and Maddie. And now, I get to be a part of a show where it just feels like everywhere I look it’s familia — especially female too, which is so important because I gotta tell you, when I’m around a mostly female-dominated crew, I just feel like I have more room to create for some reason. I just feel like I’m freer. I don’t feel like I’m going to be talked down to. It feels more collaborative. Gina [Rodriguez] really set the premise for that. I felt like I could do whatever and she would throw it back at me like, “Yes, let’s try this. Yes, I love that,” like just a ball. It’s crazy to even think that because I watched her on Jane The Virgin and thought that people who look like me can do this. She felt so out of reach.

Did you bring any ideas to the character Camila? 

Well, my biggest thing with Camila is that she’s hiding such a big part of who she is, that I very much needed to find those parts of her where she’s putting an act in order to not be seen through. I feel like we still have so much to explore about Camila. And thankfully, you get to see a good amount of her in the next episodes. But she’s a real woman. I haven’t been playing those very often. It’s so interesting stepping into an adult’s shoes. Before this, I haven’t really had a job on television. I’ve been a high school student. That relationship that Camila has with Gabi, I feel like we don’t necessarily see a lot of that kind of relationship on TV. It’s often always like you have one Latina and one white girl. They mix it up.

On social media, you’re always sharing other Latinx projects. What drives you to always promote others?

I love sharing. We grew up in a time where you didn’t see many people that look like us and that were representing us. I enjoy celebrating our people in this industry because I think for so long, we were so limited and we were all fighting for the same roles. I’ve seen so many of these actors that are coming up in the same audition rooms. What is for you is for you, and what is for me is for me, and that’ll never change. It’s really important for us to raise each other up because there’s so many different colors to who we are. It can’t be a competition. We have to raise each other up. I also like to promote them because I want my audience — who thankfully for some reason has been following me — I want them to see that hey, there’s more out there like me. Really raise each other up so that we don’t have to be concerned about our story being told correctly. 

Jessica Marie Garcia as Jasmine in ‘On My Block.’ Photo credit: Kevin Estrada. Courtesy by Netflix.
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What’s it like to be a part of these two shows that center on young Latinas? 

I honestly can’t believe it. It’s really hard for me to wrap my head around it. I was that little girl. TV was my babysitter. I’m from a single mom who worked 800 hours a day to make sure that I never went without anything I needed. It’s hard for me to fully understand that I am that girl that someone’s watching now. If there is a little curvy brown girl out there or boy or anyone in between who was like watching me and saying, I can do that because of her — that’s priceless. Like, I can’t even fathom that. Being a part of two shows that I feel are changing the narrative for our people is a blessing that I don’t always believe I deserve, but I’m very thankful for it. 

I know you love Gentefied. Do the different Netflix shows ever get together?

Now that Con Todo is live, we’ve been able to do photos together and interviews together. We all did a podcast together that should be coming out soon. It opened up all these doors and relationships for us to really feel like we have a sense of community in this crazy town. We’ve kind of made a point to all see each other and to be in each other’s lives and support each other. It’s a really beautiful thing. I really am excited to see what the future holds for us.

Jasmine is perhaps the first character many fans have seen you play. After her development in season two, what would you like to see her take on in season three? 

I would love for you to still see more sides to her. When I first started with Jasmine, and when I first read her character in the pilot, I knew that there had to be so many more sides to her than what was on the page. People don’t act like that for no reason. She’s constantly making up for the fact that she’s insecure. The fact that she wants to say the joke before you make her the joke. It was really important for me because I understand that life. I was that class clown in school because I didn’t want to be made fun of, so I’ll be self-deprecating and make fun of myself. I spoke to the creators about that. I’m just thankful that they allowed me to show those colors in season two, even if it’s for a little while. Hopefully, you get more of it. 

I’ve heard you’re also trying to create your own projects on the side, can you talk about that? 

Who told you that? Yes, it’s going really well. I’m crossing every finger. There’s a lot of work that goes into it, but I am so ready. I’ve wanted this my whole life. Every time I saw John Leguizamo in Freak, I was like, I need to do this. So, there are multiple things. I’m not saying no to any opportunity, but there’s nothing better than a live audience, honestly. 

So, there’s maybe theater in your future? 

I would love that. I just think there’s New York in my future. Yeah, East Coasters, I get that whole vibe. I live for it, I’m ready. Let’s go! 

Season 1 of Diary of a Future President is airing weekly on Disney+. On My Block returns for its third season March 11, 2020 on Netflix.