In the few seconds it took Afro-Latina actress Alycia Pascual-Peña (TV’s Saved by the Bell) to read the character summary for “Lucy Hernández” in Netflix’s coming-of-age dramedy Moxie, she automatically knew it was a role that was written for her to play.
“She was described as a ‘feminist’ and ‘radical revolutionary,’” Pascual-Peña told Remezcla during an interview earlier this week. “My mom happened to be with me in L.A. at the time when I auditioned for the role and she was like, ‘This is you! Have they met you? This is crazy.’”
What was so crazy about the role of Lucy was that Pascual-Peña always saw herself as the same strong, Afro-Latina young woman that she was auditioning to play in Moxie, the directorial debut of actress and comedian Amy Poehler (Mean Girls).
“I had never seen a character written like Lucy before,” she said. “I knew it was special. The fact that she gets to be a feminist and use her voice and be bold and that’s never demonized is powerful.”
In Moxie, Lucy is a new student at a high school that has some toxicity running through its hallways. For her, the trouble starts with the popular captain of the football team who targets her when she makes a thoughtful comment about the antiquated ideas of the novel The Great Gatsby. The racist and sexist vibes he exudes are on full display when he interacts with her.
Later, Lucy and a group of girls form a feminist group to push back against some of the double standards they see happening at their school. They are inspired to do this when one of her friends, unbeknownst to her, starts to publish an underground zine that expresses some of the social problems they face every day as young women.
“I’ve always grown up with activism at the forefront of what I do,” Pascual-Peña said. “For a long time, I thought that had a negative connotation. But Lucy’s character celebrates all of those traits.”
Back when she was in high school, Pascual-Peña said she worked hard to create “tangible change” through her activism. This included participating in marches for women’s rights and gun control. She even spearheaded her own community programs as a teenager like the one where she got people together to make lunches for imprisoned women and their children.
“My mom would call me ‘Rebel With a Cause’ before I even understood what that meant,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be as passionate and empathetic as I possibly can be.”
As an Afro-Dominican woman from an immigrant household, Pascual-Peña said a lot of these social topics affect her. She knows people who have had to deal with systemic racism and institutional oppression their entire lives.
“I’ve learned about it from a personal perspective, but I also seek out knowledge to make my perspective holistic and intersectional,” she said. “I’m always striving to broaden my knowledge about movements where I can be an ally to others.”
Moxie is currently streaming on Netflix.