Actor, writer, and creator Aimee Garcia is not just portraying brilliant Latina characters on TV — she’s creating them behind the scenes as well.
“My first language is Spanish and I feel a great responsibility to represent Latinos in a positive light,” Aimee Garcia said.
As an actor, Garcia is best known for her roles in “Dexter” and “Lucifer.” But these days, she’s pouring a lot of her energy into her work as a writer where she is drawing complex and multidimensional Latina characters for television and comics, with writing partner AJ Mendez, as part of their content creation company Scrappy Heart Productions.
Over the course of her acting career, Garcia has played a litany of brilliant characters, and for this she says she is grateful.
“I actually think I’ve been very fortunate to have gotten to play so many smart multidimensional professional Latina characters on TV,” Garcia said. “Veronica Palmero, she was a bratty teenage millionaire on “The George Lopez Show” years ago; “Trauma,” I played Marisa Benez, who was a veteran helicopter pilot and a complete badass; Jamie Batista was a psychology college student on “Dexter” and we, as a cast, were nominated for a SAG Award for that, and I made sure to have her always be looking at a book and studying, because I think representation really does matter.
“And most recently Ella Lopez, who is a forensic scientist on “Lucifer,” and one of only two Latina scientists on TV.”
Garcia says she doesn’t just want to make sure that Latino Americans are represented in a positive light, but that she also wants to make sure the representation is accurate and prominent, even within existing scripts.
“I asked my showrunners on “Lucifer” if Ella can sprinkle in some Spanish, and we can meet abuelita and we can meet her brothers, and they’ve been so receptive,” Garcia said. “It’s just been great to normalize the Latinx experience because we’re here. And I’m so glad to see shows like “One Day at a Time” and “Jane the Virgin” and “On My Block” and “Vida” and “Queen of the South” … And all of those shows are great and they all star Latinx characters.”
Sometimes making sure she’s representing the Latinx community well means turning down roles, which can be a big sacrifice.
“I have been offered some roles that I didn’t think were multidimensional, and I didn’t think represented our community well and perpetuated negative stereotypes, so I said ‘no.’ And as an actor, to say ‘no,’ it’s really tough,” Garcia said. “But at some point, I think you just have to do you. That’s one thing that I learned from my Latino parents: You have to do you, because if you don’t do you, you have nothing.”
Because of her platform and the roles she plays, Garcia is very aware of the role model she projects to young Latino people, and especially young girls. This is something she takes very seriously. She points out that her character Ella Lopez is not just a Latina character on a show, but she’s also a woman in STEM.
“I do feel like with Ella Lopez, you know she’s a very positive role model,” Garcia said. “She’s a Latina scientist, and she’s the smartest person in the room. And it’s very rare, I think, to see women in science on TV and in movies. I do feel a responsibility to not only represent my fellow Latinas but also to represent my fellow women.”
A big part of making sure diverse voices are represented on screen means making sure they’re represented in the writers room as well.
“I think that writing is so, so, so important. I think it’s the first step in storytelling. As actors, we can’t act something that’s not written,” Garcia said.
Eva Longoria, who Garcia says has been a mentor to her, encouraged Garcia to stretch her legs as a writer as well as an actor.
“I’ve always loved to write and that is where I want to end up in my career,” she said. “I would love to end up being a really great writer that actors just can’t wait to bring our stories to life.”
Writing has allowed Garcia to create roles for women the way she would want them to be written, and to bring the American Latino family to life on screen and in media. It has also allowed her to elevate diverse voices, which is the mission of Scrappy Heart Productions.
“I think it’s really important to have more diversity in the writers room,” Garcia said. “I’m really proud of Vida, it’s all women and it’s very diverse. And I think that point of view is so important and it starts in the writers room.”
Garcia is full of love for her American and Latinx culture, which she hopes to share with the world.
“I really feel like we need to have a Latino American family on TV, so I’m going to try to bring that for us,” Garcia said. She wants American Latinx people to see their own families in her work, and be able to say, “That’s just like my grandma!” or “That’s so my uncle!”
“We’re so fun and we’re so full of heart and we’re so playful,” she said. “But we also feel deeply, our music is beautiful, our poetry is beautiful, our stories are beautiful, our men and women are beautiful, our language is beautiful — and so entertaining. So we could see more of that — especially since we’re the fastest growing minority in the United States — and so I think people are going to want to see themselves represented. And so I’m going to do my part.”
And at the end of the day, the best stories are truly universal.
“What’s so beautiful about media is when it’s done well, when there’s a good story, it’s universal, and that’s the goal,” Garcia said. “The goal is to identify with characters who are fleshed out and inspiring and well-written, and that kind of transcends everything else.”