Julissa Calderon wants to spread the word that Latinx people are not “one size fits all.” On Netflix’s Gentefied, she plays 23-year-old Dominican activist Yessika Flores, the girlfriend of one of the show’s lead characters, Ana Morales. Calderon’s mission is to fight the cycle of gentrification that threatens to displace primarily Latinx residents in a fictionalized version of California neighborhood Boyle Heights. In the process, though, she has to fend off Ana’s mother, who constantly antagonizes Yessika about her African roots.
Calderon admits she initially struggled with the Afro-Latina label in her own life before embracing it. “We’re used to the narrative of Latinas looking a certain way, and we all don’t look a certain way,” she tells Jezebel. “In this past year, I’ve finally seen scripts, and roles, and casting that’s finally saying, ‘We’re looking for an Afro-Latina.’ Why has this taken so long?”
In the video above, Calderon talks about Gentefied, frustrating auditions, and the impact of her show.