Empowerment Series: ABC’s Station 19, FOX’s Rosewood, and Hollywood-thriller, “Righteous Thieves,” Actress, Jaina Lee Ortiz Shares her Fire with AW
Jaina Lee Ortiz is best known for her roles on ABC’s Station 19 and Grey’s Anatomy, FOX’s Rosewood, USA’s Shooter, and the film Girls Trip. Now, audiences can see her in “Righteous Thieves,” as, Lucille. More than a tech-savvy badass, she brings explosive energy to the screen. The movie stars a cast of dynamic actors including Lisa Vidal, Sasha Merci, Cam Gigandet (“Twilight”), Danube Hermosillo, and Carlos Miranda.
Every interview is unique in its own way. The individual connection we make with someone sets a tone and dictates the dialogue that can take place between two people. AW had the immense pleasure of sitting down with this Latina powerhouse. She is vibrant, filled with warmth and charisma. Her friendly smile made it easy to engage in conversation.
Jaina is an only child raised in the Bronx, NY by parents who instilled the importance of discipline, respect, honesty, and compassion. It is evident, the actress takes her values wherever she goes, treating others with the same kindness learned while growing up.
I believe whether you are reading, watching, or listening to our interview, you too will sense her genuine disposition.
You’ve had some great roles, Annelisse and Andi are dynamos. Fearless with strong convictions, confident but also flawed, both relatable characters. Would you use some of these words to describe yourself? How are you different from these characters? Yes, there is a part of me in every character but in real life, I would have done some things differently, and not necessarily made the same decisions as these women. In Station 19, Andy is a rulebreaker and impulsive. She goes out and does whatever she wants! I am very cautious, and afraid to break any kind of rule. This may have to do with my dad being a homicide detective.
Growing up, I don’t remember seeing anyone I could relate to on screen. Latinos mostly played maids, sultry mistresses, or drug dealers. Thankfully, we are moving away from this and seeing ourselves on the big and small screens. As a Latina actress, do you ever feel pressure to play characters that are seen in a positive light by our community? I don’t feel that pressure because that is all I’ve done. All of my characters have been intelligent, and fierce. Women of strength, power, and courage, each of them was essentially a role model. As a member of the audience, I want to see more of those types of characters who are portrayed in a positive light. But as a performer or actor, I want to be challenged, secretly hoping to play that stereotype. First, it takes me completely out of my world, giving me the experience of a life that I know nothing about. Also, those people really exist and the fact they exist is important.
I am not saying that every role has to be a stripper, maid, or mistress. I don’t want that but if there is an interesting story being told then yes, I would play it. It is significant for our community to see ourselves in these movies because I didn’t see anyone like us on screen, growing up. For example, I remember seeing Oscar Issac, a great actor but I never knew he was Latino. Having a seat at the table is beautiful.
You bring fire to every role you play. Such amazing energy and an undeniable passion can be felt in every one of your characters. A lot of us struggle with allowing ourselves to be who we are; it seems to come naturally for you. Has there ever been a time in your personal or career journey that you’ve been asked to dial the intensity back? If so, can you share a little about the experience and how you dealt with it? Actually, I have never been encouraged to dial it back. On the contrary, I’ve been asked to bring more of it to the table. There are roles that it may work for, and others that do not. Living in that space and feeling confident in my strengths is wonderful. If you can’t be yourself then you end up fitting in whatever box you try to put yourself into.
As Latinos, we all have different experiences in our upbringing. I think you should use what you have and what you know. It is unique, sets you apart, making you individually beautiful. Go out there and be unapologetically you is my mantra.
I am excited to share that you are now bringing your fire to a new character in the new film “Righteous Thieves.” Can you tell us about it? Yes! “Righteous Thieves” is produced by Jolene Rodriguez, a good friend of mine, so talented! Directed by Anthony Nardollilo. I work with a great cast of friends including Lisa Vidal, who plays a badass, smart, fierce woman, the head of a secret organization. She gathers a team to help steal back artwork stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust. It is a classic heist film with action and suspense. It is great because the movie also showcases what Latinos can do behind and in front of the cameras.
I play Lucille, a computer hacker who is not your typical geek. She knows some martial arts, likes to play with fire, and enjoys a little danger. It was fun to do my own stunts, invigorating! Although, after the tenth take, I see why people hire stunt doubles!
One of the things we have discussed is the importance of our community’s support for these films. Representation is essential. If we don’t show up, we risk losing the progress we have made, so far. In your opinion, how can we improve support? What are 1-2 things we can start doing to help encourage Hollywood to bring more Latinos in on the blockbuster films? Aside from showing up, as you said, “We are bigger in numbers.” The Latino community is massive, and while it may not be reflected in certain projects, if we want to truly push the envelope and expand as a community, we must collectively as a unit, agree not to tell those stories or create those characters. We are relentless when we get together and get things done.
We like to end AW interviews with a message, mantra or quote to inspire, empower, or encourage listeners. You work in an industry known for its “make-believe” magic. We live in a world of Instagram. You have managed to maintain yourself grounded and true to yourself. For anyone struggling or fearful to let themselves be who they are, what advice can you share to empower them? There is so much pressure in the times we are living in. With advanced technology and social media, we feel the need to live or create this ideal picture. At the same time, all these platforms give us the opportunity to stay connected.
Challenges and hard times will come. Stay present and while on this journey, don’t forget about the quality moments you share with the people you love. Constantly, surround yourself with those that encourage and motivate you. Whatever you want to achieve, as long as you remain authentic, you will thrive and succeed. Enjoy the ride, continue to grow, and evolve. Goodness will follow.
Oftentimes, priorities shift as we age, and the fire we used to have is replaced with the exhaustion of responsibility. It becomes difficult to find the passion to pursue our deepest desires or enjoy a moment. Jaina is an actor and professionally trained dancer, who carves time to do things that make her heart happy, including dance.
I learn from every interview, and this conversation offered a timely lesson. Don’t underestimate the meaning of doing things that set your soul on fire and never be diminished by the voices that hinder you from living a life you love.
We are incredibly grateful to Jaina and everyone who helped bring this interview to fruition. She is a force to be reckoned with, and one of the loveliest human beings on earth!
Righteous Thieves is set to premiere in select theatres, On Digital, and On Demand, on March 10, 2023. You can also catch Jaina, as Andy Herrera on ABC’s Station 19, every Thursday at 8 PM EST/7 PM CST. Check local listings for more information.
For more on Jaina Lee Ortiz, visit Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok @jainaleeortiz.
You can listen to the AW Confidential Podcast on all streaming services and watch it on AW Confidential YouTube in its entirety to enjoy all the side chats during the interview.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Empowerment Series: Dominican Comedian-Actress from Fuse’s Like, Share, Dimelo, “De Lo Mio” and “Righteous Thieves,” Sasha Merci Shares Roots with AW – Awakened-Woman
March 25, 2023 @ 5:37 pm
[…] if you are Hispanic, you are Spanish-speaking from a country colonized by Spain. When you are Latino, you are from a Latin country that was colonized by Latin European countries, such as France, […]