Empowerment Series: Award-Winning Filmmaker, Afro-Latina Actress, Netflix “Purple Hearts,” and Freevee’s Casa Grande Star, Loren Escandón Shares her Legacy with AW
Award speeches often begin with a celebration of accomplishments. We see the person in his or her glory and seldom think about the hardship endured on the way to the win.
Loren Escandón graduated with a degree in Theatre from Universidad del Valle in Colombia. Instead of staying put in her native country, she made a bold move. The fearless Latina moved to the US to pursue dreams of making a splash in the entertainment industry without so much as speaking the English language. There were plenty of roadblocks on the path she chose for herself, none of which dissuaded her from becoming who she was meant to be.
Today, her life in Los Angeles looks different than the one she left behind. Loren is an award-winning Filmmaker, Actor, Director, and Writer who has an impressive resume in Hollywood. Millions will recognize her as Marisol, the single mother to Cassie, played by Sofia Carson in the Netflix hit film, Purple Hearts. She has also guest starred in popular television series like Truth Be Told, Gentefied, CBS’ S.W.A.T, Fox’s 9-11, FX’s Crime Story, CW’s The Messengers, HBO’s Selena: The Series, and many more.
In 2022, Loren’s film, Los Patines won several awards. In May 2023, she stars in Freeve’s much anticipated bilingual, five-part series, Casa Grande.
AW had the incredible opportunity to sit down with the actress to discuss her role in the new series, Latino Representation, challenges and lessons coming into the entertainment industry, and the legacy she would like to leave for future generations. Our interview will be inspiring to any dreamer who is on the verge of giving up. If you are close to quitting on everything you’ve ever wanted, Loren says “Don’t, do it!” I hope this interview provides the motivation needed to keep your dream alive.
Latino representation is critical in all industries. You have been passionate about playing women of color. In the role of Ximena Morales, Rafael’s wife, and Mael’s mother. She dreams of a better future for her family while managing the realities of circumstances. Can you share a bit about the series and your character? Also, tell us, why was it essential for you to play this role. The name of the series is Casa Grande, it is on Freevee and I hope everyone watches it! This is a free platform that makes it convenient for you to access the programming. No subscription is needed, which is one of the reasons we love it and made our home there.
Casa Grande’s story revolves around four different families. You experience their values, beliefs, and perspectives on life, all these things conjure in this place. But at the same time, what is great about the show is how being trapped in this environment under particular circumstances becomes almost like a reflection of society, overall. The drama portrays love, loyalty, and betrayal, it shows how all these feelings can bring out the best and worst in humanity. In that exploration of family, class, religion, culture, and immigration, we find that at the end of the day, we’re all humans trying to have a life that’s worth living.
Ximena Morales is a hard-working mom but fun too! The reason, I really wanted to play her from the beginning. I felt a need to craft this woman in a way that honors all the farm workers in this country. I never really thought about the produce that goes into my refrigerator or the stories that come with the fruits and vegetables we bring to the table. I wanted to play the role with respect to the farmworkers who are often overseen or stereotyped by the idea of who we think they are. Humanizing these stories, especially in the political environment we are living is important.
You graduated with a degree in Theatre from Universidad del Valle in Colombia then made the brave move to come to the US to pursue your dreams. I can imagine that you had some challenges stepping into this career. Latinos had been invisible in Hollywood for decades but they are finally carving a space in front and behind the cameras. As a dreamer and proud “Colombiana,” who was coming into the entertainment business for the first time. What was your biggest struggle and greatest lesson, as you assimilated into this difficult industry? I think one of the biggest struggles encountered when I came to this country had to do with the perception of who I was. I moved here not speaking the language, so I wasn’t able to communicate at all. I was an educated woman in Colombia but had to find a way out because representation was limited, there. My thinking was, that I’d go to America, and it would be different. But I found myself in the same circumstances. In addition, I had the challenge of being an immigrant, a woman of color, who did not speak the language. Due to all those facts, people had their own idea of who I was and it wasn’t even close to who I really am, so that was a huge struggle. Now, I needed to identify as Latina which I didn’t need to do in Colombia, we were all the same. When the roles started coming around, I noticed how I was being perceived. The business believed there were only certain types of roles, I could play.
This is why Diversity & Inclusion is so important. Latinos are not a monolith. We don’t all look and sound one way. We are not a single culture but many, rich in diversity. The fact that the business saw all Latinos one way was another struggle. But this also offered my biggest lesson, don’t sit and wait for the business and industry to write the character you want for yourself. Figure out a way to create those projects that portray your culture from your point of view.
In recent years, Diversity and Inclusion have taken the spotlight, opening up opportunities for us in a range of industries. As an Afro-Latina who is not only an Actor but also a Filmmaker, Director, Writer, and Activist. How do you secure your contribution to the representation of Latinos in the industry? There are different paths for me to do so. As an Actress, I am mindful of the characters that I portray. I have been blessed and feel privileged to say, “No” to some projects that come my way. If I don’t feel it represents my culture, demographic group, and race with dignity and pride, I turn it down. Everyone’s situation is different. It is financially complicated but I want to be able to have some sort of control over where I want to focus my craft.
As a Film Director, this changes because I can choose the stories that I want to tell, as well as, maintain some control over who I handpick to tell them with. In that sense, I always look to find the most diverse collaborators for my projects. It is a priority, for example, in my latest film “The Last Store,” the cast was all women of color and the only male character was Black. All heads of departments were women, and ninety-five percent of the crew were people of color. The film “Los Patines” was an all-female cast with everyone behind the camera being people of color. This is my contribution to help make a change in the industry. We have to start hiring our own people, repeatedly, until that happens, we are not there, yet.
You have played many great roles and continue to build this amazing career in front and behind the cameras. I love seeing empowered Latinas thrive! You have much more to do in your career but when you look towards the future. What do you hope your legacy will be for the next generation? I’d like my legacy to be, leaving an industry that does not need to think about inclusion, anymore. I would love to leave a body of work that represents my culture with pride, is a model to follow, and is a reflection of society. As an Afro-Latina in particular, leave behind stories that are as far away as possible from the stereotypes. Instead, present the richness, universality, and uniqueness that we are and have a company where everyone can be themselves.
We like to end AW interviews with a quote, mantra, or advice to inspire. What encouraging words do you have for anyone who may think they need to bargain their authenticity to be successful? Don’t do it, it’s not worth it. The value of who you are is in your art, persona, and humanity. It is who you are – your authentic self that truly matters. Don’t compromise your vision, or morality because there is no success without those elements. As an artist, you are your biggest possession, and the more clear you are about who you are, the more it translates into your art. It’s the thing that helps you connect with people in the most intimate and profound ways.
I’d also say, keep going, do not stop! My character in Purple Hearts would say “Quien no ariesga, no gana.” No risk, no gain. My daughter in the film, played by Sofia Carson has the tattoo and my mom used to say that all the time. When I started playing this character, I revisited this idea. It was when I had those words tattooed on myself. It has become my mantra. You have to create your own opportunities and make things happen for yourself. In this process, the one thing you cannot do is lose your authenticity. If you lose that, you lose yourself.
Loren came to this country believing that she could be everything, she imagined. She did not speak, read, or understand the English language. The Latina was not privy to connections that gave her a boost to climb the Hollywood ladder. Knowing who she was and what she was capable of sparked a fire. The combination of hard work, perseverance, and an unrelenting faith in herself has helped her stay on the path to greatness. All things are possible when you believe in yourself. Once you surrender to the idea that you can do anything, well, the sky is the limit.
AW is extremely grateful for every one of these interviews. We appreciate the talent and the collaborators working behind the scenes to help it all come together. I am inspired, just as much as you, by every conversation. It is far from easy to create something out of nothing. Women like Loren continue to fuel my dreams and encourage me to continue making contributions that help light a match in the lives of others looking for inspiration. Hopefully, you are left feeling empowered to go out there and reach for your own star.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.