When Christian Serratos stopped by MTV News last week, the "Walking Dead" star was understandably passionate about two things. She and her notoriously close band of cast mates had been having a tough few weeks after The Glenn Thing, because they "didn't want to lie to the fans."
But most of all, Serratos was just excited to talk about Rosita Espinosa -- a character who is not only earning more and more screen time in Season 6, but one who has allowed Serratos to break through proverbial glass ceilings in the notoriously white-washed Hollywood.
"Being Latin, your job is to be sexy," Serratos said, noting that being told to "do the accent" is the "story of my f--king life."
Though Serratos doesn't entirely dislike embracing her Latin heritage, it's the acting she wants to focus on -- not her race.
"I want to be chosen because of my work," Serratos continued, "and because I played the role right whether it is sexy, nerdy -- whatever the case may be. And luckily, I’ve gotten those chances."
Indeed she has, and from a very young age. Serratos' breakout role was Suzie Crabgrass, in the TEENick series "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide." Crabgrass was a romantic lead slash popular girl, and though her ethnicity was never explicitly mentioned, Serratos felt like she was Latina.
"But I guess that’s only because I am," Serratos added, noting that even with the fame of "Walking Dead," it's "Ned's Declassified" that garners her the most fan questions.
Same goes for Angela Weber, Bella Swan's bookish best human friend in the "Twilight" series. Angela was known more for her decency and her intelligence than for anything particularly "spicy" or "sexy" -- qualities which, in that film, mostly went to the werewolves and the vampires, anyway.
Now, with Rosita, Serratos does gets to be traditionally sexy -- dirty and sexy, but sexy nonetheless -- though that's clearly not all that the character is made of. And getting to play a dynamic woman who shares Serratos' heritage is just icing on the cake. That said, you shouldn't necessarily count on a flashback to Rosita's quinceañera.
"Rosita Espinosa is very clearly Hispanic -- I think the fans know that, and definitely the fans of the comic book know that," she said, adding that while she hopes to see more about Rosita as an individual in the near future, "The Walking Dead" isn't "a show about race or ethnicity," but a show about a group of people doing their best to hold on to hope.
"You see her speak Spanglish, but that’s about it," Serratos explained.
After roughly 11 years of working and auditioning in Hollywood, Serratos should know a thing or two about the power of hope and optimism to get through hard times; and she realizes that critically and commercially successful projects that also allow her to stretch beyond a basic stereotype, like "Dead," can be hard to come by.
But even with that in mind, sometimes things don't work out that way. Serratos recalled an incident where she did an independent film, then read reviews that referred to her character, one of the four leads of the film, as "the Latina friend." The other three leads, she said, were described in detail.
"I’m like, 'You just bastardized everything that I just f--king poured my heart and soul into,'" Serratos explained. "Because yes, that is what I am, and I’m proud of it, but that is not all that I am... They didn’t mention anything at all about this character, who had basically saved her friend's life. It was a very important person to talk about."
This experience is far from abnormal, both in terms of race, and gender. "Game of Thrones" star Maisie Williams recently called for actresses to stop taking "hot girlfriend" roles. And this apparent lack of meaty roles for women -- especially women of color -- is what Serratos says makes the "Walking Dead" cast feel very grateful.
Not only are they part of one of the few series that is inclusive of women of all shapes, sizes, ages and colors -- "Carol really puts it down for us," Serratos noted -- but they also get to take care of themselves, instead of existing solely as romantic interests or damsels in distress.
Oh, and for the record, Serratos explained that while she loves playing characters like Rosita, Suzie Crabgrass, and Angela Weber, she'd also love to play "somebody who is very famously Latina" -- though for the time being, that opportunity has yet to present itself. So, for the foreseeable future, it's all about kicking walker butt as Rosita and going on more auditions for Serratos... Who admitted that she's still on the fence when it comes to some of the issues she'll likely continue to face.
"It’s a rock and a hard place is what it is, because you’re incredibly proud of your heritage and you want to be that for people -- that’s what you are; that’s who you are," Serratos explained. "Sometimes it’s rough to go in on an audition where they need you to play an accent and speak the language, but on the other hand, it’s really sad when they don’t want that.
"So as an ethnic actor, it’s something that... I’m still personally figuring out where I stand on it. I just want chances."