Let’s go back to an entry from my diary, June 2015.
This weekend, the Starz drama Power – executive produced by and starring hip hop icon 50 Cent – is back for its second season. As Mr. Jackson’s co-creator, Courtney Kemp, recently told TheRoot.com, female characters on the show are not the typical “cardboard” portrayed on television: “These women are incredibly realized, and we spend a lot of time making them rich individuals.”
Lela Loren is part of the exemplary female driven storylines on the show starring as Angela, Ghost’s former high school girlfriend.
Power is produced by 50 Cent, one of the hip hop moguls I truly admire as a businessman. What do you learn from him and his team that can only be learned from a man who isn’t a typical TV producer?
The fascinating thing about 50 Cent is seeing his fluidity between producer, rap artist, fellow actor, and businessman. He has complete freedom; he plays with all the chess pieces on the board, not just a few. At the same time, he stays very much true to who he is. You get the man rather than the image when you speak to him. He’s disarmingly warm, charming, and laid back, but that belies a ferocious work ethic, discipline, and keen insight into people. I think what we learn from 50 Cent and his success is that all these concepts of type, category, title we have for ourselves or each other, are only as real as we allow them to be, but rising above all of it is not for the faint of heart and is anything but easy.
What freedom do you experience with the production and your work as an actress because it isn’t on basic cable: that is, on a premium movie channel? Things that make the show special?
I’m going to name the elephant in the room, because I don’t like dancing around the obvious. Premium cable allows for graphic language, violence, and nudity. That’s what sets it apart from basic cable and network television. And with that freedom also comes responsibility. In a show like Power, the writers, producers, directors have the responsibility of using violence, language, sex, to tell the most authentic, vibrant, story possible rather than using them as a gratuitous gimmick. Power walks that razor thin line; it pushes the envelope, but is always about the story. As an actress, it raises the stakes and deepens the challenge of taking on a roll like Angela. What’s special about the show is that all of the characters, the situations they get themselves into, are complex, contradictory, none of them are complete heroes or villains. There is truth to every perspective, and that creates great addictive drama.
What are some “negatives” people told you about yourself in past auditions or other work that have actually turned out to benefit your career and make you who you are?
When I was young, I never fit in. So I stopped trying, and that has been the greatest blessing. I had a family that, although they often didn’t understand me, loved me, and encouraged me to follow my heart rather than gain social acceptance. When I first started in this business, people didn’t know what to do with me. I was initially told I was too dark to play American; then I was told I didn’t look Hispanic enough; I wasn’t sexy enough; I wasn’t curvy enough. The “not enoughs” went on and on. I didn’t listen to any of it because my whole life I had been hearing that on some level, and whose call is it anyway? I just kept working on my craft and had faith that talent and authenticity will eventually change perception. And guess what? It does.
What are some breakthroughs you hope Hispanic actresses make in the next decade?
I don’t think Hispanic actresses need to “breakthrough” as much as I hope our industry of writers, producers, directors, continue to challenge and “break down” the stereotypes that Hollywood/society has around all women including Hispanic women. Because as soon as someone dares to write a character that defies our presumptions of what a “Latina” woman is, there is always an actress that rises to fill it!
I also hope that in the next decade, Hispanic characters will be written and played with more consistent accuracy. One of the things I love about Power is the commitment to making sure the details of the character, the language, accent used, etc. fits the character’s background and upbringing. My character Angela isn’t simply Hispanic. She is raised working-class, educated, Newyorican. None of us are simply Hispanic. We are Tarascan Mestizo from Michoacan, Chicana and German from Fresno, Oaxacan, Puerto Rican from Chicago, Basque from Bakersfield, the list goes on and on. How we honor our heritage and culture is by being as specific and accurate as possible, and of course by giving voice to the multiplicity of women that makeup Hispano-American.
This article originally appeared en español on my ELLE Spain blog.
ELLE Spain discontinued their freelance blog journalism program in 2016. I have republished it on NicoleRussinMcFarland.com once again so my journalism may live on. I am grateful for the experiences I had from 2011-2016 writing for my personal Spanish language blog, revista ELLE for providing the blog, and the time from all of my interviewees.