Diane Guerrero is a self-proclaimed girly-girl. At a downtown New York salon, she has tested out five different shades of pink before settling on the one that first caught her attention. But, the Orange Is the New Black actress is so much more than a girl who knows her way around the beauty department. She’s the woman who bravely shared the story of her family’s deportation in an op-ed for the L.A. Times. She’s the woman who punctuates her pondering over polish with insightful discussion about Latinas in Hollywood. She’s the girl who isn’t afraid to tell you how everyone in high school thought she looked like the puppet from The Dark Crystal. “I actually saw the movie and was like, ‘Alright, fair enough. I look like the puppet,’” she said in between laughs. And, yes — in addition to all those things — she’s the one encouraging me to get an all-white manicure because it will be “fierce.”
Guerrero proves that femininity and intellect aren’t mutually exclusive. She’s a down-to-earth example of how a woman can actively engage in social justice while hitting up Lush for that toner she swears by. With a new season of OITNB premiering June 12, a recurring role on Jane the Virgin, and her memoir In The Country We Love coming out next year, we had a lot to talk about.
I saw a picture of you and President Obama [taken in November]. What did you two talk about?
“It was my first time meeting him. I was super nervous. I get there and of course I start crying because, first of all, I just love Obama. He was the first president I voted for that I was so proud of voting for. I paid attention to politics, I liked the candidate, I was just excited to be part of history. Especially [because] that day he was announcing his executive action for immigration relief. He was like, ‘I know you!’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God, Diane, don’t start crying.’ We took a picture. I’m gonna show you. [She takes out her phone and produces a photo she took of the official picture signed by Obama.] It says, ‘Diane, it was wonderful to see you. Thank you for getting involved. Barack Obama.’ We talked about Orange. He watches the show with Michelle. He was asking about the third season and trying to get spoilers, and I was like, ‘Mr. President, no.’ He gave a speech, and I don’t know how I finagled my way in the front. I turned around and saw [Senator] Harry Reid. He was like, ‘I know you! I love you on the show.’ Like, ‘What? You watch? That’s crazy!’ Then a Congressman brings me over to the front. Obama’s going around giving [everyone] their hugs. He saw me there and I was like, ‘Ah! I’m here again!’ That’s when he gave me a hug. I was like, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know what I’m doing here.’ And that’s when he said, ‘No, you belong here.’ He’s amazing.”
What was it like to be there on such an important day for immigration reform?
“Amazing. It all happened so fast, to be honest. I had been living with my family’s story for so long without saying a word. I was just itching to get involved. I was seeing so many people putting their safety on the line — they were in danger of getting separated from their families, because they were out there being activists, trying to work for comprehensive immigration reform saying: ‘I’m undocumented. What are you going to do with me?’ I would have this burning feeling: ‘I know what you’re talking about. I know what you mean because this happened to me.’ I felt this overwhelming sense of responsibility. For so long I felt like I was missing something. Obviously I’m missing my family and there’s some unresolved stuff there, but more so I was missing that part of me that’s active and involved with my community. We have a broken immigration system that needs fixing. So what better way to do it than to speak from the heart and say, ‘Look, this is a problem. I am here in this country without my family, and that is a problem. I have made it out of this situation — not unscathed. I have been through it.’ I know a lot of people who haven’t been able to pull out and who haven’t been able to move on and make a good life for themselves, because of situations where their family was torn apart for them.”
And you’re continuing your story in your book. It comes out in 2016, right?
“Yeah. I’m really excited. There are times where I’m like, ‘Ehhh, I don’t want people to know this.’ But you know what? I hope that it inspires kids going through [immigration problems], because when I went through this I was a kid. I had no direction and I felt like I was alone. If my story can help a kid or an adult feel like they’re not alone and like they can do something about what’s happening, then I’ve done something good and it was worth it. It’s hard to be known as the girl who experienced that. I’ll tell you what line I hate: ‘Diane Guerrero’s parents were deported when she was 14.’ I hate that line. It hurts. It’s sometimes embarrassing. I feel like sometimes it’s embarrassing for my family. It’s a big sacrifice, but I’m doing it because if I was going to be in the public eye, I was going to be truthful. I have to use my experience to help others. That’s my purpose in life, I think.”
Let’s talk about Orange Is the New Black. Are we going to see more of Maritza’s backstory this season?
“You’re gonna see a little bit more of her and find out more about her life outside [the prison]. I can’t tell you whether I get a backstory or not, but I will say that you get to meet her a little more. She’s funnier than ever, and you see a little more of her softer side at certain points. You understand why a girl like her would be in there. You wanna know something other than they have an attitude and a chip on their shoulder and that they’re the dumb one of the bunch.”
Is it hard for you to play a character that’s dumbed down?
“No. I think Maritza plays dumb only because she doesn’t wanna put in the effort. I think this is true for a lot of people that if they just applied themselves a little more, they would totally be smarter than what they seem. She just doesn’t care to. When it comes down to it I think I’m a pretty smart cookie when I wanna be.”
Are you afraid of becoming typecast?
“At first I was. As a Latina in Hollywood, sometimes you get annoyed when all your parts are, like, ‘the sexy, hot Latina’ or whatever. You’re going to get those [scripts] all the time, but I think the stories are getting better and becoming more inclusive. I have thought about that more now — that I have a responsibility to do projects that are going to make me feel good and send out a good message, or that I feel are funny or are going to propel society forward. I’m also not opposed to playing a person you would say would be a stereotype. Right now I’m itching to play something really different. I love science fiction. I would love to be in one of these crazy superhero movies or some sort of Neverending Story type deal. And I’ll be the goblin. I don’t have to be the like princess heroine. Put some prosthetics on me. Let’s go. I wanna be the fairy or the ghoul or the troll at the bridge.”
Were you starstruck when you went to the SAG awards?
“Absolutely. Every step of the way. I didn’t talk to anybody. The girls went over and took pictures with Meryl Streep, Ethan Hawke, and all these people who really love the show, and I was completely mute. I’m still kind of navigating through that. I have a lot of awkward moments trying to talk to celebrities, especially if I’m a huge, huge fan. I don’t know what to say. I will say, though, after I had a few glasses of wine that night I managed to have a very long conversation with the ladies of Downton Abbey and I was stoked. That was actually a great moment. And then Kiera Knightley was at the bar when I was getting a napkin and I wanted to say something and I was just like [choking noises.] If you don’t have anything to say, what are you gonna say? Like ‘Hey I really admire your work. You’re so great. I love Bend it like Beckham.’ I love any sports-related films because I love teamwork and, like, the underdog and fighting to be in the top.
Did you ever watch Friday Night Lights?
“Um, is my name Diane Guerrero?”
“One word: Riggins. Obsessed. I cried. I laughed. I cursed the fact that that wasn’t my life. If that was my life I would be in heaven. I actually was at a [screen] test with [Aimee Teegarden] and I never go up to anybody because I’m too shy, but I did go up to her and was like, ‘I loved you on Friday Night Lights’.. She was nice. Connie Britton? I can’t. Michael B. Jordan? Stop. Minka Kelly. Everybody in that cast I just love. Jurnee Smollett. She’s another person I went up to.”
I saw on your Instagram you went as Lucille Ball for Halloween.
“I love Lucille Ball. She was a boss. She’s kickass. I like her because she was open with interracial dating [laughs] and I just think that’s ballsy, especially during her time. She was, like, into Ricky. I mean, who wouldn’t be, right? She used what she had. I like people who are resourceful like that — use what you got. She used her charm and humor to be successful. I love that she created this show and owned it with [Desi] at a time when women weren’t making big decisions like that. She was a pioneer in the feminist movement, I guess. Am I talking shit?”
No way. Were you a fan of Nick at Nite growing up?
“Can I tell you something? Nick at Nite was my jam. Laverne & Shirley. Happy Days. The Odd Couple. Taxi. You name it, I was into it. Honestly, that’s why I’m so in love with what I do now. It’s because I watched all these shows as a kid. At the time I was by myself. I was reciting what they were saying word for word. I was just in love with that era.”
Looking back, was there anything you tried that definitely didn’t work?
“Yeah, but those were the times where I kept it way too basic, where I was afraid to take a risk. Those are the times I look back on and say, ‘Oh I didn’t look so good there.’ It was because I was afraid to step outside my comfort zone. For the SAG Awards, I wore this beautiful, red Jill Stuart dress. It was so silly. I had this really pretty light blue bag that I wore with it, but I didn’t wear it on the carpet. The blue looked fantastic with the red, but that was one of the times where I was just like, ‘Why didn’t I wear the bag on the carpet? That was an accessory. It was part of my outfit.’ I just got nervous that it really wouldn’t take well. But it’s silly, like if I feel like it looks good then nothing else should matter.”
Do you have any beauty products you swear by?
“I’ve been getting into Lush. I absolutely love their products. I love the Herbalism Scrub. I love the Tea Tree Toner. It’s everything. My skin has never been better. I mean I get little blemishes now and then. I also like the Exfolikate from Kate Somerville.”
Wanna talk about boys?
You’ve shared some pictures with your boyfriend on Instagram. How long have you two been dating?
“It’s gonna be a year and some change. He’s a great partner.”
Do you think you two will get married?
“Well, we were just at his cousin’s wedding and he caught the garter and I caught the bouquet, so it’s kind of out of my hands.”