Diane Guerrero, 29, plays inmate Maritza Ramos on Orange Is the New Black and Jane’s best friend Lina on Jane the Virgin. Born in New Jersey and raised in Boston, she attended the Boston Arts Academy, where she studied voice. She received a bachelor’s degree in political science and communications at Regis College, but she soon moved to New York to pursue her passion for the arts. She has appeared on Person of Interest, Blue Bloods and Taxi Brooklyn and in Are We There Yet?, and she will appear in the upcoming features Peter and John and Happy Yummy Chicken. In the spring, she will publish a memoir drawing on her experience as the daughter of Colombian immigrants, who were deported when she was 14. She lives in New York.
Diane Guerrero: Well, so far people have only heard the rough outline of my story, and they don’t know the full details of what I went through. Anyone who doesn’t realize how poor our immigration system is can learn a lot from it.
Do you consider yourself a singer first and foremost? I consider myself an artist. I’m a singer and an actor and a writer, and who knows—maybe someday I’ll be a dancer or do something else creative.
Song you sing most often in the shower? Either “I Loves You, Porgy” or “September Song.”
Soundtrack of your life? I’m going to go with ABBA’s greatest hits, the gold album.
Favorite telenovela? I don’t really watch them anymore, but growing up, I was super into La Usurpadora, which basically means “The Usurper.” It was about this really rich, evil woman who goes to a restaurant where the very poor bathroom attendant turns out to look exactly like her. It was very dramatic. The rich woman has this wonderful husband, and she wants to escape from him, so she hires or blackmails this poor girl into posing as her. I was obsessed.
Worst telenovela title? There are a lot, but I guess the worst would be Sin Senos No Hay Paraíso, which translates as “Without Breasts There Is No Paradise.”
Doesn’t Jane the Virgin have so many farfetched coincidences that it’s totally implausible? I don’t think so. Truth is stranger than fiction. Anything can happen, even if it only happens in our hearts or heads.
What would you do if you were accidentally artificially inseminated? At this point in my life, I’d probably keep it, but if I were as young as Jane was, with no husband and a complicated situation, I might consult with Planned Parenthood. Every woman will tell you that you have to be in that position to really know how you feel. So it could go either way.
So when you’re on a show and your credit is as a “recurring character,” are you constantly trying to change that? Yeah. As an artist, I’m always trying to improve my position. I have a fantastic gig with Orange Is the New Black, but I’m going to evolve, and I want to find more work.
Do you worry about being typecast? I used to worry about it a lot. But every time that I get a little fearful about it, I remind myself that I’m in control of my career, and I have the final say on what projects I do.
Latina actress you idolized growing up? Oh, all of them. Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, Rosie Perez, Zoe Saldana…anyone who represented us. I commend them for their work, and I aspire to be like them.
Favorite Spanish swear word? Mierda, which means shit. It also happens to be my favorite swear in English.
Are Colombian women the source of the legend of fierce Amazons? Oh, yeah. Colombian women are fierce. We grab life by the horns. We’re go-getters. This is what I see in my mother, my grandmother, my aunts. We all have a lot of passion and fight for what we believe in. There’s this stereotype of Latino culture that the men are very macho and the women are all submissive, but it’s not true of Colombians. We are taught to stand up for ourselves and be proud of who we are.
Would you be offended if I called you a fiery Latina? No. I am fiery, period. I’m seriously fiery. Like, you need a glass of water after meeting me.
Popular phrase that most offends you? When people say, “I’m blessed.” I’m like, “Who are you that the supreme being singled you out?” It just sounds so presumptuous and arrogant to me, and from my perspective, I have to point out that your geographical location has a lot to do with how “blessed” you are.
What’s the recipe for Happy Yummy Chicken? Campy, laugh-out-loud fun. It’s a mockumentary about an actual event that happened in China, I believe. It’s just absolute ridiculousness, and I got to work with my friends, which was great, and I got to exercise my comedic muscles.
Biggest beauty secret? When I start feeling gross, I drink gallons and gallons of water.
Workout regimen? At the moment, it’s my hand in a bag of chips, which is terrible. But I walk everywhere, and I’m very active. When I go to the gym, I like to run.
Dream role? Anything where I would play a science-fiction or mythical character. I’m dying to play a part that has to do with fantasy.
Is there one person you most want to work with? Can I say four? And these are directors: Spike Lee, Pedro Almodóvar, Wes Anderson and Tim Burton.
At what point will you feel secure? I guess when I’m secure. [Laughs.] I just think it takes time. There have been a lot of ups and downs in my life, and I’m not there yet, but I think as I mature and live a little more, maybe have my first child, I’ll start feeling secure.
Hair: Kia Sterling; Makeup: Jamie Dorman / ABTP; Styling: Joseph Delate / Ray Brown Productions; Wardrobe: Marchesa Notte dress; Manicure: Kayo Higuchi using Chanel le Vernis at De Facto