We caught up with the Cuban American actress Gina Torres to talk about being an Afro-Latina in Hollywood, her fantastic 10-year-marriage to actor Laurence Fishburne, her role in NBC’s Hannibal, and the third season of her hit cable show, Suits.
What direction would you like to see your character, Jessica Pearson, go in the third season of Suits, which premieres in July?
I could not have imagined where they took her for season two. I actually asked the creator [Aaron Korsh], “We have to see this part of her. We have to see the woman that got into that corner office. Like any classic character, you love her, you love that you can sort of hate her, you kind of want to be her, you want to be able to say the things that she says, walk into a room the way she walks into a room, dress the way she dresses. Hopefully, in 10 or 20 years from now they’ll go, “Oh yeah! That’s a Jessica Pearson moment!” I trust them to take Jessica further down the line in another direction to show more or her strengths, certainly to show her weaknesses, because she’s got to be human. She’s kind of flawless and scary right now and if we see what’s wrong with her, if we get to see her imperfections then that will endear her more to us.
On NBC’s Hannibal you portray your [real life] husband’s, Laurence Fishburne, wife. Is it difficult to work with your husband?
It’s great. When we’re home, we’re a married couple. When we’re on set, we’re actors and we’re working. We understand each other and have a great deal of respect for each other and for each other’s work. I was talking to our director, Guillermo Navarro, and he said, “You know, this is really weird.” I said, “What’s weird about it?” and he said, “Usually when I work with spouses, they’re competitive and the two of you are not competitive at all, you’re respectful and you support each other.” And again it’s that thing that I get to work with Laurence Fishburne. What actor in their right mind does not want to work with Laurence Fishburne? He is phenomenal, warm and gifted, and so that’s what I get to do.
So now we’re going to ask you the inevitable “Black Latina in Hollywood” question. Because so many times, your name and your color is an instant “that’s not the direction we’re going in”—how do you balance that view of yourself with the reality of what happens?
My view of myself doesn’t change. I know who I am. I’m Cuban American, both my parents are Cuban–one was a little browner than the other one. That’s who I am. I feel sorry that it’s taken so long for the film industry to figure it out and to catch up.
And there are so many Afro-Latino actors who don’t get the recognition they deserve.
There are so many of us out there. And part of it is, we’re undercover. They don’t know, and if we stood and said, “that’s it I’m not going do any roles that are not Latina,” we would not work. I don’t feel like I’m living a lie, because the fact is the world sees me as an African American woman unless they ask the question. Therefore my experience in the world, outside of my family, is that of an African American woman.
Everyone’s trying to make a buck, and so your pool gets smaller and smaller and smaller. When the establishment is saying “we don’t want to take a risk on an unknown,” so this is our pool: we’ve got three on the A line, maybe four on the B line—that means you’ve got seven women. If five of them are working, which chances are they are, then where do you go? Well, then they tank the project. Or they put it on hold until one of those three can do it. That’s why you have so many pop stars getting jobs, getting work as actors, because they come with their own audience. It’s the age of celebrity. It’s the age of social media. But for we old school girls who don’t want to show up at every single event just ‘cause. I don’t tweet–I have nothing to say. [Laughs] I’m not on Facebook, I mean it sounds like I have plenty to say, but that’s to people who I’m in a room with. I’m not that interesting, and the rest is none of your business. [Laughs].
Watch Gina Torres on Hannibal tonight on NBC at 10PM EST.