Rising star Karrie Martin plays one of the lead roles on the Netflix show Gentefied, a bilingual drama-comedy that is bringing more representation on screen for the Latinx community. In her first lead role, she takes on the character Ana Morales, a queer Chicana artist from an East Los Angeles neighborhood. With a cast of first-generation Latin-Americans with diverse heritages, Martin is honored to be part of a project that mirrors the struggles of balancing being too Latinx and not Latinx enough whilst shattering stereotypes of the Latinx community by offering up authentic portrayals of Latin-Americans. Martin discusses her experiences as a first-generation Latin-American navigating Hollywood, how she got her start in the industry as a casting intern, and how her character is breaking the stereotype of Latinas.

How are you doing in quarantine? Where are you now?
At first, just like everybody else, I feel like I started off handling it well and then the reality and the heaviness of what’s going on really got to me. I will say that I have definitely had my emotional ups and downs throughout this process, but I’m so blessed to be quarantining again at my parents’ home in Louisiana. I’m originally from Louisiana, so I’ve been traveling back and forth between here and LA doing press for Gentefied. When the quarantine started I was already planning on coming home for an engagement dinner with my family and my fiancé’s family but because of the circumstances, I ended up staying. I was certainly more calm in the beginning, but I have found that even though we are not on the frontlines there is still a lot of mental distress that comes with this pandemic.

Have you found ways to be creative at home? How have you been spending your time?
So, I have no excuse to not go outside! I am lucky enough to live somewhere where there’s enough room to enjoy the outdoors while maintaining social distancing. I have been spending my days exercising, riding my bike, and my family and I took to puzzles very early on in this process, which has been a lot of fun. I have also been binging shows and movies and things like that to keep my creative juices flowing because once you have that actor’s brain on you are not just watching it for entertainment purposes, you are also analyzing everything that is happening, like homework.

DRESS by ELLIATT

Let’s trace it back to the beginning of your time in the entertainment industry. How did you start your career?
I actually graduated from Louisiana State University with a major in nothing related to the entertainment industry. However, between my sophomore and junior year in college, I started taking acting classes in the Baton Rouge area, which was really fun for me. I was also taking a drama English class that focused on plays and theatrical performances, so I was able to go and watch the performances, which proved to be very immersive and made me fall even more in love with acting. Then in 2012, my younger sister and I started going to an acting school in New Orleans and through the school, we got the opportunity to move to LA. Once we arrived, we started auditioning immediately and I started taking roles here and there. In the middle of my time taking those roles and booking Gentefied, I actually started working at a casting office because I wanted to know what I was doing wrong and to figure out why I was not booking things. From there I became a personal assistant and then a casting assistant and then a casting associate and that’s when Gentefied came along.

What have you learned from working in casting that has benefitted you now that you’re in front of the camera?
I say with total humility that I would not be where I am if it had not been for the experiences I had working in casting. Being able to watch auditions or be the reader for the people we see on TV in movies today was extremely helpful. I was constantly taking notes from the producers and directors based on advice or comments they were giving to the actor. I knew that I was doing the right thing by building my knowledge from what my colleagues were doing, and I think that the most important thing I’ve learned from those experiences really has to do with the audition process. I think the thing that changed it all for me was knowing that I was enough and watching and learning from actors that had the confidence to ask for another take if they did not like the first one. For me, auditions are that one day where you can truly shine, and you have to take that moment and remember that everyone in that audition room is honored to see you. They know that you are about to change their lives, they want you to be great, and they want you to get the best take possible. The more power you have in the audition room, the more they are going to see that you know what you are doing and they will trust your judgment.

So you play one of three cousins on Gentefied who are trying to deal with their own issues while saving their grandpa’s taco shop. The show has been a hit on Netflix, and I know it has resonated with a lot of people, especially Latinx people and Hispanic people like myself because it deals with the themes of Latinx identity and authenticity that aren’t typically addressed. Given its uniqueness, what has been the most important or enriching part of filming Gentefied for you?
I would start off by saying that as a cast, just from hearing other experiences, I am not sure if we will ever again feel this blessed to feel as though we are working with a family. From the second we met in the audition room, there were sparks between the three of us. Throughout this entire process, I have always felt at home in the sense that it never felt like work despite the heavy themes and heavy moments. Everyone held space so beautifully and that really stuck with me. Like I said, I’m from southern Louisiana and I was raised in a predominantly white community,  so I was very unaware of what Latinos were going through in other parts of the country when they arrived in the states or were born however many generations into it. I am so blessed to say that I was never picked on for being Latina, and I feel as though it was more of a culture shock for my sister and me when we moved to Los Angeles because there are so many Latinos there. I feel that filming Gentefied has allowed me to see the culture of what we call Los Angeles. Learning about Boyle Heights and taking a tour of Boyle Heights has educated me so much and left me so humbled because where I come from I would have never even known of anything that Gentefied brings to life.

SHORTS SUIT by JOANNA HADFIELD / SHOES by JIMMY CHOO / TOP by ELLIATT

How do you embrace your Latinx roots? What reminds you of home?
First of all, I lived with my sister, so that helped me a lot when we first moved away from home. However, in the last few months in Los Angeles, I was essentially by myself, so for me, it was not so much food or anything like that but it was honest contact with my family back home. I called my mom every single morning and FaceTimed her every single night. It is always nice to talk to her and hear her voice, so for me it was really as simple as having that immediate connection to my mom. Aside from family, faith has always helped my sister and me whenever we felt sad or stressed. Knowing that we could turn to God when things got overwhelming was very helpful.

To everybody, to Latinas, to my Latinx community, and to humanity as a whole, we are enough. We have enough in us to hold positions of power and to be leaders. It is time to remove the narrative of whatever it is you’ve been told and start believing that we can do anything if we work really hard. We should never stop dreaming.

Aside from how refreshing the specificity of the characters’ voices and the unique experiences highlighted in Gentefied make for a very compelling project to join, what else about the role made you want to play it? Was there a moment when you were like this character was made for me?
I think that for me the moment that it all felt right was the day I did a chemistry read with [Ana’s] cousins, played by Carlos [Santos] and J.J. [Soria]. I remember them telling us to just hang out and improvise to see what would happen and immediately we started to pick on Carlos, which is exactly how the show goes. The joke on set was that Carlos was always left out of conversations and would ask, “Oh, what were you guys talking about?” and we’re like, “You had to be there.” Also, when I walked into the audition and saw Linda [Yvette Chávez] and Marvin [Lemus] and America [Ferrera], I had such great interactions with them that I called my sister and told her that whether or not I booked the show, I wanted to be friends with everyone.

You’ve talked about how your main goal has been to honor Ana and what she is forced to experience as a Latina girl who is part of the LGBTQ community. What was the scariest part about telling Ana’s story and tapping into the parts of her that you weren’t as familiar with?
I personally am not queer but that was not my fear at all. I was more concerned with being able to portray a Chicana with a Mexican-American accent because I do not have that accent. When Marvin told me I booked this project and he thanked me for being me and told me that everything I did was enough, I remember feeling so happy because I felt like I was able. Being queer was just another little tag on the many things that Ana is. It is not at the forefront of who she is, rather Ana’s mindset is that this is who she loves, that people either accept it or they do not, and then right back to her art. 

What qualities do you share with your character, Ana Morales, and what qualities do you think you can learn from her moving forward?
I feel as though through her I found myself wanting to be as confident as she is. Initially, what drew me to her was the fact that she was very blunt. I relate to her in the way that I always give it to people straight and I don’t sugarcoat things.

TOP & SKIRT by OTT / SHOES by SCHUTZ / HEADBAND by THE SIS KISS

America Ferrera is one of the executive producers of the show, and as a Latina, she’s always been a recognizable, comforting face in a sea of people who never looked like me on screen. I was wondering what the most valuable thing you’ve learned from working with her has been as a fellow Honduran-American woman in the entertainment industry?
I think what she brings to the table as an actress, as an activist, and in all the roles she has chosen to take on, is the belief that she can be anything as long as she authentically stands in her power. I think that she is a great example of the saying, “Sí se puede.” When she came in to direct she was no-nonsense, but she still played with us and was there for us when we dove into the ugly and the uncomfortable in this world of acting. She knew what she wanted and did not apologize. I respected her so much for that and because of her I have learned how to pay attention to everything around me and soak it all in. I am honored to know her because of how intelligent she is in this acting world and in life.

You also started a clothing brand called Martin Ave. with your sister. What has it been like to start your own business, and what inspired this endeavor?
So, you know they always say not to put all your eggs in one basket, and my sister and I were definitely one basket kind of girls. However, we love fashion and when we saw an opportunity to bring a little bit of the South to Los Angeles, we took it. We went with a gender-neutral name because our goal at some point is for our brand to be for men and women, not just women. Our brand is for the everyday girl, and you can take it anywhere you go. For us, wanting to create and put our creative juices in another basket was a process, but it has turned out to be like another high.

It’s been a tough time for small businesses. What are some small businesses in the NOLA area that readers local to the area can support?
In terms of local companies in the area that have supported us, I would shoutout HerringStone’s and Hemline. I have also noticed that a lot of restaurants are still offering takeout, and I think that’s so huge. Speaking of small businesses, my parents are both contractors and own their own small business called Martin Home. My dad is still doing quotes if anyone is interested! So, that is where I have been supporting and trying to help as much as possible.

What’s a positive message you can share with our readers during these times?
To everybody, to Latinas, to my Latinx community, and to humanity as a whole, we are enough. We have enough in us to hold positions of power and to be leaders. It is time to remove the narrative of whatever it is you’ve been told and start believing that we can do anything if we work really hard. We should never stop dreaming.

 

STORY SOPHIA MONTALBAN
PHOTOS LESLIE ALEJANDRO
HAIR DALLIN JAMES
MAKEUP MARINA GRAVANI
STYLIST KAREN RAPHAEL