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How Francia Raísa's How I Met Your Father Character Embraces Her Latin Heritage

How I Met Your Father star Francia Raísa opened up about being first generation American during E!'s Ones to Watch series in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month on Sept. 22. Watch now.

By Samantha Bergeson Sep 22, 2021 7:45 PMTags
Watch: Francia Raisa Talks Growing Up First-Generation Latina: Ones to Watch

Taking a stand.

Francia Raísa is known for a lot of roles: her scene-stealing turn as Ana Torres on Grown-ishplaying Adrian on The Secret Life of an American Teenager and now, Valentina on the highly-anticipated spinoff series, How I Met Your FatherOh, and did we mention that Raísa is Selena Gomez's real-life BFF

During E!'s Ones to Watch series in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Raísa exclusively opened up about how her cultural background is always at the forefront when selecting roles.

"One of the things that I always ask myself is I have to make a decision if I'm going to make this character a first, second or third-generation Latin American, because there's a difference," Raísa explained. "I'm a first-generation Latina. We grew up speaking Spanish and translating for our parents. A second generation, which would be my children, are not going to do that. In most of my projects, I have played first-generation. But I made a decision. I was like, you know what I played first. And second generation-ers, I don't see them getting a lot of love. I want other second generation-ers or so before to understand that it's OK to be in touch with your Latin side, but not know it so well."

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And, Raísa helped craft her How I Met Your Father character with a specific message in mind: "I'm excited for youngins to see, 'Oh, she looks like me. Oh, she's playing second generation. OK, so it's not a bad thing that I can't speak Spanish or that I have white friends,' because I was judged a lot growing up for having white friends and my Latin friends would call me whitewashed. So trying to figure out a way to break barriers, open conversation and have other Latinos, Latinx people growing up saying, 'I can do this too, and it's OK that I'm this way and that way and maybe not this way.'"

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Raísa also was a huge fan of the original series, How I Met Your Mother, and teased that the spin-off is going to be "amazing" thanks to a talented and funny cast.

"I am so, so happy about these scripts. They're hilarious," Raísa hinted. "My sister calls me the cult classic queen, and I was like, 'Well, the luck's not going to stop here, all right?' So, where this one's going to be a success, Grown-ish is a success, which is a spin-off of Black-ish. You know, all of the Cutting Edge movies I did, and Bring it On 3. They were all a success, so I'm going to say, I'm nervous but I'm also excited because, one, it's good. And two, I was like, you know, I have a good track record. So let's keep it going." 

Each role also offers a new opportunity to accomplish the challenging task of relating to other characters, especially when it comes to Grown-ish's Ana. 

"The one thing my acting coach always says is you cannot judge your character. If you judge your character or you judge the script, you're not going to be able to perform," Raísa noted. "And this is a challenge for me and I want to understand where she's coming from. I am happy, though, that in this season you see a different side to Anna, a more human side to her, and playing this has definitely given me a different eye and I don't care if someone thinks differently from me. I'm glad that for me it was a lesson for me to open my mind more."

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However, Raísa is still combating stereotypes off-screen in the audition process.

"I couldn't get an audition that didn't say sexy or lascivious or va va voom, and of course I get a call," she reflected. "In the beginning, too, they were telling me, like, when you slate and when you introduce yourself, don't say it with your accent. Say it more American. I had a casting director told me one time to stop wearing hoop earrings because I wasn't ghetto and it looks bad in auditions like I've been through it. I'm glad things are different now. Individuality is celebrated. So we're doing better. It's not great, but we're doing a lot better."

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And, Raísa constantly has to juggle her identity as a Latin-American actress. "It's hard to want to be in touch with our Latin side, but get judged if we're not. But also judged if we are," she opened up. "It's just it's a weird limbo. So, of course, I struggle with it to this day still." 

Thanks to quarantine, though, Raísa proudly stated that she is her "true-er self now" and thoughtfully uses her platform to help others "feel seen" as well. "We matter in this economy. We matter in this country. We're human beings, and I think more so what people are fighting for is human rights," Raísa said. "I appreciate J.Lo, I appreciate Selena and I appreciate all the people that came before me and opened doors for me to help me appreciate where I come from. And I got to give a lot of credit to my parents. They made sure that we loved who we are as Mexican Honduran women. Look, we fight, we have our differences, but no matter what, we are there for each other."

Raísa concluded, "Our culture is beautiful. Amongst the Latinx community, we have different dialects, but we have the same heart." 

Watch the full interview above!

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