Born in Venezuela and raised in America, Maria Corina Ramirez is an actress, writer and yogini who knows what it’s like to embrace different worlds at the same time. Since graduating from New World School of the Arts in Miami, the versatile talent has become a familiar presence on the stage as well as in film and television for both English and Spanish audiences.
Maria recently co-wrote (and co-stars in) Complex Network’s first-ever scripted series, Grown, which debuted in May to much acclaim and is streaming now. The eight-episode comedy is about two twenty-something Haitian-American cousins (portrayed by and co-written by Joshua Jean-Baptiste and Edson Jean) who are forced to live together while trying to figure out their lives in Miami’s inner city.
It’s a show that offers funny, gritty and realistic storytelling that brings to mind other series like The Chi, Insecure and Vida. And after reading our interview with Maria, you’re definitely going to realize this homegirl keeps it real, too!
Hi Maria! Congratulations on Grown! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with Homegirl Talk.
Hey, homegirl, hey! Thanks for having me!
Tell us about your role as Robin. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I know that she works in a Cuban cafe called Mesa Sabor, she’s the best friend (maybe more?) to main character Josh and she seems to be a good-hearted person. What would you say are the biggest similarities and differences between you and your character?
The biggest similarities between Robin and myself are our genuine, constant care and mothering for the friends and people around us, the environment and the world. I am also a lover of yoga, a “healthy cow,” like Alex says … and I haven’t yet, but I would leave a man for a juicer hahaha!
She’s also Venezuelan-American, as am I. And most importantly, she exemplifies the bond that I have in my real life with the Haitian-American and the African-American communities. There are less differences between the two of us, but outwardly, she is a little “cooler” and more “hippy” than I am. I don’t know that I’d ever rock those awesome locks. She’s a version of me though, a very similar though not identical version.
The show is a comedy but it also tackles serious issues including the death of a parent, finding love, working-class struggles and even the cultural interplay of Latinos and Haitians. As one of the show’s co-writers, how important was it to present these topics and also include humor?
It was pivotal to us. We were really focused on getting a story out there that felt real. We wanted it to be an accurate representation of some of our experiences and by nature of that intention, because such is life, there is comedy and there is tragedy. We didn’t want to push to be funny or push to be dramatic. We wanted the circumstances to be enough and carry their own weight.
I don’t wanna get all sappy on you guys but… so many years of sweat, love and tears have gone into making today possible. If a few years ago while I was sobbing in the rain on a run 🏃🏻♀️ (very film like and very dramatic but it’s a true story), heartbroken because I couldn’t see past the last couple of auditions I didn’t get, someone would have stopped me and told me that I’d be able to write and star in a show with two of my greatest friends and artists I admire most, in the city I love most, while living with the people I love most, I don’t know if I would have believed them. I might have thought it was too good to be true. Yet here I am, three years later, attesting that it did happen. I did get to live this dream. And I swear I would do it all over again, including all the heartache. Because dreams are worth it and dreams really do come true, but only after you’ve learned lessons, only after you’ve learned to be calm and faithful, only after you work at them with your heart, expecting nothing in return. This show means so much to me and always will, specially because of everything it’s taught me. Thanks, universe. Thank you my beautiful, audacious, talented, perseverent boys, Josh and EJ. Thank you, Adaptive, Fanshen and every single person involved in making this happen. And most importantly, thanks mom! You are the one. You’ve given me the liberty to take leaps and have always believed, even when I didn’t. You’ve taught me to stay the course. You have been my course. Te dedico esto hoy y todo lo que he logrado y lograré. We’ve really only just begun but gratitude overflows. Now go binge @complexgrown ! 💕 @joshjeanb @celestelugo @onedropoflove #staythecourse #grown #miami
In addition to the people, the show has another major character: the city of Miami itself. Tell us about how it presents the “real Miami.”
We had been waiting our whole lives to see someone represent the Miami as we know it until we realized we should probably embark on that mission ourselves if we wanted it to get done. And of course, we are not the only ones and thankfully won’t be. But this show prVenezuelan-American Actress Maria Corina Ramirez esents a side of Miami that is so often missed by the usual superficial, glitz and glam Miami Vice-esque representation of its beaches and bikini babes.
With this this show, we wanted to present the beautiful, unique, Caribbean and Latin-American mix that is this city. A city is truly defined by its people, I think, so it meant a lot to us, for many reasons, to be able to put those people on screen and with that, their vibrant colors, flavors and sounds.
In our eyes, Miami truly is a magic city. And that’s not just because aesthetically it’s got so much to offer, but more importantly, because the people who have built it from the ground up are soulful people who color it with their universal bond of struggle, their search for the “American Dream,” their nostalgia for home countries left behind, their delicious music and foods that are as vibrant as the afternoon sunset colors experienced in that region of Florida. I could go on forever about Miami. I’ll stop now.
Gracias, Ben!! . Errbody, go binge Grown. Link in my bio! . #Repost @benaffleck with @get_repost ・・・ So proud of Edson Jean and @joshjeanb and their show #GROWN. This is the first contest winner of Adaptive’s Project Greenlight Digital Studios. Follow @complexgrown to stay tuned! #MovementMondays #Miami #ComedySeries #MiamiPride @complex
As a fellow Latina, I love how proud you are of your heritage and culture because we need as many brown people as possible representing in a positive and authentic light. Tell us about your background and why it’s such an important part of your identity.
Amen, girl! Amen! I remember growing up, having just come to America, my young mind wished I was whiter, blonder, that my parents had no accent, etc. simply because it was what I saw. But as I got older and matured, I realized that being Latina was one of the most precious gifts life had given me.
Our people have a warmth, flavor and sensibility that is truly unparalleled and I wish we did more celebrating of that! I am so in love with our culture. Passionately in love. I want to continue to voice that. Every time I watched a show on TV growing up, Disney channel or any other movie, and there was a brown girl I thought “That’s not how I am. That’s not how my family is” because unfortunately, the way we were represented was not ever in the best light.
While that is constantly changing and we are making strides, I am so honored to be able to support the movement that changes the narrative. It is with great responsibility and love that I write and portray the characters life gifts me. I often come to tears when I see young brown girls that remind me of myself because I think “it’s going to be different for you and I am going to make sure I do everything I can to help continue to make that happen.”
How do you see the landscape changing as far as opportunities and representation for Latinos in Hollywood and entertainment in general?
I think we’ve started to, but I think we still have so much left to go. For one, I think we have to support each other even more, especially in telling our own stories. I don’t think people have tried to misrepresent us purposely, but when an outside perspective writes about us, there is room for stereotypes and judgment because it has simply not been their experience.
So we must uplift each other in using our own voices and telling our own tales. And that includes expanding into all the colors of the spectrum that is Latin America, not limited to only one group. That includes our beautiful Afro-Latins, our Colombians, our Peruvians, our Cubans, Panamanians, Argentinians, Venezuelans, etc.
All of us have so much to add to the table and to the history of this melting pot of a country. All of us have something everyone else can learn from. We must, must, must continue to make room for that. I am optimistic about it, though.
How is doing a show for a streaming series different than working on a studio movie or TV show?
It’s been fun. There are less rules because it is still such fresh territory. That can be both a curse and a blessing, but we treated it mostly as the latter and jumped on the opportunity to take risks and play with ideas that might have been big no-nos in the studio movie or TV world.
On your Instagram page you describe yourself as a yogini. When I hear the word ‘yoga’ I think of the physical exercise, but I know it can also have a spiritual component. How do you practice yoga and how has it changed or improved your life?
Yoga entered my life the first year of college and it stayed for the better. I have always loved physical activity (shout out to my mami for instilling that in me since a young age), but with yoga I found a blend of mind, spirit and body.
I practice yoga more as a religion, because I have truly become enamored with the concepts it teaches that can be practiced on and off the mat. It has helped me stay rooted, keep calm in chaos, open my heart and feel connected to something divine in myself, which I believe is in all of us.
If there’s one overall message or purpose for the work you do, what is it?
To help us understand each other, to help us see each other, to heal.
What’s coming up next for you?
So many beautiful doors are opening up. There is a movie that I penned in the works, there is another project with my Grown boys, there is the desire for Grown season two. Many exciting things coming! All in the hopes of continuing to represent nuestra gente in a dignified way.
Is there anything else you want to say to all the homegirls out there who can gain some wisdom from you?
Homegirls: never doubt the sheer power of your divine feminine energy! We don’t get taught or told that enough. The intuition and sensibility we posses by nature of being women and having the ability to bring life to the world is one of the most powerful things I have come to learn to embrace in my life. Let’s join each other in celebrating, uplifting and harnessing that power together.
We are healers, we are caretakers and what we have to offer is invaluable. Don’t ever doubt that. Follow that. Let it guide you. Gift it to the men and women around you. Open up that channel. You are divine and what you can provide to any project or situation is infinite. That thing you are afraid to do or say or try because you have seen no other lady (or man) do it before you, do it. Go for it!
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