DIANNE GUERRERO [DOOM PATROL]
WORDS: IRVIN RIVERA
A few years after the release of her book IN THE COUNTRY WE LOVE: MY FAMILY DIVIDED, author and actress Diane Guerrero’s passionate advocacy for the immigrant community intensified.
Released in 2016, the book placed Guerrero amidst the spotlight of immigration affairs.
She is a storyteller- an artist who uses her gifts to influence, educate and encourage discourse through her art. On top of her successful acting stints (Orange Is The New Black, Jane the Virgin, Doom Patrol), Guerrero is writing a new book and developing a TV series and a film.
In this exclusive interview, Diane Guerrero talks to us about the faulty immigration system in the US, the importance and symbolism of her character Maritza in Orange Is The New Black, starting dialogues about mental health through her character Crazy Jane in Doom Patrol, and her desire to create projects that will open doors for others to share their stories.
It's been a few years after you shared your story and your book (In the Country We love: My family divided) to the world. How has it been since then? How are your parents and family?
It was one of the greatest decisions of my life. I found purpose in sharing myself in this way with my community. My hope has always been that people feel and see a familiar experience and face in mine and feel less alone. I have no doubt that has been the case with people who have been in this struggle.
And we’ve seen how family separation has increased and affected people all over our nation. I hope that my story has encouraged people to turn these fears into action.
My family is strong, and happy that I’ve used my platform and our family’s personal story to elevate this much needed conversation. Along we long to be together in a more traditional sense, our love remains.
I wish to open doors for others like me who burns with passion to share stories that create positive change
What's your stance in the current immigration system?
The current system is broken and designed to be so. We need to repeal awful laws that have made it easy for administrations such as this one to exacerbate family separation and inhumane treatment of the immigrant community.
We need to fight and get back our humanity. Terrorist acts, like the one in El Paso and the detention of 700 workers in Mississippi, are a direct result of this system. We need a new way forward- one that reflects the humanity in all people.
How often do you get people coming to you with their own share of immigration stories?
I have been honored to take my story to many places like schools, media, immigration rights organizations, and the streets. People from all over share their stories with me. We cry, we motivate each other, and we thank each other for our vulnerability, courage, and strength. It’s why I continue with my work. We are not alone.
Let’s talk about Maritza’s role in the final season of Orange Is The New Black.
We see in this final season a very real depiction of what is going on in immigration detention centers all over our nation. That being said, it’s a fraction of the atrocities. Orange has always done such a beautiful job of speaking out on social issues affecting our country and I am honored to have taken part in this story. I am overwhelmed every time by the power of art and storytelling and its correlation to people’s consciousness and understanding. The reaction to the work we did on this topic was clear - we need to create change and stop criminalizing communities of color. We started as a nation of immigrants. To turn our backs on our former selves is something that we can’t seem to admit that we’re doing - let alone to put people in cages for taking the same action that many citizens’ ancestors did when they came here to make a better life. We must recognize how wrong we are, and do better.
Tell us about Crazy Jane in Doom Patrol. What's the best part about playing her?
My character Crazy Jane on Doom Patrol has been, as an actor, a pleasure to play. I’ve always wanted to play a superhero - especially one as complicated as Jane. She has Split Personality disorder with 64 personalities and 64 superpowers to match. She is a powerful one. I’ve gotten a chance to explore the human psyche through this character and it is the most fascinating and freeing experience I’ve ever had. I especially think about how mental health affects us all. Jane’s story is actually based on real life - a real person who suffered unspeakable abuse as a child and developed these personalities to cope. I hope my character helps destigmatize the conversations we should all be having about mental health.
Which Crazy Jane personality is your favorite?
They’re all reflective of the human experience, and they’re all so much fun to play.
Out of all the roles that you played, is there any specific favorites? Why?
Every role that has come into my life has served a purpose. To help me understand the depth and breadth of the human experience - to help me empathize - and to make me a better more informed person. Through this process I improve as an actor.
What is your dream role/project?
I wish to open doors for others like me who burns with passion to share stories that create positive change. It’s my dream to be the creator of my own projects, so that I’m offering up opportunities to others who think they don’t have a seat at this table. I want to be able to show them that they do.
Where do you get your inspirations from?
Music is a big inspiration to me. It always has been. It is how my parents taught me to cope- through song, through self-expression; and also how they taught me to celebrate. It’s a constant reminder of our history, my personal past, and my present. I also draw inspiration from the quiet moments in my everyday life; those subtle, understated, unspoken moments.
What else keeps you busy if you’re not acting?
I’m writing a new book. I’m working on developing a TV series, and a film this year.
If you were a book, what book would you be and why?
I’m a history buff. I know that I need to know my history so that I can be informed about the present and our future. So I think I would be An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz. This book is an astonishing comparative racial account of the history of our country, and it has greatly informed how I look at the world.
See Dianne as Crazy Jane in Doom Patrol!