Jeanine Mason is a passionate performer at heart. As a versatile actress who started acting at age 9, you may remember seeing her in various shows like So You Think You Can Dance, Grey’s Anatomy, Bunheads, Awkward, Major Crimes, NCIS: Los Angeles, and more.
Mason currently plays the character of the fierce and brilliant scientist Liz Ortecho in Roswell, New Mexico.
In this exclusive interview, delve deeper into Jeanine’s life as she shares stories about her acting career, her idols, her Cuban heritage, and her recommended book - Last Year in Havana.
Who is Jeanine Mason in a nutshell?
Ha! I’d say I’m a family gal and artist with a big heart. I throw my head back when I laugh and I use the word lovely often. And wine. How’s that?
Did you come from a family of artists?
Yes and no. There’s a lot of creativity in my family and most of them are more creative then they give themselves credit for. We’re all artistic and huge fans of the arts regardless of whether we got the chance to pursue it professionally.
Which came first, your love for dancing or acting?
Performing! All of it is one big thing for me. Back in the day especially there was a real reverence for artists having to do a little bit of everything. That’s my school of thought. The more I have to pull from the more versatile I am as a performer the better the show.
How and when did acting happen for you?
Acting started at age 9 when I begged my mom to let me audition for a commercial and actually got it. From then on I did years of theatre, dance and voice lessons. Eventually I moved out to LA, went to UCLA and hustled. Starting getting the guest stars and the pilots and now here we are.
Who are your acting idols?
Rachel Weisz, Gena Rowlands, Javier Bardem, Cillian Murphy, Rita Moreno, list goes on and on.
Tell us your most memorable audition/casting experience
Oh boy. Good or Bad? Good- I auditioned for CSI as a co-star early on and wanted so badly to get the job. It felt like a right of passage in the industry. Not only did I get it but they bumped me up to guest star, dream! Months later, right before it aired, I got the call that my scenes were cut. It was such a bummer but that’s the industry and it was a great early lesson. We recovered!
What inspires you?
People. Resilience, faith in the process. I love a fighter more than anything. And my family. You know my family for 5 minutes and you leave with a little faith restored.
Do you have a favorite out of all the characters that you have played?
Wow. I loved playing Dr. Sam Bello on GREY’S ANATOMY. That job was a dream and I fell in love with how hard she works to be good, how tough she is on herself. But Liz Ortecho is my favorite, hands down.
Being of Cuban heritage, where is the best place to get Cuban food in LA?
I’m so glad you asked me this! El Cochinito in Los Feliz. It’s an insanely delicious family run business. Not only is it the best Cuban food in LA but my family just visited from Miami for my birthday and we all went there to celebrate. They’re in Miami craving El Cochinito now, there you go!
How would you describe the relationship of being a dancer to being an actor in general? What are the similarities and differences?
My acting benefits tremendously from my years of dance training. The work ethic, the idea that the number of hours you put in does actually equate to improvements. That’s something I think a lot of actors can benefit from. Get in the studio. Say yes to any opportunity to act. Also, remembering my blocking is a breeze.
Let’s talk a little bit about your character Liz Ortecho from Roswell, New Mexico. How would you describe her to people who just started watching the show?
I think if you’ve seen even 2 minutes of the show, you know Liz. She presents herself fully every moment, she’s firmly planted on her feet and she speaks with her full voice. She’s smart as hell and she’s funny. She’s broken, she has loved & she has lost and she’s been abandoned. She’s a gorgeous façade of bravery and she’s getting her inside to meet her in the middle.
How was it to play a Latino character who is also close to her heritage?
A dream. I’m always looking for opportunities to portray Latinas and the Latin experience in ways that are actual reflections of our lives. I didn’t grow up with much of that. There were stories, yes, but often they were far from realistic and incredibly degrading. Liz is a mere human on a show about aliens but she is our protagonist, our hero. She is capable and has agency and she doesn’t apologize for an ounce of her existence.
What’s the big difference of Roswell, New Mexico from the original Roswell?
It’s a new show. We’re going back to the source material, Melinda Metz book series ROSWELL HIGH and jumping our characters 10 years into their late 20s. They’re older, they’re damaged and Liz in particular is jaded and guarded. It’s in that place in their lives that they discover the big secret this little town is harboring; aliens exist. We’re also honoring Liz Ortecho’s Mexican-American-ness which is huge for me. She’s the daughter of an undocumented immigrant and she’s a brilliant scientist, a fierce protector. There’s a lot to be proud of.
If you’re not acting, what keeps you busy?
Hosting my friends, they’re a bunch of lushes so lots of wine. Reading. Knitting. Traveling. If I have a moment off and it’s someone’s birthday then I am there. No questions, buy the ticket.
Top 3 songs in your head right now.
Oh dear. How about Summerwind by Frank Sinatra, everything by Robyn and everything by Marc Anthony cause always.
Last book you’ve read.
Last Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton. I absolutely loved it. It takes place in present day Miami and in Cuba during the revolution. I learned new things about my culture, our people and our journey to the United States but more importantly I learned new things about the injustices still taking place there. Read it.
Any advice you can give to any up and coming dancer, actor or artist?
Work your butt off. Meet your people and champion them as hard as they champion you. Say yes to every opportunity to perform, work begets work. And stop and take it in…you’re here, you’re doing the damn thing. 7 year old you is so very very proud.
If you were a book, what book would you be (type/title/kind) and why?
Hmmm. I love historical fiction and I love a murder mystery, so something period-y about a woman we might not be as familiar with as we should. Someone who kicked ass and took names. And why? Cause we should know her name.
See Jeanine as Liz in Roswell, New Mexico only on The CW!