You might remember Jorge Diaz from “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” or as Paulie on “East Los High.” Now, Diaz lends his voice to Disney’s “Elena of Avalor” as Gabe and he couldn’t be more excited to me a part of the cast for a show featuring the first Latina Disney princess. mitú spoke with Diaz about being a Latino in media and being part of bringing the first Disney Latina princess to life.
Jorge Diaz has built a solid career telling stories of Latinos from a Latino point of view, but that was not his intention.
“I kind of consider myself a blue collar actor. I’m not just here to tell stories like, ‘Who wants to hire me? I’m here to tell your story.’ It just happened to be that case [of doing several Latino stories] which is, now looking back at it, it’s been pretty beautiful to be part of these projects that are pioneering new faces that you don’t see in the media too often,” Diaz told mitú. “To be part of ‘Elena of Avalor,’ I remember as soon as I read that, the first Latina Disney princess, I was like, ‘Woah. That sounds amazing. It’s about time. I hope I get to be a part of it.’ Now, here I am.”
“I just look for projects that ring true to my heart and if it’s a story I want to tell,” Diaz told mitú.
Diaz feels like “Elena of Avalor” is one of those projects. As a Latino in media, Diaz is proud of his name and of the work he has done to get more new faces on the screens.
For Diaz, “Elena of Avalor” is more than just a kid’s show, it’s validation for an entire group of people who have not been prominently featured in media.
“Suddenly, your experience becomes normal and accepted,” Diaz told mitú about the importance of young Latinxs watching the show. “If you see something like them eating pozole or them mention tamales and they’re doing posadas in the episode then it’s just like what we do. Suddenly the psychological effect it has on children is that their experience is completely normal and they are good enough and they are enough and who you are is beautiful.”
And a huge part of his pride comes from the dolls because of what they represent in the grand scheme of things.
Diaz remembers seeing the Doll Test video that went viral on Facebook. The video, if you haven’t seen it, shows young children at a table with a white doll and a black doll. They were asked which was bad and which was nice and many of the children chose the darker doll as the bad one. But now, with “Elena of Avalor” dolls, Diaz thinks things are changing.
“Now I see this doll when I go into the Disney store and I see it all around, and it’s not just for Latina children. It’s for a little boy. Like, this little 10 year old white boy was like, ‘That’s my favorite show, man,'” Diaz recalled to mitú. “Seeing this little brown doll up there that’s gorgeous, that’s a leader, that’s compassionate, that’s thoughtful and has a beautiful family and is courageous. That’s what it’s about. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about and it’s a reminder to me and it’s a reminder to other artists that we have the ability to tell these stories and to have it have a beautiful effect on the next generation.”
This is something he credits several other actors and entertainers before him, especially Gina Rodriguez.
“A woman I really respect and she happens to be one of my best friends is Gina Rodriguez,” Diaz told mitú. “She’s done so much just in the past two years and her career has taken off, but what she’s going to do is going to be so beautiful and she’s handled it with such grace. To be the lead of a series, it’s crazy hours. It’s insane hours and she handled it with such grace and she’s so warm to every single person on set, outside, on the street. She carries herself with so much love, so much grace, so much professionalism, so much class and it really inspired me.”
But Diaz doesn’t forget to remember and thank actors from the generation before him who really did break down walls.
“I am friends with so many of those actors that are like 10-15 years older than me, and they’re just like, ‘You know, this isn’t my real name, by the way. I had to change my name because I was tired of playing gang members, I was tired of playing a prostitute, I was tired of playing a maid.’ I was like, ‘Wow. I didn’t know that,’” Diaz told mitú. “My name is Jorge Eduardo Diaz. That’s as Latino as they come and I can’t change that. Part of me, when I was younger, I was thinking about that because I was like, ‘Should I change my name? Should I just make it George D. or something like that.’ That came across my mind but then I was like, ‘No, man.’ I’m just going to do this and I’m going to do it as Jorge Eduardo Diaz.”
And he has some advice for any other Latinxs considering a career in entertainment.
“The advice I have for anyone trying to pursue acting, you really have to fall in love with the art of it. If you’re trying to be famous, if you’re kind of attracted to celebrity life or what you see on TV, it’s all fake glamor,” Diaz told mitú. “Just train and put yourself out there. Know that your time will come ultimately. I’ve been doing this for years before I got to a point where I was working consistently. Right now is such a beautiful time in the industry. There are going to be more and more doors opening and there are more artists coming up and they are opening more doors and I feel like it’s going to continue to change.”