In order to be truly seen in that way, what hurdles have you had to overcome and what kinds of prejudice have you faced?
A lot! I remember an actor told me, ‘Caro, it is going to be really difficult for you to find a role here in the United States because you don’t look like a Latina and they are all expecting a really different type of Latina woman and you look like a Spanish girl or Italian, but not Latina. So you’re not going to find work here.’ Sometimes those kinds of things make you think that maybe you’re not going to do it. Also being a Colombian it is super difficult to open a space for you in a different market, because sometimes your accent is something that they’re not expecting, they don’t need or they reject.
Being in the entertainment business, sometimes you need to look like you are super strong, to inspire others to be strong, to build dreams and to make those dreams come true. I still have days where I think, ‘Oh my God, I’m not capable of doing this. I’m not going to be capable of going to Burbank (Disney Studios’ California location) and do the casting amongst so many Latinas, but who are taller than me, that are thinner than me and maybe sing better than me.’
How did you win the role of Pepa in Encanto in the first place?
Working as an actress and singer in my country for 20 years, sometimes you have to work on projects that you like and projects that you definitely don’t like. Roles that you feel really happy performing and roles where you are like, ‘I don’t like the story. I don’t like my lines. I don’t like my character. I don’t like my partners. I don’t like this place. I don’t like this set.’ But you have to do it because to make a goal, you have to be in the field and to be in the field is to work hard and to just be absolutely persistent. When I did my audition with the directors – Jared Bush and Byron Howard – I thought that they were going to ask me about all my career and my achievements and what I have done but instead they said, ‘Tell us about you. Who are you?’ It’s difficult to say who you are when you are not talking about your work, your abilities or your talents. They were asking me about my family and my childhood. I lost a brother so they were asking deeply about my fears and my vulnerability. I think that was the goal: they were hiring a human being behind a voice which was a really good lesson behind Disney, they are really looking for feelings behind the voices.