Actress Karla Souza knows the importance of telling stories from a Latino perspective.
That’s one of the big reasons the “How To Get Away With Murder” star decided to produce her new completely bilingual romantic comedy “Everybody Loves Somebody.” Souza, 31, also stars in the film as Dr. Carla Barron, a successful but cynical OB/GYN who’s given up on love until she finds herself caught between the affections of an old flame and an unexpected new romance.
The Mexican born actress sat down with The Huffington Post recently to discuss the movie, which was written and directed by Catalina Aguilar Mastretta, to discuss why it’s so important to create bilingual films, to portray characters who empower Latinas sexually and to use art to humanize the immigrant experience.
So the biggest thing about this movie that jumped out at me is that it’s completely bilingual. Why was it so important to make a film like this?
Yes! Because there’s millions of people that live that reality and there weren’t stories being told like that. I grew up speaking Spanish to my mom, English to my siblings, listening to movies in English and then listening to the radio in Spanish and mid-sentence changing [languages].
When I first got Catalina’s script, at first they didn’t want to do it until I was like “No, we’re making this!” They also said, “We think it’s too intelligent for Latin audiences,’ so then I got pissed and then I was like ‘Whaaa?! I’m producing it and we’re gonna make it.”
Wait, what do they mean by “too intelligent for Latin audiences!?”
It means they’re used to seeing Latinos catered in a specific way, with telenovelas or [comedies] that are broader and this film was a very intimate look at relationships. But it’s super fun and easy and great, the general market in the U.S. has loved it as much as Latinos and bi-cultural people. And I mean we can see it in the Oscars, there’s no Latin stories being told. There’s a lack of that, so that’s one of the reasons I wanted to make this.
The family in the movie is very progressive, which is interesting because usually Latino parents are portrayed as uber conservative. That’s likely why Clara is so sex-positive in the film; there’s even a masturbation scene.
Yup, it’s a very artistic, liberal family... Especially living in a ‘machista’ culture in Latin America, I realized that even the past movies that I’d done women were still being objectified, women were still dependent on the men, they were waiting to be saved by the man and they were not independent financially. And all these messages, it’s a narrative that goes into the subconscious of the culture.
The film showed you can have a Latina character that is sensual without needing a man to lust after them.
We didn’t wanna shy away from a woman being sexual and expressing herself sexually. I think the sensuality and the sensitivity that Catalina brought to my character throughout the entire script ― whether it was me as a doctor, me in my relationship, me in my pajamas with my family ― there was a sensuality within everything and a woman in all her facets.
I really enjoyed being a part of that, specifically for a Latino audience because some interviewers still said, ‘You know, you’re character is such a golfa’ (slut) so I saw that it still is a very patriarchal society.
Another particularly strong statement the movie makes is that of a family that lives along the border, since Clara lives in Los Angeles but visits her family in Mexico frequently.
It’s the lives of so many people. “Chema” Yazpik (who portrays Daniel in the film) literally studied in San Diego and was living in Tijuana, some of my cousins did the same thing ― they come in and out [of the U.S.]. People have two homes and that’s the reality of a lot of people. And again, we don’t see a lot of that and we don’t humanize the situation of border crossing.
Those stories seem to be particularly important now, considering President Trump’s plans to build a border wall.
Yeah I know, even that scene where Clara says “Don’t worry, you don’t need a passport to come into Mexico, we assume you’re a great person,” and then she’s like “but you need your passport on your way back.” Now that scene hits a whole different nerve. We don’t realize how much power art and storytelling has, but it definitely does.
On the topic of the immigrant experience, you wrote a blog last fall on PopSugar about being a “spoiled American” who took her U.S. passport for granted. That was before the election and a lot has changed politically since then. How do you feel about it now?
I said I didn’t really consider myself an immigrant but, because of what’s happening now, I consider myself a Muslim, I consider myself a refugee, I consider myself an immigrant. I feel like if we just say, “Well that’s not me and I’m not gonna be a part of the fight,” we’re missing out. I’m here to sort of be that voice for all the people that feel like if they have a voice they’re going to be kicked out of the country. I feel a lot more passionate about speaking out and using my art as activism.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.