Dania Ramirez Wants Everyone to "Change Their Perspective on Immigrants"

Getty | Grant Lamos IV

Devious Maids actress Dania Ramirez recently opened up about her family's immigration story for a minidocumentary in honor of Immigrant Heritage Month. The film, called An American Alien, features Dania interviewing her family about what it meant for them to fulfill the American dream. We caught up with the Dominican beauty to chat about why it was important to share her immigration story, discuss criticism of her show by other Latino actors, and get the scoop on what is to come for her character on the Lifetime show (now in its third season). Keep reading for our exclusive interview.

Getty | Jonathan Leibson

POPSUGAR: You codirected a minidocumentary for Immigrant Heritage Month. Why was it important for you to share your family's immigration story?

Dania Ramirez: We did this to both inspire other immigrants by sharing a positive story of hard work and to thank and appreciate the generations that came before us for all their sacrifice so our generation could have a better future. The big message is to change our perspective on what an immigrant is and the negative connotation that comes with that word. We titled it An American Alien in hopes of giving aliens a new face. The American dream is real, tangible, and should be accessible to us all without judgment.

Getty | C Flanigan

PS: What is your family's immigration story?

DR: We were very happy people in Dominican Republic, but very poor. My dad studied chemistry and my mother was a nurse, and even with college educations they could stand to make more money here as illegal immigrants than they did in DR. The chance for advancement in my country is very small. My parents wanted to give us a better future and opportunities. It was very difficult for them to leave everyone and everything they knew to come to a foreign country and start from zero. The US is a great country that gives everyone, no matter what economic stature, the hope that if you work really hard you can become whatever you dream. Dreams here come true!

Getty | JB Lacroix

PS: In the documentary, you ask everyone in your family if they have achieved their version of the American dream. Do you think you have?

DR: Absolutely. My dream was freedom. I wanted to be able to express my ideas freely and reach whatever goals I put my mind to without limits. For me, it arrived the first time I worked in front of the camera and was directed by Spike Lee, who I admired immensely. Even though it was against my parents' wishes to follow my dream of being an actress, I was determined to be successful and make them proud.

Getty | Paras Griffin

PS: Your children are first-generation born in the US; what Latin traditions and values do you want to make sure they keep?

DR: I think it's important that they acknowledge the sacrifice of those who came before them. My culture is everything to me, so I speak Spanish to them, cook Dominican food, play them music, and dance with them all the time. Every year, we go to my country to see my family. My grandma on my mom's side raised me until I was able to come here, and she lives there with a lot of my family.

Getty | Alberto E. Rodriguez

PS: What has been your experience when it comes to being a Latina in Hollywood?

DR: I have been very fortunate to have been instilled with a very hardworking mentality. I have confidence that I will get the roles I am meant to get and appreciate the ones I have. There is still a long way to go when it comes to women being represented in television and films, period. I do consider myself blessed and fortunate to be living and working in this era, and understand that we are in a way better place today than we were a decade ago. The power is in creating these roles and having our own people be supportive of our talent no matter what role we get to play. It's important to show Hollywood that Latinos have the support of their own in order to inspire the powers that be to allow more diversity in Hollywood. I hope we not only get the opportunity to play more leading roles, but also get the chance to write and tell the stories we want to tell.

Getty | Vera Anderson

PS: Devious Maids is one of the only shows featuring all Latinas as leads; how does it feel to continue to get renewed for more seasons?

DR: I feel honored to play one of the leads on Devious Maids, and I am inspired by the talent I am surrounded by. [Executive producer] Eva Longoria is a force to be reckoned with, and I will forever be grateful to her for her continued efforts to open doors.

PS: The show has faced a little criticism in the past with people thinking it reinforces Latina stereotypes as domestic workers. What do you have to say about that?

DR: The best part of being an actor on Devious Maids is getting a chance to tell a heartfelt story while still making fun of ourselves. As an actress, I am getting to showcase a character who is funny, loving, strong-willed, passionate, and religious, so who cares that I play a maid? The sad thing for me was to have to defend our show to our own. We felt very judged by our community and had other fellow actors downplay what we were doing. Instead of supporting each other's talent, it felt like they were on a mission to get us canceled. As if by taking a stance against us would validate their place as courageous members of our community. I believe in uniting. I am proud of the show.

Getty | Vincent Sandoval

PS: The new season of Devious Maids just premiered. Can you tell us anything about what to expect this season with your character? (Warning: spoilers ahead!)

DR: In the first two episodes, Rosie finds herself adjusting to married life with Meester Spence (as she calls him). However, we saw her mourn the death of her first husband (Ernesto) all of season one. Before she walked down the aisle to marry Spence, a scene was shown that revealed Ernesto is alive in Mexico. He'll be making his way to America, and she'll be faced with the question: who does she love? Ernesto was her first love and the father of her child, but Spence is her current husband, whom she is in love with. The validity of her marriage will be questioned, and you will get to see a very human side of her.