"How I Met Your Father" Star Francia Raisa Is More Than Just the Best Friend

Honduran and Mexican American actress Francia Raisa is living her best life. It's not just that her career has reached new heights — although it has. She's starring in Hulu's "How I Met Your Father" opposite Hilary Duff and a diverse and supportive cast. Raisa's Valentina character is a relatable baddie, the type of girl who rocks oversize Selena T-shirts and three-piece, midriff-baring suits. She's the type of girl whose career seems amazing until she confesses to having an abusive boss she doesn't know how to escape.

Raisa told POPSUGAR she was immediately attracted to the role of Valentina. Reading the script, she thought: "This girl is hilarious. I love her. I have to play her. I already hear my voice." There was only one problem. The character was originally named Kate, and as Raisa puts it, "I am not a Kate." Raisa has been figuring out how to see her not-Kateness as a strength for a long time. In high school, she realized she was different because that was the first time her school was filled with mostly white kids. But even kindergarten was an adjustment. It was the first time she left her exclusively Spanish-speaking home to go to a place that didn't give you tortillas with your lunch and expected you to know songs like "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."

Of course, that continued after school. Trying to find her way, Raisa remembers lightening her hair to "seem more Americanized" and an agent advising her not to wear hoop earrings so she wouldn't seem like the "ghetto Latina." When she listened to those voices and tried to whitewash herself, that was when she was the most depressed. But she's since learned to embrace herself and her culture.

How I Met Your Father --
Hulu/Patrick Wymore

Now Raisa wants Valentina to show audience members that it's cool to be yourself. "What I love about Valentina is that she's not [just] the Latin friend that Sophie had," Raisa adds. She's a funny, cool, engaging person who happens to be Latina, and Raisa is making sure her identity is known. She was so proud to wear a Selena T-shirt in the first episode, saying her fellow cast members didn't understand it. When the social media reactions started pouring in, their awareness grew — Raisa was representing her culture.

"What I love about Valentina is that she's not [just] the Latin friend that Sophie had."

She takes that responsibility seriously and admits it's been a learning curve, especially in hypercompetitive Hollywood. Coming up, she'd take any role she could get, some of which she now deems "embarrassing." "I used to be a sh*thead," she says, looking around audition rooms and wanting the other girls to fail. That started to change when a friend called her saying, "Hey, I just went on this audition. You'd be perfect for it." It was an eye-opening way to reject scarcity and one Raisa has learned to emulate, sharing opportunities with friends, even helping people auditioning for the same role as her.

"What's meant for you, I kid you not, will be for you," she says. Now Raisa is intentional about "uplifting other Latina actresses" and name-drops Jeanine Mason and Jaina Lee Ortiz as pioneers who are opening doors for those coming next. For her part, Raisa hopes to always be in front of the camera but is exploring directing, producing, and writing too. She likes how "How I Met Your Father" depicts dating as it actually is — without the big romantic gestures but with social media and texting. That's very different from the rom-coms she grew up with where the heroines all had what Raisa calls "pick me" syndrome, which is "too dramatic" for real life.

Raisa hopes to rewrite the script and create romantic comedies that allow women to be more down-to-earth, interested in love but not defined by it. She hopes that with these new stories, she can change "the way that women start looking at themselves."