Rita Moreno joins the Jane the Virgin family as Rogelio’s mother on April 13th’s episode. The 83-year-old actress, who has won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and a Tony, will lend her talents to the show, and play “a real diva,” according to her interview with the Associated Press. Of course, fans wouldn’t expect anything less from the woman who gave birth to Rogelio.
Gina Rodriguez herself chose Moreno for the part of her other grandmother, since she looks up to her as a professional role model. “I was approached because of Gina. She told me some wonderful things about how I inspired her, great stuff that made me feel very proud,” she told Yahoo.
The seasoned Latina actress, known for playing Anita in West Side Story, said she had to research Jane before she accepted the offer, and was delighted with the new series. “I caught up on the show because I felt I had to know what I was saying yes to, and I was enchanted,” she explained to The Hollywood Reporter.
In the 1961 film West Side Story, which one 10 Academy Awards, including Moreno’s for Best Supporting Actress, she plays Anita, and in the clip below, we see her (in the purple dress) singing to “America.” In real life, Moreno immigrated to New York from Puerto Rico, and in the film, her character has endured the same cultural transition. “You know, the acting part — without trying to sound like I’m showing off — was just with my eyes closed. I knew this girl! That was part of my life, part of my experience,” she told NPR. “I didn’t have to say to myself, ‘Well, let’s see, what’s the motivation here?’ You kidding? I know the motivation! I’ve been Anita, except I wasn’t a gang member, of course, but I know this girl inside out.”
So what does Moreno think of the success of a show that centers around a Latino family? “There’s actually a lot of progress. I don’t think it’s enough but, my God, when you compare that to when I was a young woman in movies, it’s totally different,” she told Yahoo.