Mexican-American actress Roberta Colindrez plays another gay Latina in Abbi Jacobson’s “A League of Their Own,” but that doesn’t mean she’s been typecast. “I don’t think being gay and Latina is a monolithic experience,” Colindrez told POPSUGAR in a recent interview. His character Lupe García, pitcher for the Rockford Peaches, is quite dynamic. She can spy on hypocrisy, even when trying to please; has no shame in her game, even when the world tells her she should; and finds a way to live in the present, even as she deals with trauma from her past.
“I play gay Latinas because I come out as gay and Latina. And I think a lot of times the definitions are a lot more visual to people than they are otherwise.”
You might recognize Colindrez in one of his more than 30 roles, including Nico, the bartender and lover of Tanya Saracho’s “Vida,” which ran for three seasons on Starz. And while she says being gay and Latina is part of her identity that she’s proud to represent, she also wants people to understand that they don’t sum up everything she is or what she stands for. “I play gay Latinas because I come out as gay and Latina. And I think a lot of times the definitions are a lot more visual to people than they are otherwise,” she says. “What’s important about playing gay Latinas is finding things about them that are much more specific… Otherwise, those two definitions could easily be a trap.”
In “A League of Their Own,” now available on Amazon Prime, Colindrez’s role is much more specific. The series, which is based on the 1992 film of the same name, is set in the 1940s and focuses on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), which originated when so many men had gone to war. Lupe’s sexuality doesn’t even come into play until the end of the season, though any Colindrez fan won’t be surprised. While the character must deal with the violence, hidden nature, and joy of being a lesbian in mid-century America, she also deals with so much more, including a complex racial hierarchy. This false hierarchy places her above black women, who are excluded from the AAGPBL because of their race, but below her Anglo-Saxon counterparts, who do not have to deal with the same stereotypes and microaggressions as she.
And that’s before you got to baseball. Colindrez boasts, “I’m pretty good,” when asked about her pitching skills. She then mentioned that she had been training for the role with Justine Siegelthe first female MLB coach, who consulted on the show. For her part, Siegel told POPSUGAR, “She’s good. Roberta’s an athlete. So it’s not so much a baseball experience. It’s that she rode her bike, climbed trees, and threw rocks. .All that athleticism comes together really well when you’re trying to teach someone.”
In “A League of Their Own,” Colindrez can portray a lot of sports drama because “the pace of baseball is slow enough to really be able to stop and enjoy those big moments,” Siegel says. For example, there are plenty of close-ups of Colindrez on the mound, just like there are when baseball games are shown today. During production, Colindrez learned about the subtle communication between pitcher and catcher (played by Jacobson) and how they exchange messages about what the pitch will be like without letting the other team know. She describes it as “very small things” that worked because “Abbi and I had that connection really well.”
And as a pitcher, Lupe is the de facto leader in the field, even as she enters a power struggle with Jacobson’s Carson Shaw. “In baseball, the game starts with the pitcher, nothing can start until the pitcher decides. That alone puts them in charge…the pitcher sets the tone,” Siegel says. “And for Lupe, she sets the tone for the Peaches. When she’s successful, the Peaches are successful. Or when she’s struggling, it makes it really tough. A second baseman can have a bad day. But a pitcher can’t .” Indeed, when asked about her hopes for her character, Colindrez says she wants Lupe to learn “that she’s a leader, no matter what anyone says.”
It’s remarkable to have a Latina in this role – not because it didn’t happen (it madeand there is a whole book about it). But so often our stories are not told in favor of white-only narratives (like the original 1992 film) or simpler understandings of race between white and black. Lupe’s arc is also notable for touching on many markers of shared Latinx identity, to which Colindrez says, “Little has changed since the 1940s,” in terms of the treatment of Mexican Americans, “but it was a little worse for them back then.” After moving to the United States and preparing for school here, she remembers her mother telling her, “Your last name ends in Z, be careful.” While she didn’t understand it then, she understands it now. “It’s really despicable to have definitions imposed on people and expect them to never break free from them or even want to break free from them,” she says.
Colindrez is fully bilingual and recalls incidents when she dated her parents speaking Spanish and overheard people talking about them in English, assuming they didn’t understand. “[In Texas in the ’90s], a lot of Mexican kids I grew up with didn’t speak Spanish. But not like, ‘Oh, my parents didn’t teach me that.’ They said, ‘I don’t speak Spanish!’ They were taught to hate what their parents said and what their grandmothers said. I was always like, ‘This is criminal,’ Colindrez said. ‘Why can’t you speak Spanish?’ It took me a while to understand [how people] really the bad guy, people really symbolize him and violate the beauty of speaking a double tongue. »
Colindrez finds beauty in our multilingual past and in one of our community’s most controversial stereotypes — the spicy Latina — saying, “We’re feisty, but I think that’s dope.” Lupe is tagged with the term, and Colindrez has personal experience with it. “Every once in a while a guy knocks [on] me and be like, ‘Ooh, spicy,'” she said. “And it’s like, first of all, you expected me to be, and second, now you’re like, infantilizing from a one way or another. Like, what’s going on?”
And she’s seen this dynamic in other places, too, where “fiery” is weaponized against Latinas. “Americans just can’t figure out how to say ‘passionate’ instead of ‘fiery.’ . “It’s not a bad thing. But somehow it’s acquired this connotation of being a bad thing. And it’s meant to be played as a short fuse – when a character is portrayed like ‘feisty’, you’re supposed to think ‘oh, she loses her shit a lot. And she just has an opinion. It’s not fiery. It’s just ordinary humanity.
“I can’t wait for the day when I get a breakdown for a character that describes a whole life, and a whole trajectory, and a whole set of unique passions and characteristics.”
And it’s this regular humanity combined with the specifics of the characters she plays that makes Colindrez so engrossing to watch. When asked about her hopes for the future of the industry, she’s tired of how labels like “gay Latina” serve as shorthand, claiming to encapsulate the wholeness of a person. “I can’t wait for the day when I get a breakdown for a character that describes a whole life, and a whole trajectory, and a whole set of passions and unique characteristics,” she says. “And then when I’m on set getting the script, I realize, ‘Oh, that character is gay, that’s cool.'”
In the meantime, Colindrez will continue to be who she is without apologizing. As she said, “I’m so not concerned with other people’s definitions of me.”