Fourteen-year-old Jenna Ortega first came to my attention as Young Jane on the CW’s Jane the Virgin. She was perfectly cast as her adult counterpart, a self-possessed, imaginative, ball of sunshine. I knew it was only a matter of time before she bloomed into her own starring roles and I’m happy to say I was right. While still occasionally guest starring on Jane, she’s since gone on to star in Disney’s Stuck in the Middle and Elena of Avalor. Meet this young star who aims to be a positive influence and keep breaking barriers.
You play an inventor as Harley on Stuck in the Middle and as Princess Isabelle on Elena of Avalor. Are you an inventor in real life? Is it something you’d like to try your hand at?
I am not an inventor in real life, but I wish I was! (laughs) Maybe when I get more time, I can try my inventor skills out.
On Stuck in the Middle, you are part of a large, boisterous family. This is also true of your real family. Do you feel the show captures both the difficulty and beauty of having a big family and being stuck in the middle?
I do feel like the show captures both the difficulty and beauty of living in a big family. Every episode always has a problem that the Diaz kids have to face, but they always figure it out and work together to solve it. They definitely hit some rough patches, but they always pull through no matter what.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZH3E5eDQB4&w=560&h=315]
Getting young women interested in STEM is vitally important. What does it mean to you that Harley is a good role model in that arena?
I am so proud that Harley is a great STEM role model. I feel like a lot of girls Harley’s age are very insecure and think that if you are into STEM, you are nerdy. THAT IS NOT TRUE! Harley is confident in herself, embraces her differences, and is actually a pretty cool character. I think young girls can learn from her that it is ok to be different.
Have you seen Harley’s inventions inspire fans to do the same?
I have seen Harley’s inventions inspire some fans of the show! One time I saw a fan remake one of Harley’s inventions, the Travel Thumb. It is a to-go coffee mug, but the fan’s remake looked just like the one from the pilot!
As a young woman of color, who is front and center in multiple projects, you are breaking down barriers and stereotypes. What importance does that hold for you?
It is very important to me because I feel like there are not as many Latina leading ladies out there as there should be, and I want to help change that.
As a young actress, you have a platform to reach other young people, especially through social media. How do you want to use your voice to make a positive impact?
There is so much hate in this world, and I want to spread more love. On social media, I am constantly telling my followers to remember to love themselves and be nice to others. Social media can be dangerous because of cyber bullying, but I want my followers to know that you should not care about other people’s opinions. It’s your opinion of yourself that matters.
You star as young Jane on Jane the Virgin and have said that Gina Rodriguez is a role model. How has she influenced you?
She has influenced me to spread more love on social media, to stop caring about what people think, to be real with your acting/follow your instinct, and to stand up for what I think is right.
What can we expect for young Jane in S3? Will you be tackling more mature content?
In Jane The Virgin Season 3, I am the same innocent, curious Jane! (laughs) My age has not changed, so I have not been tackling more mature content.
Do you hope this is a show you can grow up with?
Yes! I love being on Jane The Virgin. I want to stay on it as long as possible! Every time that I get called for another episode, I consider it a gift.
Who would you like the chance to work with on Jane the Virgin that you haven’t had the opportunity to act with before?
Gina! I play her mini-me, so I have not been able to actually act with her in scenes. She is so talented, and I would love to be able to film with her.
If you could play out a scene with Jane and young Jane together, what would you like to happen? Perhaps a splashy musical number dream sequence?
I would love to go into a musical number dream sequence! That would be so fun. I also would like to have a conversation with older Jane reminding her not to lose her imagination, because a lot of people do when they get older. She is a writer, so imagination is very important!
Lastly, as we are Talk Nerdy with Us, we have to ask: what do you nerd out about?
I nerd out about Stranger Things! I follow everyone’s theories about the show, and I cannot get enough of it.
Jane the Virgin airs Monday’s 9/8 C on the CW and Stuck in the Middle will return to Disney for its second season in 2017.