Exclusive Interview with Grand Hotel’s Justina Adorno

ABC’s newest drama Grand Hotel is sure to be one of summer’s standout shows. Up-and-coming actress Justina Adorno is one of the show’s stars. Her character, Yoli, is the black sheep daughter of the extravagant Mendoza family who owns the luxurious Miami Beach Grand Hotel. 

I got the chance to talk to Justina about how she got into acting originally, what type of roles are on her acting bucket list, how her character Yoli fits into the story on Grand Hotel and much more! Keep reading to see what she had to say!

ABC/Eric McCandless

Tell me first about how you got into acting originally. 

Oh my God that’s such a tough question. I’ve always been a storyteller. I went to Catholic school when I was younger and I feel like whenever we did our readings on Fridays and we did little school performances, it really sparked a fire in me that I really enjoyed being on stage. Then it wasn’t until my eighth grade year when I saw a high school program performing Seussical that I was like, “Oh my God. That’s what I want to do. I have to do that.” So I auditioned for the magnet program for the high school. After that, two years into high school, there was an opportunity for me to go to a boarding arts school to study drama and I did that. So it just basically spiraled from there. 

So would you credit seeing Seussical with helping you decide that acting is what you wanted to do as a career or were you like, “No, I am still not really sure this is what I want to do forever”? 

Honestly, I can even tell you the moment. I’ve always wanted to do it since I was very young, like watching Disney movies. I would watch them until I knew every single word and I would make my family watch me perform it. And I’ve always, I feel like ever since I was around 6, told my family, “I want to be an actor or I want to be a vet.” I [also] wanted to help animals. 

Do you have a personal acting bucket list of things you still want to accomplish in your career? If so, what are some other things on your list?

I definitely want to dive into the indie world, for sure.  I would love to be in a musical, a movie musical. That’s like the ultimate, ultimate Justina dream is to be in a big musical. I love big romantic dramas. I watched Titanic in theaters when I was very, very young. I probably shouldn’t have seen Titantic at six years old [laughs], but it really impacted me. I definitely love the romance and the drama. So it’s definitely the indie world and a musical and I definitely want to do a big, romantic, epic drama. 

So singing is a big part of your life, I’m assuming, since you want to do a musical? 

[laughs] Um… I can act like I can sing. I’m not the best singer. but I do enjoy music. And there’s something about a musical that just gives you every element that’s just satisfying.

So let’s talk about Grand Hotel. First, what did you think about the project when you first read the script and what was your audition process like? 

Well I first auditioned for the role of Alicia. To be honest, my heart was set on another ABC pilot, so it was stupid of me, but I didn’t really put much thought into that role because I was so attached to another pilot. Once I got unhinged from that pilot, I was like, “Oh no I missed my opportunity with Grand Hotel.” But then Yoli came about and I instantly went, “Oh my God, this is my girl. This is the character I’m going to play. If they don’t cast me, I don’t know what they’re thinking. This is me.” I even [sent] my little brother the script because I was supposed to go to Orlando to visit him and I had to cancel my flight to go to the audition. I told him, “Hey I’m not going to go visit you. I’m so sorry.” And he read the sides with me and he said, “This is your role. They have to cast you.” [laughs] And thank goodness they did because I definitely felt connected. 

This series is loosely based off the Spanish series called Gran Hotel. I’m curious: have you seen the original series or were they kind of like, “No. It’s not really anything close to that so you don’t need to watch that”? 

It’s funny because a few years back, I had browsed Netflix and I stumbled upon Gran Hotel. I watched the first two episodes and I was like “Oh my God this show is amazing. I’m learning a little bit of Spanish. This cast is gorgeous. The acting is incredible.” But then I forgot what the show was called and so I never got [around] to watching the rest of the episodes. I remember my dad telling me about this Spanish show that’s incredible and that I needed to watch it and I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” And little did I know, it was Gran Hotel. I didn’t realize that until I got cast and I was like, “Wow this was the show that I was blown away by.”. 

And no, our producers encouraged us to watch it. We pull a lot from the original plot and a lot of characters. But it’s definitely different. It’s a whole modern adaptation from the original. There are a lot of new characters, there are some characters who are blended together from the original. Audiences that are fans of the original Gran Hotel will see a completely different show but they will definitely feel the elements of the original in our production. 

Gotcha. So you mentioned that you play a character named Yoli. What is she like? How does she fit into the larger story? 

Well not to give too much away, but Yoli is one of the fraternal twin sisters that is a part of the blended family that owns the hotel. Yoli is kind of like the outsider of the family, honestly. She doesn’t quite fit in and is kind of picked on, but she is definitely a compassionate, sweet person. I loved her. I like to say that she’s like the better version of who I wish I could be.

Kind of going off of that, I know actors bring a bit of themselves to the characters they play, but in what ways do you think you’re similar to Yoli and in what ways do you think you’re different from Yoli? 

I thought we were very similar when I read the pilot. I was like, “Oh my God. This is going to be super easy. We’re the same person.” But then, as the series continued, I was like, “Wow. We’re so different.” So we’re similar in the way that we’re both compassionate people, we’re both loving, and big family oriented women, who are independent. But we’re very different. I look up to her because she handles certain situations much, much better than I ever could.

Eva Longoria is an executive producer on the show. Was she ever around? Have you met her? 

Oh my God, yeah. I met Eva literally… I auditioned, the next week – I did my callback, the next day after my callback – I did my test, the next day after my test – I got booked, the next day after my booking – I flew to Miami to have a cast gathering with Eva. Eva was just an angel from the very moment I met her. She just welcomed me with open arms, treated me as family.

Eva’s been a part of the process from the beginning. She is heavily involved; she was there the entire time we filmed the pilot, she’s directed episodes, she’s in the show, she’s come in throughout us filming. I would like to say that she and I are friends. She is such a good person and I’m so grateful that she had me a part of this whole process and believed in me.

That’s awesome. Did you guys actually film in Miami, or at least film the pilot in Miami? 

Yeah. We filmed the entire pilot in Miami and we did some pickup shots throughout the season in Miami. But our set designers did an incredible job of replicating the Fontainebleau in Manhattan Beach Studios. So we filmed the rest of the season in Manhattan Beach. 

Photo By Alex Stone

Awesome. So I figured we would just wrap things up with a few fun questions. Since Grand Hotel is about this hotel, what’s one thing that you think every hotel should have available to people? 

[laughs] Wow, that’s hard. You know what Grand Hotel offered? They offered live performances. I feel like live performances and complimentary night life should be available in hotels because it just makes it a whole experience. When you go to a hotel, you want an experience. You don’t just want a room to stay in. You want to have those memories, so I think if a hotel can add a little moments and a little gifts such as nightlife or musical performances, that’s something I would want. 

Last question — our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner-nerd so what is something that you are currently nerding out about? 

I don’t know if this is nerdy but I’m a big plant based dieter. Anything that’s a new vegan restaurant or a plant based restaurant, I blog about it (check out her vegan Instagram here). I nerd out and I take pictures of my food. If I didn’t take a picture of it, I didn’t eat it [laughs]. So I’m very nerdy when it comes to that. 

Grand Hotel premieres Monday, June 17th at 10/9c on ABC. Make sure you follow Justina on Twitter and Instagram.

Featured Photo Credit: Alex Stone

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