Gina Torres shot to global fame via her role as Jessica Pearson in Suits and currently plays Tommy Vega in the drama series 9-1-1: Lone Star. She also stars alongside Keith Powers and Gabrielle Union in Netflix’s The Perfect Find, a film based on a novel of the same name by Tia Williams.

Gina Torres is Afro-Latina; her parents emigrated from Cuba

Gina Torres was born on 25th April 1969 to Cuban parents in The Bronx, New York City. She is Afro-Latina. Her father was a typesetter for the Daily News and La Prensa, and her mother was a homemaker. Torres described her parents as ‘classy beautiful Latin people.’ 

“They grew up in the 30’s, a time when you looked clean, you were pressed; you looked people in the eye; you were gracious, no matter how much money you did or didn’t have,” Torres said, per Latin Post. “Those were the values I went into the world with.”

Torres grew up in a Latino neighborhood that exposed her to her native culture. “I always sang, always danced, because there was always music in the house and in the street,” Torres stated. “We heard Johnny Pacheco, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, and Machito.”

The actor said on MSNBC’s The Culture is: Latina that she was surprised that in the acting industry, nobody recognized her as Latina or American. “I feel like I was living in three worlds,” Torres said. “There was my world that I grew up in, also Spanish-speaking. Home, Cuban parents, and then you go out into the world and I’m speaking English, and I’m in the Bronx.”

“And then, going into this industry as an actress, then nobody recognizes you as either one.” Torres said the acting industry had no place for her as a Latina woman, forcing her to play roles she didn’t identify with. She explained:

“I didn’t identify as a Black woman, because for me it was cultural. Because, of course, I present Black, I am a Black woman. I am also Cuban. When you’re here in the United States and they ask you to be in a box, and you don’t fit into the box…culturally, it was different. It was not one that I identified with.”

Torres’ opportunity to portray her authentic self came via 9-1-1: Lone Star. She told CNN that after landing the role of Gina Torres, she worked with Tim Minear, the showrunner, to bring out the character’s Afro-Latina ethnicity as accurately as possible. “I need to speak my language [Spanish] whenever possible,” Torres told Minear. “I need to let the audience know that this is also a face of Latinidad.” 

“That was incredibly important for me because so often marginalized people aren’t really depicted as being fully human,” Torres told CNN. “They’re not given the same attention, they’re not given the same time, they’re not given families.”