One to Keep a Watch For: Jessica Camacho
Growing up in America Jessica Camacho has certainly experienced the ever-changing landscape of representation on screen. In the beginning, Jessica hadn't set out to become an actress. In her sophomore year of college, she stumbled upon acting classes when a friend suggested she take them. “I was, at that time, very confused as to the direction of my life. No one profession seemed to fit the space that I felt inside me, that I knew had to be filled by something that moved me. I considered becoming a lawyer; though I couldn’t decide on defense or prosecution, an English teacher, as reading is my first love, a music business manager, and a retail buyer...” With so many passions, it was inevitable that she would find a home in acting where she is able to play all of these and more. Wetting her feet in the acting world, Camacho had an aha moment that would become the beginning of her acting career. “Only then did I feel that lightbulb moment of clarity, that I had found a way to express what I had inside of me. I was hooked from that very moment.”
Once Jessica began auditioning for roles, she quickly found herself typecast in certain demographics – something not uncommon for new actors to find themselves stuck in. I asked her about how she handled the challenges and broke out from the stereotypical characters.
“When I first got started, I felt boxed in and limited by the type of roles that were available to me. It was often a sexualized outline of a character that was often described as spicy, as opposed to a fully fleshed out, complex character.”
Though the road to playing a character with more “bones” than your average “sexy waitress” was an uphill battle, Camacho stayed in it, helping push the industry to see Latina women and other minorities as more than just a side character. “At a certain point, the most popular roles for Latinas were (and to a large part still are), that of the tough cop, or the rough-around-the-edges detective. This is a niche that I appreciate very much, as it certainly helped my career get off the ground. I’m eager, however, to see the continuous progression for not just Latinas, but all women of color, towards more diverse roles that reflect the myriad of roles women of color, inhabit in everyday life.”
It took Jessica seven years to realize her dreams of moving to LA, and while she was on the path to bigger roles in Hollywood, she used a myriad of techniques to keep the inevitable frustration at bay. On top of the stressors of a tumultuous job, she also had distance from family to contend with, as well as making ends meet. “Along the way, was a lot of loneliness and a lot of very lean times. I know what it is like to go to the dollar store with only a ten-dollar bill and have to make it stretch to buy that night’s dinner and make up for the next day’s audition.”
But despite the adversity that came with the job, Jessica persevered. “It was often extremely hard to keep my faith that my dream would come to fruition, but I could just never seem to let it go. Many times, I would fold into myself on my bed with my face shoved into my pillow, crying and feeling lost. Many times, it was a conversation with a friend or a kind stranger that would help me find the inspiration to keep going. And many times, I would ask God or the universe, or whatever you’d like to call the higher power that connects and creates all things, to kindly guide me towards where I was supposed to be.” Her prayers were answered in the way of her first big break on ABC's Last Resort in 2012. “One day, finally, I got my big break in the form of an amazing role and a ticket to Hawaii to film the show Last Resort.”
Now on the right path to success, Camacho spent two years on Last Resort, playing Pilar Cortez, a feisty USS Colorado crew member. Filming in Hawaii was nothing short of a dream for the young actress, who took in every moment. “This was, with no exaggeration, my dream vividly come true. I was in one of the most magical, beautiful, special places I’d ever been to. The Hawaiian people and culture blew my eyes and heart open. Their appreciation for their land and their family (Ohana), and the loving Aloha spirit, really mesmerized me. I felt so surrounded by divinity, and so humbled by where my path had led me.”
On top of being in one of the most beautiful places on earth for filming, she took the opportunity to breathe life into her first major role. “The role itself was a dream; working alongside the amazingly talented and giving Andre Braugher was such a humbling and enlightening experience for a young, hungry actor. I loved Pilar Cortez; I loved playing someone with her fierceness, wry sense of humor, and courage.”
From there on Jessica steadily booked roles on numerous TV series. Nikita, Veronica Mars, Castle, Bones, and Sleepy Hollow are just a few of the notable shows she graced. But a favorite character comes from CW's popular series The Flash. “Gypsy on “The Flash” is one of my most favorite characters thus far. To play in the superhero world where everything is possible just brings out the little kid that still resides within me. She’s also so complex: ridiculously strong and self-reliant, but also sensitive and vulnerable, and flawed. I love her layers. As well as the fact that I can shoot energy blasts out of the palm of her hands. I mean...who wouldn’t live that?”
In her latest adventure, Camacho plays Emily Lopez-Berarro in Warner Bros. All Rise. The series trailer portrays a wonderful combination of comedy and inclusivity of women and racial diversity in positions of power – something that's thankfully becoming more and more common on-screen and in real life. Set life on All Rise has been a dream for Jessica as she recounted what it was like filming the show. “I count my blessings every day that I get to bring stories of hope and faith to life, alongside my uber-talented, kind, sincere, hardworking cast and crew. The sincerity of heart, as well as the humor that is in the episodes, are reflections of the people inside of them. We are constantly laughing together and supporting one another while on set. We already feel so much like family to one another, and that is so special to me.”
Also tightly under wraps was the announcement that Camacho would be playing a recurring role on HBO's much anticipated Watchmen – a series adaption of the cult favorite 2009 feature film. When asked if there was any trepidation to turning an iconic film into a series, Jessica answered with honesty and the excitement of someone that knows they are part of something really special. “There was trepidation. AND excitement. Definitely both. Approaching something like this, you pray it will positively resonate with fans, and then you just jump in with excitement at getting to be a part of something so iconic.”
Despite having a full schedule, Jessica finds time to relax and take time out by reading books and playing with her dog. She understands the importance of balance, and her social media accounts are currently on a break – something others can draw from. “I take breaks from it [social media], in which I neither post nor scroll, to ensure I am as present as possible to the people and situations in my life. I encourage others to check in with themselves and to do the same when they feel it’s time to reconnect with the simple beauty of just being present.”
In the final parting words, Jessica has sound advice for new actors. “If the dream to be an actor reflects the truth in your spirit, if it speaks to you and gives you a channel with which to express that truth as nothing else can, then hold fast to it, do not let go, and never stop working to manifest the dream into the reality of your life. If it continues to feed you and teach you and inspire you, move you, compel you, then put in the work and have faith that it will come to fruition. Take it seriously, study it, don’t be lazy, and trust that you can make it your reality.”
You can watch Jessica Camacho on All Rise, on CBS. Premiering Monday, Sept. 23rd.
Article Written by: Melissa Riemer