A) The fact that it deals with topics and issues that are so real and relevant right now in the world -- but they aren’t often on television for the viewers to see. I think it has done really well, being able to connect to the audiences. That’s the best part about the series -- having people approach you saying that they really relate to a certain character or storyline. That’s what the whole idea of the show is, it’s so universal. I think that’s really awesome to see.
Q) Who are some of the great guest stars we’ll be seeing this season?
A) Well, you did see Rosie O’Donnell, that’s going to be really awesome. I’m really excited for that. I wasn’t really a part of that whole filming process, so I’m excited for that as well. Garrett Clayton will be guest starring as one of Mariana’s possible love interests, so that’s going to be interesting as well.
Q) Will this half of the season finally give Mariana the chance to be happy with her new possibly love interest?
A) Well, you did see Mariana deal with some very dark issues on the first half of the season, so it has definitely lightened up. But I wouldn’t say that it’s all just gone. A lot of her stuff will come back to haunt her, so you can definitely look forward to some dark stuff coming up.
Q) Would you say Mariana is struggling without Lexi around?
A) It is a story that will continue, and you’ve kind of seen how the relationship and dynamic has changed with Lexi now dating her brother. You’re going to see how that kind of comes into play. And with her leaving, yes, I definitely think that she will miss Lexi in her life.
Q) What has been Mariana’s most important & pivotal moment?
A) I think it would have to be episode 9, where Stef is in the hospital. You see all of the issues that she’s dealt with bottle up and come out. The reason her mother is in the hospital is because of her, so she’s left with this guilt. She got shot because she was in contact with the biological mom and with that she wonders if Lena and Stef want to keep her or if they still love her. I think that she really needed to hear from Lena and Stef that she really is part of this family. It was just something she dealt with, growing up and being curious it did get her into some trouble, and I think that at the end of the day she really needed to know that she was loved. I think that’s one of my favorite moments. That was my most favorite. It was the toughest. I’m a sucker for anything. I’m very dramatic. I love crying, and I just think that episode was just so beautiful.
Q) Is there anything that you would like to have changed about the character in the past?
A) Up until now, she’s no longer keeping in contact with her mother. I think that was one thing I was a little iffy about, was how close she was getting with her mom, and you see the results of that.
Q) Is there anything special you’ve had to do in order to prepare yourself for the role of Mariana?
A) I didn’t really know much about foster care, so my learning process was gradual with the pilot. The cast and crew also helped out. Luckily we’ve been able to meet with foster care companies, and we were able to meet a lot of kids who come from the foster care system. They’ve been able to give feedback, tell us how they relate to something, or if they don’t relate to something. It’s been really great to see how they relate to The Fosters, and I think that has really helped me shape my character as well.
Q) How much of Cierra are you allowed to bring to Mariana?
A) One thing I’m really big about is that I love nail polish! I just love getting my nails done and I’m really into really funky colors and patterns. They’ve really helped me bring that into Mariana. I think that’s helped shape her style – she’s very daring and colorful. I love being able to bring the Cierra nails into Mariana.
Q) How does Mariana feel about the near loss of a potential sister after Callie ran away?
A) I think that’s really hard, especially coming from a fostering background. Up until the Foster’s Mariana hasn’t really known a family, and up until Callie she was the only girl sibling in the household. At first she was a little territorial and she didn’t really take a liking to Callie. But you’ve seen their relationship bond. They’ve gotten so close, and for her to leave like that was hard on the whole family, especially Brandon. I think it is really hard. She’s never had a sisterly figure in her life, and for Callie to disappear like that was very hard.
Q) What do you think Mariana would be like as a girlfriend?
A) She’s never had a boyfriend, so she’s going to have a little hit-or-miss. She’s not going to really know how to be a girlfriend, but I think at the end of the day she will be very romantic and thoughtful. She’s very creative, so I think she would be very romantic.
Q) What is it like working with Garrett Clayton?
A) It’s awesome! Our friendship actually started from our mutual obsession with Kristen Wiig. We’re just constantly doing some of her impersonations and impressions. I love working with him. He’s such a great actor and he brings so much to his character Chase. I’m really excited to see how it all turns out and have a blast with him on set.
Q) Can you give away any hints behind Mariana’s deep and dark secrets?
A) She doesn’t really have as many this half of the season, but like I said, her mistakes will definitely come back to haunt her.
Q) Do you see Mariana as the nice girl she is portrayed to be, or something more?
A) I see Mariana as a 15-year-old girl who is growing and with that she’s going to make a few mistakes here and there. At the end of the day she loves her family and it means the world to her. But she is growing and she comes from a different background. She’s very curious, but she’s sassy, she’s witty, she’s loving and caring at the same time. I love her. I think she’s a great character and I love being able to portray her.
Q) How are these perceived expectations of teen normalcy (having a boyfriend) going to affect her actions this half of the season?
A) It actually unravels in one of the upcoming episodes. There is a lot of pressure, and especially if there’s competition. I don’t want to say too much but there might be a little competition in the running towards a love interest. But, yes, there will be pressure, and you’ll see that all unravel.
Q) What other actresses do you look up to?
A) Angelina Jolie! She is fabulous, on and off screen. I just think she’s an awesome person. I love Kate del Castillo, I’ve got to represent for my Latinas. Rachel McAdams is such a beautiful person. They are all some of my biggest inspirations.
Q) What is it like working on The Foster’s set?
A) Oh, it is amazing! It’s constant laughter. They really are a great reason to wake up early in the morning. Whenever I’m rolling out of bed and my bed is just so comfy, I just look forward to seeing them. They make the day go by so much faster. It’s honestly not work. It’s so much fun. The relationships on and off screen are just so light, it’s just so full of love. I love it. It’s a dream.
Q) What issues in the upcoming episodes would you like to see Mariana take on?
A) If I had to go back to the idea of pressures, pressuring in the teen dating life, I think maybe dealing with the idea of sex or virginity. They have touched it briefly on the show. But I think it’s different with a girl. I think Mariana would be interesting in that scenario. You might be able to see something like that on this upcoming season. It will be interesting.
Q) Is there any type of social issue or a problem that you would not like to see Mariana take on?
A) No, actually. The one thing I really admire about the writers is that they can really touch base with a lot of different topics really fast, but it all blends so well and all of the storylines just match. I love the idea of touching so many different universal topics that people can relate to. I think that’s really awesome. I don’t think I would be against anything.
Q) How is working on The Fosters similar or different than working on The Secret Life of the American Teenager?
A) When I was on The Secret Life of the American Teenager I had signed on the last season of a total of five, so I was the new kid on the block. That was different because on The Fosters we started as strangers on this pilot and took it on from there. It was kind of a whole different ballgame with The Secret Life, coming in as the new student. Everyone on The Secret Life was so welcoming and so warm, it was a family already. It was so much fun acting on The Secret Life -- the drama, I couldn’t get over it, it was awesome. It was the same in the sense that on both sets the cast and crew were just such family, so that was really fun. It was such a huge blessing to hop on one awesome project to another. It’s been a great ride!
Q) Did you already know that you had this role before The Secret Life ended?
A) No, actually. My auditioning process was very different. The creator of The Secret Life had called to tell me that The Secret Life was no longer being picked up for another season, so I got on the phone with my agent and I told him, “I’m out here. I really want to get a new project,” and he told me about The Fosters, but they were already testing for the role of Mariana. As a spur of the moment I wanted to put myself on tape. The day after we sent it in, I found out that I had booked the role, so it was a really different process. It was a huge blessing. It was really unexpected.
Q) Is there a possibility of something happening between Mariana, Zac and Chase?
A) Oh, I don’t want to give too much away, but maybe you’re on to something! You know she’s never had a boyfriend, so a lot of that topic will surface and there could possibly be a love triangle.
Q) What do you think about Jesus finding a new love outside of Lexi?
A) I don’t think that Mariana’s going to be okay with that. The idea of him dating Lexi -- it took so long for her to be okay with. Now that she’s fine with it and she’s away, I don’t know how that’s all going to pan out for Jesus.
Q) What does Mariana feel about Brandon and Callie’s relationship?
A) Her relationship with Callie has grown and progressed so much over the first half of the season into this sisterly relationship. She’s known Brandon for so much of her life, that’s her brother, and for them to be dating, I don’t think she approves. Cierra is definitely Team Brallie, but Mariana’s definitely not. I’ve got to say I love those moments. Brandon’s truth comes to play -- you’ll see how the whole Foster family really approves or disapproves of it.
Q) What is it like working with Hayden Byerly?
A) Hayden is literally a 40-year-old man trapped in a 13-year-old body. He is the most mature person, he’s probably the most mature out of everyone in the cast, I swear. He’s so awesome, so giving, and I love being able to work with him. I love those moments too, because I just love his character Jude. Being able to interact with him as Mariana is just so awesome. I love it. I think you’ll definitely see a lot more of them and their friendship in this season.
Q) What information or advice do you receive from your friends and family regarding the show and subject matters?
A) My family is just so supportive of everything I’ve taken on, and they are the first people to tell me about the episode! They’re always watching it live and I love hearing their feedback. They love everything that The Fosters has talked about or dealt with, and the same for my friends. It’s just been so amazing, the whole process and the whole ride of the show. It’s a huge blessing that people like it so much. It’s really fun to hear that from my family and friends as well.
Q) If you could take on the role of any other character on The Fosters who would it be?
A) Probably Jude, just because he has a special place in my heart - if I was a boy [laughs]! I think he has so much underneath that has come into play, and he’s such a strong character, he’s so brave. For a 13-year-old boy he’s just so brave with everything he’s had to deal with, it’s just so cool. I definitely would want to be Jude.
Q) If you weren’t an actress what do you think you’d be doing?
A) I would probably want to be an investigator. It’s always just been a dream of mine. I love mysteries and stuff like that!
Q) What are some of your other talents other than acting?
A) I originally got into acting through singing. I grew up in Texas, so I would do lots of local county fairs, so I grew up competing. I did a competition here in L.A. and they had acting as another category, and since I was out here I thought I might as well just try it. I didn’t know that I’d end up falling in love with it, I got my agent through that competition, and I’ve been with him ever since. I love singing and I love acting!
Q) Have there been any noteworthy stories or great perceptions from fans that you’ve received?
A) You know that’s one of the main things I love being able to experience -- the fans coming up and saying that they relate to a certain subject. I met a few lesbian couples raising families and blended families, and I’ve been able to speak with them about the show. They’re so excited about the fact that there’s something on the air that they can relate to. I think that’s just so awesome that the show is honestly making history. It’s ground breaking and it’s real, and being able to speak with fans is just an awesome thing.
THIS INTERVIEW IS CREDITED TO JAMIE STEINBERG AT STARRY CONSTELLATION MAGAZINE!