'Orange is The New Black' star Melinna Bobadilla hopes the 'real human stories' on the show enable people to become 'politically engaged'
Actress Melinna Bobadilla who plays Santos Chaj on the award-winning Netflix show says the time for dismissing people because of the color of their skin, their accent, their facial features, their hair or their citizenship status is over
One of the highest-rated shows on Netflix, 'Orange is The New Black' has made headlines for its diverse casting and representation on the show. As we are still coming to terms with the ending of our favorite prison dramedy show, we couldn't help but notice the influx of several new characters even in the final season.
In season seven, the show delved deeper into the immigration situation. While in the previous seasons, the story touched upon the hardships faced by immigrants (Blanca's storyline), in this season we get to the bottom of it. Two of the main characters — Blanca and Maritza Ramos are tagged as illegal/undocumented immigrants and whisked away to an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention center. Here we are introduced to an array of new characters including Santos Chaj, played by the talented Melinna Bobadilla.
The actress, who joined the cast in season seven, sat down with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) for an exclusive interview where she shared her thoughts about her role, the show and why she thinks celebrating diversity is important.
Santos is a young indigenous Guatemalan who speaks Maya k'iche. Her backstory reveals that she left her country to escape violence only to be met by more violence, and ends up getting imprisoned at the PolyCon ICE Detention facility.
Melinna adds, "She is isolated because no one speaks her language. And though she finds herself in a desperate situation, she doesn’t give up and continues to fight for herself." Melinna reveals that she had always been a fan of the show. Her role required her to be familiar with the Mayan K'iche language. And though she wasn't fluent in it, she was familiar with the words and pronunciation as she performed in a Mayan creation story play called 'POPOL VUH'.
When asked what she loves about the show, she promptly replies that she loves the "complex narratives" included in the show. "I love the fact that 'Orange is The New Black' is an award-winning show that has always been at the forefront of promotion [of diversity, equity, and inclusion] on screen. They included complex narratives for black, Latina, LGBTQ, and other underrepresented women and nonbinary people unlike any I had ever seen before."
The thought-provoking show has always questioned and challenged the notions and perceptions of the world around us. So we asked her what she felt about season seven. She replies, "Get ready to cry but after you wipe your tears, I hope you take action and become politically engaged, whether it’s supporting immigrant rights, prison reform, women’s reproductive health — whatever it is — because these stories really exist."
Melinna shared that she has always had an interest in "real human stories that can change the world" and 'Orange is The New Black' was doing it. "The experience was a dream because I’ve been a fan of the show since season one. I'm interested in real human stories that can change the world, not fairytales. I’m also ready to see more actresses like the ones on our show featured because it’s 2019 and the time for dismissing people because of the color of their skin, their accent, their facial features, their hair, their citizenship status — whatever it is — is over."