Alexandra “Alex” Meneses striking profile—chiseled cheekbones, almond shaped eyes and wide smile—are hard to forget. They should be since she’s been a fixture on the screen – big and small — for years. The Chicago native with Mexican roots has been entertaining audiences since she landed her first film role at just 18 years of age. You might expect a show stopper like Meneses to only be cast for her looks but her comedic roles, including her most memorable as Stefania on Everybody Loves Raymond, are how people remember her. Despite a successful modeling run (“It was a hiccup!”) Meneses pursued her dream of acting and studied at Second City Improv in Chicago and the Lee Strasburg Theatre Institute in New York. Lucky for us, her hard work paid off. She’s appeared in several landmark shows including Friends, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and CSI. Most recently she co-starred as the diva Isabella in Telenovela.
With a new role on the latest season of CW’s Jane the Virgin, premiering this Friday, we had the chance to speak with Meneses about joining the show, what makes Jane work and why she takes chances in her career.
‘LL: Tell me how you went from Midwestern girl to television bombshell?
Alex: I grew up on the Southwest side of Chicago in a pretty normal, lower income family but I didn’t feel like I was a poor kid. I started taking ballet downtown at age three at my aunts’ studio. I didn’t really want to be in the business—my aunt got me into it—so much it just kind of happened. But then I started really loving it. I started out as a makeup artist and when I brought my portfolio to agencies they told me they’d take me on as a model. They sent me on my first audition for a beer poster and I got it and I made $10,000. Modeling was good for money and for travel. But I was always more interested in acting.
‘LL: Tell us about your new role on Jane the Virgin. What drew you to the role of Katherine?
Alex: Katherine is wealthy, powerful and smart. Rafael has lost his hotel, Marbella and I play the women who buys and sells hotels. She meets with Rafael and immediately has the hots for him. We become involved so I’m his new love interest on the show. And it gets a little sticky. He likes me but doesn’t know how he feels about me. I’m a little more into it then him. I get a little crazy woman.
‘LL: What do you like the most about being on the show?
Alex: There’s the same camaraderie on Jane the Virgin like there was on Telenovela. Gina is awesome. She’s very gracious and generous and that trickles down to the rest of the show. Justin (Rafael) is a wonderful human being. They all like each other and it comes through. Everyone trusts each other. That’s part of the reason I think shows like that are successful. If people aren’t happy that comes out and hurts the show.
‘LL: Your short film Weddings Inc. looks great and reminded me of The Wedding Planner. How did you get involved and why?
Alex: It’s a little wackier than [The Wedding Planner]. My character is just dealing with a lot: a family, she’s in denial about her brother being gay, there’s a lot happening. It’s a super sweet script. And I hope we get to make it and it gets picked up. We want it for the small screen.
‘LL: On your last TV show, Telenovela, you played Isabella an older diva. It was a brave choice to play the role of an older woman when you could have been typecast. What made you decide to take that chance?
Alex: As a woman, when you get older, you either play sort of the judge or the police lieutenant. There’s not a whole lot out there. I had been sort of retired because my baby Stella came into my life. When I came back in the game the part of Isabella was a God send. She was this strong, sexy, older lady. I thought, ‘Why not be a sexy lady when you’re older?’ I loved the fact that she owned her maturity. Eva [Longoria] was like ‘You don’t look old enough to play this character!’ And on the show I drew in lines to makes myself look older. I got to dive in and lose myself and I loved it. Isabella was a diva and so much fun.
More on life in the business and what the future holds, after the jump…