Diane Guerrero has charmed us in her roles as street-savvy Maritza Ramos on the critically acclaimed show Orange is the New Black and as BFF extraordinaire Lina on Jane the Virgin. Now, she is adding published author and immigration rights activist to her repertoire with the recent release of her book In the Country We Love: The True Story of a Family Divided. In it, the 29-year-old shares her personal experience with immigration telling the ordeal of having her parents deported back to Colombia at the age of 14, leaving her to fend for herself alone here in the U.S. in order to pursue her dreams.

It was a devastating time that led her into depression and self-hate. But it’s also the endearing story of how she triumphed over it all and made it through, becoming a leading voice for immigration reform along the way. Diane recently spoke with ‘LLERO to discuss the motivation behind the book, the most important thing people can do regarding immigration reform and what we can expect next for Maritza when the new season of OITNB returns this month.

In the Beginning

‘LL: Can you tell me a little about your background?
I am a child of Colombian immigrants. I grew up in Boston. I was born here in New Jersey then we moved to Boston when I was a kid and was raised in Boston.

‘LL: What or who influenced you growing up in terms of acting?
I didn’t always know that I wanted to be an actor. I think that I always knew I wanted to be a performer and I think that I envisioned myself on the stage in the beginning. In the book I talk about that how I really wanted to do musical theater and sing and dance and do the whole package. But I didn’t really see many people on TV that looked like me so I figured in a way that I didn’t see a place for me there. But then, as I got older, that hunger started growing more. I would watch TV and watch movies and say, ‘My God, I can do that too.’ Honestly, I’ve been influenced by everything from cartoons to watching Commando. [Laughs]

‘LL: What did you parents think about you wanting to be a performer/entertainer?
I have to be honest, my parents were very encouraging. It was tough because my parents were hard-working but they were also undocumented and immigrants and often they had to worry about how to make ends meet, how to put food on the table. So, they did encourage me a lot but they didn’t have the means to really nurture that. They just told me from the beginning if I like it I have to stick with it and be resourceful and look for ways to immerse myself in this sort of work.

Diane Guerrero in green top- A

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