By Catherine Michelle
Meet Paulina Chavez, the seventeen year old star of Netflix’s “The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia”! She plays teen genius, Ashley Garcia, who has earned two PhDs by the age of 15 and moves to California to live with her Tío (uncle) Victor, to begin her passion of creating robots for NASA. The Mexican American actress from San Antonio, Texas, soared onto our screens, into our hearts, and is the role model we all need. She is smart, ambitious, and genuinely cares about using her new platform to make our world a better place. Read our exclusive interview with the young breakout star, Paulina Chavez, below!
Hey Paulina! Thank you for speaking with us this month. We are a huge fan of yours and of “The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia,” how did that role come to you? I got the script on a Wednesday night and I had the audition for the role on Friday. I was instantly captured by the script because it was about a young Latina who is the youngest person ever to earn a PhD. There is not enough Latina representation on TV, muchless a young PhD genius or a Latina genius. A week later, I got a call to go straight to testing, then flew out to LA to meet with Mario Lopez and the other producers.
Oh my gosh, that happened so quickly! Was this your first time testing for a big show? This was the first time I went into testing and there were 15 people in the room! I was so nervous. I tried to play it off cool and Mario Lopez was just so warm and welcoming. He greeted me with a big hug and I was freaking out on the inside.
What did you do to combat your nerves? I was so nervous but I brought my Rubik’s cube. I can solve it in 3 minutes! It is what calms me down. *Be sure to check out Paulina’s Rubik cube solving skills on our Instagram!
Do you have any advice for someone that is going to auditions, callbacks, or going into testings? I take a lot of notes on my scripts! I listen to what the producers and writers say very closely and apply their suggestions the best that I can. Listening is key because it helps me make their vision for a character come alive.
“The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia” is a multi-camera sitcom in front of a live studio audience, what is that experience like? I was so nervous going in front of an audience for the show. But it did feel like home being on the stage and interacting with the audience since I did a lot of theater growing up. It is also nice because you can make mistakes and just do the take over again where you cannot do that in theater! It is okay to mess up, and it can often get the biggest laughs from our studio audience.
Do you relate to your character at all in terms of being wise above your years and in a different place than many of your peers? *LOL* I didn't mean to rhyme just there. Ahaha I never thought I would “make it” as a teen and I always saw my big break coming once I was an adult. The character of Ashley Garcia and I both focus on our careers and are high achievers at a young age. We both didn’t get the chance to be a teenager, we were busy focusing on our passions. Mine was acting, her’s was learning.
How long have you known you wanted to be an actress? Was your sister, who is an engineer, an inspiration for your role as Ashley at all? She is a real life Latina that is in STEM. She is so incredible and inspiring and we need to share those stories more with the world. Ashley Garcia is a big step in highlighting women like my sister, but we have more work to do. My sister was the one woman in her class of engineering. We need to build more women up to believe they can be engineers because they can! Seeing Ashley Garcia on the screen will hopefully inspire other young women to see that they can do it too.
Speaking of inspiring women, how was being directed by Eva Longoria for “The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia” like? She is such a light. Her energy is so big and positive! Her passion and involvement is inspirational and she is one of my biggest role models.
Did she give you any advice/wisdom from one female actress to another? She taught me the importance of using my voice to amplify what I am passionate about now that I have the platform to. She has the Eva Longoria Foundation where she helps Latinas break the cycle of poverty by providing opportunities through education, STEM, and entrepreneurship. She has inspired me to give back to my community.
That is incredible! You are currently working on a special scholarship that will offer opportunities for youth within your local San Antonio community to go to college. Can you tell us about that? My mom and I decided to hold a scholarship for the high schools that I would have gone to. We will be selecting three students from both Southwest High School and Legacy High School for these scholarships to help with their tuition and books. We have geared it towards middle class students who are in an awkward in-between. They do not quite qualify for financial aid but also cannot afford to pay the full tuition.
What would you say to someone who is looking to get involved and give back? Reading and being informed is the first step. Keeping an open mind, educating yourself, because knowledge is power. I believe that if you are going to have a platform, use it for positivity and to raise awareness about things you are passionate about. My passion happens to be education.
You have said that you look at being a role model as a fun thing, what do you hope people learn from you? I am a person that is very passionate, and I hope that people find and follow their passions. I want to promote positivity and expel negativity. Criticism from my family is the only criticism that I want to hear. I do not listen to the hate.
What are your goals for the future? You have shadowed Jody Margolin Hahn, a director that directed several episodes of “The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia”; do you want to direct one day? I would love to produce, write, direct, make music. I want to do it all! There is no limit, and I won’t let anything stop me!
Wait, speaking of music, I heard that you were a part of a mariachi band and played violin and sang, what was that like? WHEN my music comes out, it will definitely have some mariachi flare! I loved every part of being in the band. From hair and makeup to the performance, it just lights me up. I do not get that same feeling from acting so I love that I can do both and am looking forward to creating and releasing my own music soon.
Like she said herself, Paulina Chavez wants to do it all and there is truly no limit. Don’t stand in her way, because she is not going to let anything stop her from reaching for the stars! Be sure to check out The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia on Netflix and follow her on Instagram.
Catherine Michelle is the Contributing Editor at Large and Lead Writer for New Face Fashion Magazine and Dreamlette Magazine who focuses on exclusive interviews, reviews, makeup, fashion and more! Follow her on Instagram.