Celebrity Spotlight: Orange Is The New Black’s Melinna Bobadilla

Photo credit: Greg Wallace 

Tell me a bit about yourself and career.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles to loving parents who immigrated from Mexico to LA when they were kids. Having been raised by a teacher, education was always very important in our family and I attended U.C. Berkeley as an undergrad and New York University for a Masters in Theatre & Education. My roots are in theater and I first started acting in high school. However, as a Chicana, being involved in social justice work and community engagement was always a priority for me, so prior to acting full time I was an educator/ youth organizer with non profits and various schools. 

How would you describe your role on OITNB?

I play Santos-Chaj, a young Indigenous Guatemalan woman who speaks Maya k’iche. She leaves Guatemala to escape violence only to be met by more violence- BOTH SEXUAL AND STATE SANCTIONED, on her journey north and ultimately she ends up imprisoned at the PolyCon Ice Detention facility. 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 try to fight for herself. 

What attracted you to the role?

The fact that Orange Is The New Black is an award winning show that has always been at the forefront of promotion [diversity, equity and inclusion] on screen. They included complex narratives for black, Latina, LGBTQ, and other under-represented women and nonbinary people unlike had ever been seen before. Also, there are very few representations of BROWN, INDIGENOUS Latinas on screen because we often see casting feature European presenting Latinxs.

What was it like being on set with the rest of the cast?

It was great because I got to perform with women I had admired for years and felt proud of being a part of this formidable tv legacy. Also, it made me bring my A game

What are some of your favorite memories from filming?

Forming a bond with all the new OITNB recurring characters like Shani, Clitvack, Juarez and Karla

What do you hope people like about your role?

More than like, I hope they learn from my role and from watching Santos’ struggles.

Ultimately they should be moved to action and to stand in solidarity with immigrants. I also hope they draw the connections between her struggle as a survivor of sexual violence and state violence- as she is a detained migrant woman carrying the child of her rapist and ICE is not letting her take agency over her body and her healthcare by impeding her right to safe abortion access.

What’s next for you?

You can catch me on ABC’s Grand Hotel, Apple TV+  new steaming show LITTLE AMERICA and Netflix’s upcoming film THE LAUNDROMAT opposite Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman.

Tell me a fun fact about yourself.

I love Beyonce AND Selena beyond words and they are my spirit guides/

What are you watching on TV these days?

I’m making it a point to support shows that make a conscious effort to accurately

reflect society- that is diverse, complex, inclusive and celebratory of people of color, namely women of color and LGBTQ POC. I love POSE on FX, anything from Shonda Rhimes, Atlanta, Vida….

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