You might remember that many of her early roles — including Real Women Have Curves, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and Ugly Betty — led to widespread praise for the actor breaking the typical Hollywood mold.
"What’s so insane is, you go back and look, and I had a very average-size body," she said. "And so the idea that people were looking at me and saying, 'That’s curvy' is crazy."
"Not that I care," she continued, "But it’s like, that’s insane that we thought that was so groundbreaking. I was Hollywood’s version of imperfect, which seems so ridiculous."
She added that she's not alone either. "There are so many women who were called brave, just because they are people in bodies."
Now, the 39-year-old is focused on the freedom to push back against stereotypes and expectations. "What I continue to wish for my career, and women’s careers and people of color’s careers, is that we don’t have to exist inside of these boxes or these lanes — that we don’t have to be relegated to represent just the thing that the culture wants us to represent."
"I want to be more of who I am as a person, and to get to make art that doesn’t fit into any of the boxes and isn’t about the dominant conversation people have wanted to have about me because I’m a woman who doesn’t fit into stereotypical Hollywood."
America also spoke about her experience as a Latina in Hollywood. She was often the only one in the room or on the cast, and it was deeply isolating. The actor also felt the pressure to be "a model Latina, whom everyone could be proud of."
Now, she's proud to work on Latino projects that "could not have been made" before. For her directorial debut, she's adapting I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, a book by Erika L. Sánchez. "It’s a version of the coming-of-age story that I’ve never seen a young Latina get to inhabit. It’s deeper, more complicated, messy."
But she emphasized her desire to explore all kinds of ideas and projects without stereotypical boundaries. "If I’m creatively empowered as an artist, then I have the freedom to decide I’m going to make the movie about rocks, or about birds, or about a space that has nothing to do with my experience as a Latina. Not that there’s anything wrong with those stories — I’ve told those, and I will continue to tell those — but freedom is being able to follow your artistic impulses that are not bound by whatever labels we’ve been attached to our whole lives," she concluded.
You can read the full interview with America here.