Jenna Ortega is a Disney princess. No, really. She plays Princess Isabel on Elena of Avalor, a show about Disney’s first Latina Princess. Ortega is also pulling double duty as Harley Diaz, the title character of Disney’s Stuck in the Middle. And when she isn’t at Disney, she pops over to The CW to play young Jane on the award-winning show Jane the Virgin. Ortega is a very busy girl, and with talent like hers, it’s not hard to understand why.
Jenna Ortega loves Harley Diaz of Stuck in the Middle and Princess Isabel of Elena of Avalor. Why wouldn’t she? After all, she brings them to life onscreen. The great thing about both girls is that they are confident, funny, smart, and creative. Harley is an engineering whiz, an inventor, and the middle child of seven. She is the show’s main character and the child who is most eager to fix the mistakes she or her family members make. Princess Isabel is an inventor, too. She loves to draw and read. She is the younger sister of Elena, who is keen on keeping her promises. However, for Ortega, the roles mean much more to her and to a lot of little girls everywhere. The practice of representation is very powerful. Seeing someone who looks like you achieving a dream you never thought was possible or seeing someone who looks like you just living their everyday life gives young people watching a chance to believe that their stories and experiences are valid, too.
“I am very proud of Harley Diaz and Princess Isabel,” says Ortega. “I feel that a Hispanic princess was long overdue. I am so grateful that Disney saw that and did something about it. Now young Latinas can say, ‘Hey! That girl on TV looks like me!’”
Before she was Isabel or Harley, Ortega got her start in a show called Rob, a 2012 sitcom that starred Rob Schneider as a lifelong bachelor and landscape architect who marries into a close Mexican-American family. Rob spends the series trying his best to connect with his new family with quite a few hiccups and missteps along the way. Though the sitcom only lasted for an eight-episode single season, when Rob and Jenna’s characters met on the show, it wasn’t under the best circumstances.
I feel that a Hispanic princess was long overdue. I am so grateful that Disney saw that and did something about it.
“I played an 8-year-old girl who kicked Rob because he stole my baby doll,” Ortega recalls. “That day, I learned how to kick a guy without actually hurting him.”
For Ortega, her favorite thing about acting is the opportunity to play different characters. Whether she’s playing a girl who can see ghosts or a girl who she shares a lot in common with in real life, the chance to audition for these different types of characters, read their descriptions, and bring them to life is something Ortega loves and does exceptionally well. The passion she has for characters becomes apparent when she appears on our TV and film screens as characters we love almost instantly. Her easy portrayal of emotion, her girl next door personality, and her ability to play off of her fellow actors aids her when she makes the transition from comedy to drama and back again.
One of Ortega’s most memorable roles outside of her current Disney roles is her portrayal of young Jane on the critically acclaimed hit Jane the Virgin. Though she leaves Disney and pops over to The CW for the role, the same magic can be found in this role, too. As young Jane, Ortega is primarily the audience’s visual aid in what and who made Jane (Gina Rodriguez) Rodriguez.
Without a doubt, The CW’s breakout star has a fan in Ortega. Gina Rodriguez’s contagious personality, humbleness, and talent are among the reasons why Ortega enjoys playing the role. The positive set environment left a lasting impression on her and her Disney employers. In fact, her role as young Jane helped Ortega get the role of Harley in Stuck in the Middle.
“When I went in the audition room to audition for Harley, the Disney execs were telling me, ‘We love you as Little Jane on Jane the Virgin!’” Ortega says. “A lot of people from Disney actually love Jane the Virgin and recognized me from the show.”
In 2017, I want to make it a priority to do something nice for someone else every day.
Actually, Ortega and her character Harley Diaz have a lot in common. They are both Latina, enjoy math and science, are the middle children in big families, and can both be silly. Ortega insists on one big difference, though; she’s not an inventor. At just 14 years old, Ortega has an extensive list of roles under her belt. She has been a guest on shows like Days of Our Lives, Richie Rich, CSI: NY, and in movies like Iron Man 3 and After Worlds. But don’t worry—she doesn’t have a favorite.
“I cannot choose a favorite role!” she says. “I love Harley Diaz because we have so much in common, but I also love Princess Isabel because she is a Latina princess! I do miss drama though, and I had an amazing time filming CSI: NY and Days of Our Lives. They were small roles, but ones that I will never forget.”
When she isn’t acting, Ortega can be found across her various social media sites (she has a whopping 800K Instagram followers last time we checked), promoting her shows, and inspiring her followers with words of wisdom and Musical.ly videos. There are even multiple compilations on YouTube of her most popular videos. When she’s not making fun videos with her family for her fans to enjoy, she’s performing in the New York Spectacular with the Rockettes; at least, that’s what she spent her summer doing. Performing with the Rockettes was her first time doing theatre, but she had so much fun that she’d love to do it again.
As the year comes to a close, Ortega took the time to reflect back on 2016 and share her hopes for 2017.
“In 2017, I want to make it a priority to do something nice for someone else every day,” she says. “There is so much hate in this world, and I feel like if I could brighten up someone’s day if I could spread some more love and light in this world. As far as my career goals for 2017, I would really love to book a big role in a feature film. That is a huge career goal for me. If I could choose, I would love for it to be a dramatic role to show the world I could be something very different than what they’re used to seeing me play.”
Personally, we can’t wait to see what comes from her in 2017 as well. Whatever that may be, we know that it will only make us love her and her characters that much more. You can catch Jane the Virgin on The CW Monday nights at 9/8c and Disney’s Elena of Avalor and Stuck in the Middle Friday nights on The Disney Channel.
See more exclusive photos from this shoot in our Dec 2016/Jan 2017 issue, out now!
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