Picture Supply: Todd Williamson/Peacock
“Typically I simply wish to sit again and watch a lady be a princess,” actress Daniela Nieves tells POPSUGAR. She’s starring in Peacock’s new “Vampire Academy,” based mostly on the YA worldwide bestsellers and from the inventive thoughts behind CW’s hit vampire franchise. The present follows two greatest mates, Sisi Stringer’s Rose because the badass fighter/guardian and Nieves’ reluctant Princess Lissa. She will get thrown into vampire politics when her household dies in a automobile crash and she or he turns into head of her royal family.
“I simply wish to sit again and watch [the Latina] fall in love with the principle man. I do not need her to be the sidekick. I would like her to be the principle character.”
Clearly, “princess” is a loaded time period. Individuals use it as an insult to explain spoiled or entitled ladies. It is bought these colonial roots. The Disney pantheon has additionally develop into synonymous with a pink and frilly definition of girlhood. And in a misogynistic society (just like the one we dwell in), something coded as female is ripe to get torn down. Nonetheless, “princess” is aspirational for a lot of women, notably these exterior the blond-haired, blue-eyed, skinny beauties of previous. And Lissa will get to have all of it —journey, stunning outfits, a love curiosity, and extra. For Nieves, it is a query of who will get to be centered, “I simply wish to sit again and watch [the Latina] fall in love with the principle man. I do not need her to be the sidekick. I would like her to be the principle character. I wish to see the massive love story for her as a result of I would like the massive love story in my life. I wish to be the principle character in my life. I do not wish to really feel like I am on the sidelines.”
“Lots of instances, when there’s illustration for Latinas, it is about her being Latina.
And that is what she will get in “Vampire Academy,” a chance her supervisor advised her to “attempt to not get connected” to when she despatched in her audition tape. A part of what makes it so rewarding for Nieves is that it is a completely different kind of illustration, one not targeted on exploring id. “Lots of instances, when there’s illustration for Latinas, it is about her being Latina. It is about her coming from Venezuela. It is about all she has to battle with being an immigrant,” she says earlier than asserting, “I already dwell that. I used to be an immigrant. I do know what that is like.” She is aware of there’s worth in these identity-focused tales, however she additionally needs different alternatives.
Picture Supply: Jose Haro/Peacock
Nieves immigrated from Venezuela when she was a child. Earlier than she was ten years previous, she was appearing in telenovelas, an expertise she is aware of helped put together her for “Vampire Academy,” regardless that it could not be extra completely different. For one, there’s simply the sheer quantity of it. Nieves recounts how in her telenovela days, “we might shoot perhaps 100 episodes a 12 months… and we’d shoot for perhaps eight months out of the 12 months.” In distinction, for “Vampire Academy, ” we shot 10 episodes in seven months.” Telenovelas taught her work underneath strain for lengthy hours and be taught strains rapidly. However she’s grateful for the chance to “take your time and actually be on this world, actually work on this character, and actually see the way it pays off” citing “Vampire Acadamy’s” immersive high quality, which is essentially because of its considerate cinematography, costuming, and extra.
Along with this excessive manufacturing worth, “Vampire Academy” additionally boasts a decidedly progressive worldview. The 2 leads are Black and Latina, and their love pursuits and authority figures are equally numerous. As viewers, we carry our concepts of race into watching the present however they do not apply right here. The identical goes for sexuality. Characters in “Vampire Academy” have identical and opposite-sex relationships and the present and its many characters deal with all of them the identical. Even gender works in a different way. The halls of energy are evenly lined with women and men. That’s till you are taking class into consideration — the “Vampire Academy” society is strictly divided into three teams with the ladies within the lowest rung, the Dhampir, pressured to select between unequal breeding relationships (a la “The Handmaid’s Story”) and troopers, more likely to die younger. Both means, they’re in service to the Moroi royals.
It is throughout this divide that mates Lissa and Rose discover themselves. Lissa, the princess, and Rose, the guardian. Theirs is the central relationship, extra necessary than any romance both of them embarks on. In truth, each their faces are on the present’s key artwork, proving their relationship’s significance. Nieves says she hopes the present helps “younger women understand that their feminine friendships are so necessary.”
Picture Supply: Jose Haro/Peacock
For her half, Nieves has embodied either side of Lissa and Rose’s friendship dynamic. She even learn for the Rose function. However right down to the nomenclature, Rose is so much like Nieves’ first massive English function, the one which marked her crossover from Spanish-language telenovelas. As Angie Cruz on Nickelodeon’s “Each Witch Manner” and its spinoff “WITS Academy,” Nieves performed the tomboyish greatest buddy who actually turns into a “guardian.”
“I wish to do one thing completely different,” she says, “I’ve by no means performed one thing like a princess. There’s by no means been something [like that] in my profession. So I used to be tremendous excited” to play Lissa.” Nonetheless, she needs to know why it is so uncommon, asking, “why cannot the Latina simply be the princess?” It is a query value asking, notably as reveals like “Lord of the Rings: the Rings of Energy” face backlash for casting nonwhite actors of their fantasy roles.
“We are able to think about vampires. We are able to think about zombies, [and] monsters. We are able to think about the craziest issues. How can we not think about that they’d be Latina? Or they would not be Korean? Or they’d be Black?”
On that exact cultural phenomenon, Nieves calls bullshit: “We are able to think about vampires. We are able to think about zombies, [and] monsters. We are able to think about the craziest issues. How can we not think about that they’d be Latina? Or they would not be Korean? Or they’d be Black?” For her, “it is simply so necessary to make [diverse casting] a standard factor in order that hopefully sooner or later, it’s not even a factor anymore. It is simply what we see — as a result of it is what we see in our day-to-day lives anyway. [So], why cannot we see it on TV as nicely?”
“Vampire Academy” is working to verify we will. No matter your background, Nieves believes “you possibly can see your self on this present.”
“There is no such thing as a Moroi and Dhampirs in actual life, however there’s undoubtedly classism,” she says. “There’s undoubtedly discrimination. There’s undoubtedly, hopelessness in direction of the justice system. Our present is that this stunning factor that you could escape into… however on the identical time, [you can] get parts of relationships, of development, and of studying issues about your self, which are related to now.” It is a profitable mixture and one which fantasy has employed because it began, drawing parallels between present occasions with out being too heavy-handed about it.
“Vampire Academy” with its non-white, feminine leads is political in its very existence. That is one thing Nieves can relate to as a Latina making it in Hollywood — folks like her are few and much between. And it is even rarer for Latina actresses to take middle stage. However that is precisely what Nieves is doing, daring to play the princess and discovering the enjoyment and contradictions within the half.