Don’t be fooled by her new-girl-to-Hollywood status. Camila Mendes has been so focused on launching her career, that she’s gotten off to a fast start playing the privileged Latina character Veronica Lodge on CW’s breakout series Riverdale.
The NYU Tisch School of the Arts graduate has the unique opportunity of connecting with her culture on-screen and off. With her Brazilian background, the 23-year-old makes sure to stay on top of her roots by speaking Portuguese with her parents and staying connected with her extended family via group chats.
As the new season of Riverdale approaches, Mendes spoke to People Chica about being new to Hollywood, her Latin roots and what fans can expect in season 2.
Veronica Lodge is your first role— how does it feel that your debut in the industry is on a hit CW series?
The biggest relief for me is to know that I’ve broken through. I don’t need to stress about whether or not I made a huge mistake choosing this career path. Now I can actually focus on building a career doing what I love, which was all I’ve ever wanted.
In what ways do you relate to your character?
I know what it’s like to be the new girl. I spent a lot of my childhood moving around, so I was constantly adjusting to different environments and finding a new identity. Veronica’s world completely changed after her father’s scandal, and that degree of change makes you very vulnerable.
You play the role of a rich, privileged Latina, which isn’t really common in Hollywood…
It’s just so refreshing to see a different story being told for Latin families. The Lodge family is a much-needed departure from the underprivileged, sleazy Latino drug-dealers we’re used to seeing in entertainment. It’s rare that you see Latin families being portrayed as intelligent, sophisticated, and powerful entities.
In an interview with Coveteur, you called the role “American Latina,” what does that mean to you?
I think it’s different for everybody. For me, being an “American Latina” means identifying with and being influenced by both my American upbringing and my Latin heritage, and I have so much appreciation for how those two cultures have created who I am. I’m a full-blooded Brazilian, with an entire extended family of Brazilians, but I was born and raised in the U.S. When I go to Brazil, I feel like an American, and in the U.S., I always notice the traits that make me Brazilian.
Do you feel that being a Latina is difficult in Hollywood?
I’m pretty new to Hollywood, but I’m already starting to see the issues in how some projects are cast. I often hear things like, “You don’t look Latina enough, ” and that mentality is so backwards. The fact is: I am Latina, so how are you going to tell me that I don’t look Latina?
How do you connect to your Brazilian culture?
I connect with my culture through my family. I speak Portuguese to my parents so that I can practice. I stay engaged with my extended family through a lively group chat on WhatsApp. That sense of community and family is the heart of Brazilian culture, and staying engaged with my family is what keeps me connected.
What can fans expect from Season 2 of Riverdale?
Expect things to get even darker. In season one, we were testing the waters, and in season two, we’re really diving in. We’ve fully submerged ourselves into the thriller genre, and the obstacles that our characters will face are terrifying.
Any dream projects for the future?
I would love for my next project to be a well-written, character-driven indie. Something intimate, low budget, and completely different from the well-oiled machine of network television. But I’d also love to play a superhero in a big feature – so honestly, anything goes!
For more on Camila Mendes, pick up the new issue of People en Español, on newsstands everywhere. Also, be sure to check out season 2 of Riverdale on the CW October 11th.