I’ve always had a special spot for the sci-fi and fantasy genres. There’s a certain magic to the way that a good series can transport viewers to another world, another circumstance completely different from their own. But it takes more than a good story; when franchises are adapted into movies and television, it takes talented actors. That’s where Jessica Camacho comes in.
Her name may be new to some, but Camacho’s work is an extraordinary delight. She captivated viewers — myself included — with her role of time-traveling troublemaker Cynthia Josh Reyolds (also known as "Gypsy") on the long-running CW series The Flash. But her talents don’t stop at playing an illusion-casting time-traveler; she’s also had roles on shows such as Taken, Sleepy Hollow, and Nikita, just to name a few. Throughout her entire career, Camacho has taken on dynamic roles of strong, badass women, and for too long, she remained lesser-known than other actresses in similar spaces. Now, it looks like that’s all about to change.
At the dawn of TV’s fall season, Camacho is gearing up with not one, but three roles in some of autumn’s most anticipated projects. I sat down to discuss all of the characters she’s playing onscreen this fall (including Netflix’s Another Life, NBC’s All Rise, and HBO’s Watchmen), how spirituality merges with acting, and the question that arises in nearly every sci-fi story: whether she herself believes in life beyond Earth.
ALLURE: What does a role have to have in order to stand out for you?
JESSICA CAMACHO Substance. Dimension. Real humanity inside of it, fleshed out in a way that reflects the truth and complexity of our humanities. Shades of grey, conflict within characters, strengths versus weaknesses.
ALLURE: You’re best known, I believe, for your versatility across genres. What’s been your favorite thing about playing roles with such a wide range?
JC: One of the things that drew me to acting was the fact that I found what I felt inside. I found something that made it OK to accept my brokenness, ambitions that failed to come to fruition. This art form demands that and welcomes that. I love getting to delve into so many different parts of myself — what scares me, what challenges me. As an actor, I want to continue to go towards roles that push me. That’s why I love trying a new genre. My character in Another Life gave not a second thought about being nice to anyone and it was so scary to play that. She’s funny, and she is who she is, and she gave no apology for that. I learned that by playing Michelle.
Audiences are demanding that authenticity and level of realness. So many layers have been pulled back. We want truth, angst, pain, hurt and desire to fix it and mask it and hide it — all of that reflected back to us. The expectations are to see something real.
ALLURE: You’re starring in the upcoming CBS series, All Rise. What stood out for you in playing public defender Emily Lopez-Berarro?
JC: What stood out to me was something different from what I had played. I had been thinking about going back to school to study law. There was always this part of me that wondered about finishing school. I was the rebellious kid in all my classes, [but] school always had a special place in my heart. It was something that I revisited from time to time. The importance of law, the strong arm of the law, and the ability that has for activist movements — environment, animals. In terms of changing the laws to help us live a more humane, conscious existence.
Once I walked into the room, I was really gung-ho about her already. I was able to play with that. "Doggedly determined passion" towards her unbending will to see justice served, fierce protector of constitutional rights, intensely believes that every American and being that is protected under the Constitution deserves a fair trial — nothing else matters compared to that. I relate to that blind focus, being able to hone in on something so focused. She represents what it can be and could be, and what we can aim for. There was so much there for me to grab onto.
We talk about [social change] often on set. We all, as a collective family, feel very lucky and humbled to be able to tell stories that matter but also tell them from the standpoint of hope, human desire. [As] part of our survival skills, we cling to hope. We bring up real stuff that’s happening right now and that’s scary, but we want that to resonate in a real way and call attention to our fellow humans. Kindness, compassion, humanity — standards we should hold each other to.
ALLURE: Did you have an interest in sci-fi and fantasy prior to acting in these specific genres, or have you gotten to know them a lot more through your roles?
JC: At different points, I’ve had more supernatural experiences: flashes into the future of what I’m going to do with my life. I want to play in that world of make-believe, where anything is possible. I loved the history, fervor, fandom behind it. I discovered this deep connection to it and the fans; I loved the fandom and universe created behind it. It’s so fun to play within this realm of fantasy. I didn’t grow up with comics, so that definitely developed. As an actor, [it's] challenging in its own right; you have to train on combat and get into your body — agility, strength — and look like a superhero, but that’s cool because it keeps you accountable. In those ways, roles affect the actor playing them. It’s a cyclical relationship. It elevates you. It forces me to ask more from myself as I learn and respect it more.
ALLURE: What would your superpower be?
JC: Flying! I love flying! The benefits are endless.
ALLURE: You’re playing Michelle Vargas in Netflix’s Another Life. What are you most excited for viewers to see?
JC: I want fans to enjoy the ride. It’s a sexy, scary, fun, exciting romp through space. I want them to enjoy the possibility of it. I want them to see themselves represented. We put in a little bit of Puerto Rican slang words because I want our people to see themselves represented in space. I love that in a show like this, there’s a show for everyone.
ALLURE: Do you believe in aliens and other life beyond Earth?
JC: 100 percent. Why don’t they just talk to us? We’re part of this vast expanse of infinite possibility, and I don’t know if we’ll ever figure out how it’ll come together.
ALLURE: You’re also going to be in the highly anticipated Watchmen TV series, coming out on HBO this October. What was it like to be part of such a legacy?
JC: It was huge. It was epic. And being part of something so historic and special and beloved, it’s very terrifying. Are people going to appreciate this or be upset? A lot of "purists" don’t want to see anything tampered with. [Damon Lindelof] gets it, but also believes there’s more storytelling that should be and can be done in that world. Why not take something epic and take it seriously? Something that hasn’t been fully explored on film. So the humanness of that fear and the decision to forge ahead, to bring it to light, felt like this really special thing. After seeing the cast and quality and storytelling, watching Regina [King] and how much she cared about it — everybody poured themselves into it, and I can’t believe I’m here.
ALLURE: What inspires you to keep going in the field?
JC: I fall in love with it more every day as I get older, continue to grow, and continue to learn how fortunate I am — how important, valuable, exciting I think it is. It allows me to pour myself into it but be challenged by it and build bridges to understanding for those that will watch. [It] continues to open my eyes and heart more and more. [You're] able to put fears and ego desires aside once you stop asking yourself if you're good enough to be here and you know you're where you're meant to be.
I'm going to work really hard to say something really positive with this work that they can take with them. That really matters to me. I’m excited to get more out of my way to throw myself into something that will be really special and that will resonate with them — tells them that they're not alone. As you continue to move through this life, you continue to learn. We’re all struggling. And I love it when we find art and a bridge and we can say, "Look, I'm on this journey with you, so you don’t have to do this alone."
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Originally Appeared on Allure