Although her focus was on playing volleyball as a high school student at Antonian College Prep (c/o 2010), Feliz Ramirez never forgot how passionate she was as a child about becoming an actress.

With a father who worked in the advertising industry, Ramirez started auditioning for roles in the Spanish-language commercials he produced when she was only four years old.

“My first commercial was for Paragon Cable,” Ramirez told me during an interview a few weeks ago. “As soon as I got in front of the camera and they started putting a little bit of makeup on me, I was like, ‘OK, I like this!’”

Twenty-plus years later, Ramirez still enjoys how glamourous it feels to be in the spotlight. She said she gets to “play dress-up” just like when she was a kid living in San Antonio on her new ABC series Grand Hotel. Executive produced by Eva Longoria (TV’s Desperate Housewives), the new soapy drama follows the lives of the Mendoza family led by patriarch Santiago Mendoza (Oscar-nominated actor Demián Bichir), who owns the Riviera Grand Hotel in Miami Beach. The show is a remake of the Spanish soap opera Grand Hotel, which aired in Spain from 2011 to 2013.

Currently on the fourth episode of its debut season, Ramirez has been a standout as Santiago’s self-absorbed stepdaughter Carolina, who has already (in just the first three episodes) cheated on her fiancé with a celebrity rapper, backstabbed her sister and won’t stop desperately fawning over the new waiter hired at the hotel who has zero interest in her.

During an interview a few weeks ago, Ramirez talked about her time in San Antonio, what it has been like showing off her character’s “evil side” and the diversity on the show.

Grand Hotel airs Monday nights on ABC at 9 p.m. CT.

Before we get into the show, tell me about your life in San Antonio.

I grew up there my whole life. I was born in Santa Rosa Hospital downtown. I grew up on Woodlawn near San Pedro. Then I moved to the Medical Center and went to grade school at St. Paul’s Catholic School and went to high school at Antonian College Prep. I lived in San Antonio all through high school and then I moved out of state for college.

Where did you go to college?

I played volleyball, so I got a scholarship. My first year, I went to a school in North Carolina, Mount Olive College, to play volleyball. Then, I transferred to St. Francis College in Brooklyn. The reason I transferred is because I wanted to move to a place where I could pursue acting. I knew I needed to leave small town North Carolina and go to Los Angeles or New York. [St. Francis] offered me a full ride, so that’s how I got to New York. I lived there for eight years.

And now 20-something years later, you’re starring on an ABC drama executive produced by Eva Longoria. What attracted you to the role of Carolina? So far, she’s not a very nice person.

(Laughs) Carolina is such a fun character even though she’s not the nicest person. She can be ridiculous in an entertaining, funny way. A lot of people tell me, “You know, you’re nothing like Carolina in real life,” which I appreciate. I like challenging myself. She’s ridiculous, but she’s got this really strong personality that I love being able to take over. You’ll see a development in her throughout the season.

The relationship between Carolina and her sister Yoli (Justina Adorno), so far, has been the most enjoyable one to watch unfold. The evil stepsisters from Cinderella are referenced in the first episode, but Carolina seems to be the only one of the two who fits the bill.

Yeah, I think what they meant by that is that Carolina always feels like she needs her sidekick. They’re sisters, so they do depend on each other, but they fight all the time. Carolina throws her under the bus a few times. But, yeah, I think [Carolina] takes on more of the evil side. At times, I felt like the evil stepsister personality come out, but I think it’s a little different. I think when you see the rest of the season, the evil transforms. There are some heartfelt moments and some dynamics that you’ll be surprised come from the sisters. A lot of times, when you think of evil stepsisters, you think of these crazy, mean girls. But Carolina comes in just wanting to have a party.

As a Latina actress, what do you think about what your executive producer Eva Longoria has been able to do behind the scenes in the TV industry in the last few years? She’s been able to create content on shows like Telenovela, Devious Maids and now Grand Hotel for actresses of color who might not get the same opportunity on other shows?

I think it’s incredible and so important, especially during this time. I feel very honored to be a part of this project. I love the diversity in our show. We had such a variety of directors throughout the season (including Longoria) – a lot of women. Our DPs (director of photography) are female, too. It’s really nice to see that Eva is very passionate about diversity, not only Latinos, but all races.

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