With her career as a Latin singer solidified, Jennifer Peña is ready to take on an entirely different challenge in the entertainment industry.
At 25 years old, Peña, a four-time Grammy nominee known as the princess of Tejano music, has been in the public eye for over 14 years. She now hopes to transfer her natural talent as a performer from behind the mic to the front of the camera as an actress.
Her first role came in 2006 as a volleyball player from the barrio in the DVD movie “All You’ve Got.” In her newest film, “Amexicano,” Peña stars as Gabriela, the wife of an undocumented worker who is befriended by a blue-collar Italian-American from Queens. “Amexicano” was released on DVD Jan. 13.
How did you get involved with “Amexicano?”
The producers saw me in “All You’ve Got.” They had been looking at one of the other actresses in the movie and happen to come across me. They called my mother (who was Peña’s agent at the time) and told her that they were doing this movie and they were interested in me. I was actually in Miami recording Dicen Que el Tiempo and they went down to meet with me. About a week after that I went to New York and we started shooting.
Everyone knows you as a singer. Is acting something you’ve always wanted to do?
Acting has always been something I’ve been interested in since I was very young. I always felt [that] singing and acting went hand and hand. Singing is interpreting a story in a different way. Plus, I had the on-camera experience because of my music videos. I always thought if I ever got the opportunity to do more acting, I was going to run with it.
If you decide to continue to do both, do you ever see at time where you would have to make a choice between the two?
I definitely want to continue with my music. Right now I have the advantage to do both at the moment. Hopefully, I’ll never have to make that decision. I think great things have happened to me so far. I’m very blessed that God has always led me in the right direction. I’ve always been the one to ride the wave and follow my heart.
You had your first child in 2007. How has becoming a new mother affected your career?
There were a lot of people that thought I put everything on hold and in a way I did. I felt the most important thing – even during my pregnancy – was to make it a personal experience. I wanted to give [my son] his first year with mommy. I will never regret that decision even for one second. Now, I’m ready to get back to work, but at the same time [my son] is still my number one priority in life.
How has “Amexicano” changed your view on immigration?
My thoughts before and now are the same. A majority of my fans are immigrants. I’ve had a lot experiences meeting them and listening to their life stories. I’ve grown up with these people since I was 11 years old. I’ve always felt like there needed to be some change in this country as far as the immigration issue went. We should be able to find a common ground.
Do you think your character in “Amexicano” is a realistic example of what it’s like to be an immigrant in the U.S.?
That’s what I liked so much about the story. Just reading the script, I felt for [Gabriela]. She is a real person. When you see the story, Gabriela could be anyone. It really puts a face on the situation.