When Dascha Polanco originally landed her role as inmate Dayanara Diaz on one of Netflix's first binge-worthy experiments, Orange Is the New Black, she continued to keep her job in a hospital, studying and training toward her degree in nursing. "I was making money in the hospital as a manager, working the operating room and being in charge," she told host Charlamagne tha God on the latest episode of Emerging Hollywood. "What's interesting is, I kept my job. That's how much I did not trust this industry."
"I was very scared of being told that I wasn't talented enough," Polanco said, "because I love it so much."
Polanco went on to discuss Latin representation on screen saying, "I'm lucky to be in it, but I think that there's a lot more work to be done. The stats speak for the masses." Polanco is part of that small percentage, but highlights the role being that of an inmate, saying, "I think the opportunity was because it was for an inmate. I think it's more acceptable to see someone like me as an inmate than to see someone like me in a different role."
"It comes down to how I look and not the talent," Polanco said of the importance of reflecting diversity. "I consider myself talented."
Polanco also pushes for diversity in body types onscreen, and notes that body size factors into castings. "Am I going to get more opportunities by me being skinny? Well that's what I see. When I go back to the auditions that I've done and I haven't gotten and I go back and see who they've casted, they all are either models, or a size zero or fair-skinned. Physically, they don't look like me."
With Orange coming to a close this season, things don't seem to be slowing down for Polanco. She has role in Ava DuVernay's When They See Us Netflix series on the Central Park Five and also stars on fellow Orange actress Natasha Lyonne's new Netflix series Russian Doll. She also has a role in the film adaptation of Lin Manuel-Miranda's Tony award-winning musical In the Heights.
New episodes of Emerging Hollywood, hosted by Charlamagne tha God, are available every Thursday on THR.com/EmergingHollywood.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.