'Vida' Star Mishel Prada: "We Haven’t Seen Something Like This on TV"

"When I realized that I was going to have to play [the role of] Emma, I was terrified," says Mishel Prada, lead actress of the new Starz show.

In a recent In Studio interview with The Hollywood Reporter, actress Mishel Prada opened up about about her complex character and the importance of being included in the Latinx-centric show Vida. “We haven’t really seen something like this on TV — these characters, these vibrant and alive and flawed and human and very independent, strong women that are not perfect…and as a Latina woman it adds this whole other layer because I’ve never gotten the opportunity to play a character like this,” she says.

The series follows two estranged sisters who are brought back together to their childhood home in East L.A. after their mother dies. Though they couldn’t appear to be more different, they soon discover how much they truly have in common. “It was really important for [my co-star] Melissa Barrera and I to make sure that no matter what you could see that there was love there and that there was a connection, and that you could see there was history there so that it wasn’t just two sisters who hate each other.” 

The first episode opens with Emma (Prada) and her sister Lyn (Barrera) attending their mother’s funeral, but then things get complicated when they meet their mother’s “roommate” Eddy (Karen Ser Anzoategui). The sisters are immediately forced to explore their family's past as well as their own personal demons. “The writers are all Latinx, mostly women and mostly queer women so there was a lot of little pieces of all of them in there…with both Emma and Lyn you see a lot of fear that they’re operating off of, and with Emma specifically, it’s a lot of this buried shame that eventually she has to come to terms with about herself and the neighborhood that she left behind.”

The show's themes of feminism, LGBT relationships and gentrification within the Latinx community in Los Angeles are particularly timely. “We shot all throughout the East side of L.A., Boyle Heights, Pico/Normandie, parts right outside of the downtown district.… There were a lot of sensitive issues about gentrification and gentefication, which is the Latino youth and community coming back and essentially gentrifying their own neighborhoods and what that symbolizes and what that means. It was sensitive [for us] to not fall into the trap of…using the neighborhood as a commodity instead of honoring it.”

Prada can personally relate to many of the show’s themes and characters, being a first-generation American herself. “My mom is an immigrant…but I grew up here and I am very much American. That in-between stage is a really important thing to acknowledge because it is a very American thing…it’s actually a very American story. To see that happening at this time specifically is a huge honor to be part of bringing this story to life. We need more stories like this. We need to hear more voices. It doesn’t take away from the voices that are already there. If anything it just adds.”

Vida airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. on Starz.