In the show Friends with Better Lives, Majandra Delfino gets to tackle the age-old question that many deal with: is the grass truly greener on the other side? The 33-year-old mother of two, who was born in Venezuela to a Cuban mother and Venezuelan father, stars alongside James Van Der Beek, Kevin Connolly and Brooklyn Decker in the new CBS comedy. We caught up with the actress to talk about her character, how she tries to balance motherhood and career and why she thinks Latinas still have more to overcome in Hollywood.
Can you tell us a bit about your character?
Basically, I play myself. [laughs] I play a fantastic, fantastic character named Andi. We have such similar lives – we live in the same neighborhood, we’re married, she’s a mom with a 1 ½ year old baby and another baby on the way. She has a very sweet relatable relationship with her husband… she compares herself to her friends to see who’s doing “better,” but they’re in the weeds, as they say. They can’t see the amazing life they have in comparison to their friends sometimes.
What are some of the differences between you and your character?
She’s the more normal version of me, I guess. [laughs] She’s not married to an actor [Delfino is married to actor David Walton] but is married to a doctor [played by Kevin Connolly] who was her high school sweetheart and she’s a bit nicer than me… more accommodating.
What’s been the common thread between the characters you play? Is there one character that was the least like you?
I’ve never played a character that was exactly like me, but I’d say for me [Maria DeLuca] on Roswell was definitely the most different. She just had so much energy and I had to have copious amounts of coffee to have that energy and that hysteria that she had.
What drew you to this character or series?
I would say the most important thing is getting to bring a realistic female point of view to a woman character. A lot of times you get something one-dimensional or you get the complete opposite to what a traditional female character is – and you end up with something that is super raunchy or rebellious that tries to make a statement. But, I think it’s something that doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can be a realistic character on TV and not be boring. I think it’s doing a service to people to have these characters that are interesting but are grounded in reality.
What’s your biggest takeaway when it comes to balancing parenting and working?
We have this [goal] that we want to do everything and we want to do it perfectly, and it’s never going to happen that way. You’re crazy if you think I’m going to work more than a full day on set and then have dinner on the table every night. Something’s going to suffer, that’s just the nature of it. And it’s like, I don’t want my daughter to think that it has to be that way – that I’m setting this precedent of being a robot who can get everything done and, more importantly, has to get everything done. I’m not going to pretend that I can do it all – I can’t.
In order for something to be good, something else has to be not as good. So whether that means you have to make your meal in a microwave one night or whatever it is, there are sacrifices. But I think, for me, it’s all about family. As long as everyone’s healthy and fed and together, that’s it. That’s success. You don’t have to be a perfect human being. Give yourself a break.
Would you want your children to go into acting?
Oh, God no. No, no. I would be somewhat disappointed, but if they graduated from college and had an educated point of view on it and knew what it really entailed to some capacity, then OK. I could come to grips with a well-rounded decision. But child acting? No way.
So if your kids were like, “I want to act!” you’d tell them no.
100 percent. [laughs] I just want them to enjoy life for a bit longer. Be kids.
You’re a singer-songwriter, as well. Do you enjoy one or the other more? Or do you get something out of them that’s different?
That’s interesting. I’d say that in terms of songwriting, it’s great because my brain is creating something that’s from me, as opposed to being a facilitator of someone’s creation. But that is also much more involved – the mood has to strike me. There has to be a certain environment and it’s more of an indulgence. Whereas working on a role, it’s still being creative but it’s less of a personal project. You’re given the material and you work with it. So they’re both, you know, art-based but they fulfill different things for sure.
Do you have someone (whether music or acting) that you’d love to work with?
This is such a 90s cliché, but I am obsessed with Trent Reznor [of Nine Inch Nails]. I love him, I think he’s such a genius and I haven’t gotten over it. [laughs]
What’s your perception of Latinas in Hollywood today? Do you think we’re making progress in the types of roles we’re getting?
I think I have a very specific and frustrated point of view. I am 100% Hispanic, I was born in Venezuela, Spanish was my first language, I didn’t move here until I was a kid… being Hispanic or Latina informs everything I do. It’s just who I am. And I cannot get hired as a Latina to save my life.
Actually the character in Roswell was Latin, and they decided to make her not Latino after I was cast. It was a little insulting. That’s what I struggle with every single time there’s a “Latino” character, and honestly, I’ve completely given up on those types of roles. I told my agent, there’s this really specific feeling on what “Latina” looks like, and it’s very hard to convince people otherwise. I don’t know if they’re not traveling, or they don’t know the scope of people who are from Latin America, but… we come in many different shades, heritages, we migrated from different places… It’s a real point of frustration. I mean, they’re called highlights! I’m a strawberry blonde, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less Latina.
I’d love to represent for my family, for all my fellow Latinas, but this is the business. As far as we’ve come having amazing, great roles for women and Latinas – we’re no longer just playing maids and we’re doing things grounded in reality and characters that are different and educated – despite all this, we haven’t gone as far as we can. We haven’t quite gotten to the point where [all Latina actresses] don’t have to look like Jennifer Lopez. I have an ALMA award people! What else do I have to do?
Is there someone you think is a career icon of sorts?
Hm, that’s a really good question. I don’t think I can name someone because for me, picking one person who’s just like perfection is kind of naïve. I like bits and pieces of different people when it comes to career inspiration.
One person I do love though is Lena Dunham. That is someone where I’m like, ‘thank you.’ Everything she’s done for herself and how she puts herself out there emotionally, is like, yes this is how people are! She’s a perfect representative, and I’m sure it’s been such a challenge to do what she has wanted and not be compromised in any way. People love producing a regurgitation of something else, so I’m sure fighting those creative battles has been hard and I know that she’s been like her biggest advocate, and she’s struck such a great balance.
Catch Friends With Better Lives Mondays at 9 pm EST on CBS!