Interview: Alicia Sixtos, Actress on Hulu’s East Los High

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By: Nina Ferreyra | Photo Credit: CJ Martinez

I recently had the chance to interview Alicia Sixtos to discuss her career and her role as Maya in East Los High. You might recognize Alicia from her recurring role as Carmen Cruz in ABC Family’s The Foster’s, The Avengers, or the 2006 Sundance Film Festival winner, Quinceañera.

East Los High is an original Hulu teen drama that follows the real-life issues of a group of Latino teens in East Los Angeles. It is the first and only series with an all Latino cast and crew. I first started watching East Los High in 2013 have been addicted to it ever since. East Los High is now in it’s fourth season.

How did you find out about East Los High? Did you audition for it, or did they call you after seeing your previous work?

I submitted myself for the project. I was really hopeful to get an audition, it was my dream role at the time. When I got the audition, I worked my butt off building Maya’s backstory and learning the lines, the way she talked and why she said the things she did, so when I went in, I was completely prepared for any curve balls they might throw at me.

For those who are not familiar with East Los High, tell us about Maya the character you play.

Maya grew up having to take care of herself. She cooked and cleaned and walked to school. When her mom wasn’t working, she was off with her abusive boyfriend. After taking a little too much abuse from her mom’s latest boyfriend, Maya ran away to LA. And that’s where Maya’s story begins in East Los High. In her pursuit to build her own independent life, she finds her passion for cooking and falls in love with her boss’ son, Jacob.

Are you a method actor? For the role of Maya, did you start watching Food Network and learn how to cook for the role? Or did you already know how to cook?

I didn’t really mean to be so method as I portrayed Maya. We were shooting almost every day for three months so I lived her life for three months and my sisters had to snap me out of it a little when they saw I wasn’t 100% myself. It took me about two weeks after filming to fully be me again. It was an interesting experience, but I wouldn’t recommend carrying a character home with you like that. It was the first full rounded character I ever got to play for so long so I’m now aware that this could happen and I make an effort to make that separation between Character and Alicia. As for cooking, I was already really into cooking healthy food at the time and I continued to teach myself during filming how to make healthy alternatives to what I grew up eating. So, that part fit right in.

Should we expect to see more of Maya in Season 4 than we did the past couple of seasons?

Maya is definitely in the show a bit more this season compared to the last two seasons.

Still from East Los High Season 1. Maya (Alicia Sixtos) with love interest, Jacob (Gabriel ChavarrĂ­a).

Still from East Los High Season 1. Maya (Alicia Sixtos) with love interest, Jacob (Gabriel ChavarrĂ­a).

When did you know you wanted to become an actor?

I knew I wanted to be an actor after I booked my first movie “Quinceañera” in ’06. It was that experience that made me want to do this.

What inspired you?

My parents. Their hard work and dedication to teach us that we don’t have to work for someone else and slave for paychecks that run out in a week or two. “Modern day slavery”, is what they called it. We could do something creative and fun and be happy and thrive.

Did acting come natural to you or did you study to become an actor?

It came somewhat naturally at first, but you can’t grow to be great without constant practice. I’m always in classes.

What advice can you give for someone who wants to go into acting?

Always remember to be yourself. Sometimes its hard in this new world of social media. Be you and be genuine and people will love you. Also, learn your lines so well, that you can say them without interruption while doing an activity. Being confident about what you’re saying takes so much pressure off you when you’re in the casting room. And have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

Who are some of the actors you look up to?

I’ve always looked up to Angelina Jolie. I fell in love with her after I saw her in Gia. She was a huge inspiration for what roles I see myself playing.

Have you met any of your heroes?

I met Michelle Rodrigues when I first moved out here. It was at a fashion event and I was wearing this silly leotard that a designer put me in so I felt self conscience but I just remember fan girling inside when I got to shake her hand.

Your four siblings are also in the entertainment industry. Tell us about them.

As kids, we started out in San Francisco as print models doing ads and catalogues for big businesses. We had a slight interest in acting and did some plays but when a manager in LA contacted my mom to ask if we might be interested in being actors, they told us we can move out here for six months to try it out and if we don’t like it, we could move back. My parents wanted us to try it out with the possibility of making enough money to put ourselves through college. So, twelve years later, we’re still here continuing to pick up momentum and now the Sixtos sisters are becoming a known name in the business. My sis, Andrea is also in East Los High, she plays Jocelyn. Veronica just had a film that she starred in called Hostile Border which traveled the world to different film festivals this year. Casandra is our personal healing esthetician. We all are each other’s support system and keep each other going. We really believe in each other.

Who are some of your fashion icons?

To be honest I was never very interested in fashion. It wasn’t until my best friend Oliver Sanchez aka Oliver Styles grabbed me by the feet and threw away my 5 year old Chuck Taylor’s and told me, “You’re going to be a star. You have to start trying.” I still depend on Oliver. So my answer is Oliver.

What do you love to do during your free time?

I love being around my family. I enjoy watching my favorite shows. I enjoy indoor rock climbing and practicing Jiu-Jitsu, hiking, camping. Love to paint and make jewelry. There are a ton of things I like to do in my free time. Depends on the day and the mood.

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These two pieces are of Frida Kahlo. She's always been a big inspiration to me but when I broke my foot last year, I wanted to tribute a series to her for inspiring me to remember that life can still be colorful, even when stuck in bed for months. I plan on painting a few more, just waiting on the right time.

“These two pieces are of Frida Kahlo. She’s always been a big inspiration to me but when I broke my foot last year, I wanted to tribute a series to her for inspiring me to remember that life can still be colorful, even when stuck in bed for months. I plan on painting a few more, just waiting on the right time.” -Alicia Sixtos

How long have you been training in Jiu-Jitsu? When did you start?

My sis Vero introduced it to me. I’ve always been the tomb boy of the family so I love to wrestle around and make boys cry (j/k). I loved it. I continued to study Jiu Jitsu for 2 years with Prof. Juan Pablo GarcĂ­a who’s now located in Corona at Pacific Top Team. I haven’t really practiced since he left LA to build his own school but I think I might get back into it very soon.

What’s your favorite food? What are your favorite restaurants in LA?

I love Indian and Thai food. I’ve been frequenting the Thai Patio on Hollywood Blvd lately and theres a place in Tarzana called Agra Tandoori that my sisters and I love. I also frequent Home restaurant in Los Feliz. I love their chicken noodle soup.

What’s your favorite drink?

I always get confused by this question, so I’ll answer like this; My favorite nighttime drink is a Moscow Mule. Favorite daytime is Agua Fresca (watermelon juice) when available.

Where do you love to shop? What are your favorite hanging out clothes?

I love going to little privately owned boutiques. There are a bunch in Los Feliz and Toluca Lake I go to. I usually go for a pair of frayed, high waist, skinny jeans or jean shorts, my Keds, and a tank top paired with some earrings and a snap back.

What are some of your favorite fashion brands?

I’m not very into brands but I find that Top Shop has a lot of styles that I like, fit well, and made well. I’ve also been wearing a lot of Want My Look and Wow Couture lately.

Do you have any other upcoming projects we can expect to see you in?

I just worked on a digital series called “Gente-fied“, a comedic drama, with multi media company Macro. The show will feature an all-Latino cast and counts America Ferrera among its executive producers. I play one of the seven characters who the show follows as they deal with the effects of change in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights.

Follow Alicia Sixtos on Instagram at @aliciamariesixtos.

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Nina Ferreyra