When we follow an actor’s career from one role to the next, we get to see how they embody each new character. We often compare one acting performance with another, and we always have our favorite role. Francia Raisa has been on our radar since she appeared in the film Bring It On: All Or Nothing. But her two most prominent roles to date have been as Adrian Lee in The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Ana Torres in Grown-ish. Both parts have allowed Francia to dig deep and portray characters who struggle with real issues.
As both Adrian Lee and Ana Torres, Francia Raisa has portrayed Latina women going through life as a young adult. Born to a Mexican father and a Honduran mother, Francia didn’t begin her acting career advocating for Latin representation on screen. However, she later became more aware of the stereotypes pushed on Latina women, being cast either cast as sultry temptresses or maids. As Adrian and Ana, Francia was able to subvert those stereotypes and simply play young women who were juggling the same insecurities and ambitions as any other teenager or young adult.
Francia prioritized roles that would steer her away from problematic tropes and allow her more expression. Francia recognized that her parts could influence other Latina girls and women watching her. This realization inspired her to use her platform to encourage a change in Latina representation in media. As a result, Francia booked the role of Ana Torres, a Cuban American student.
Francia’s first larger role as a Hispanic American teenager was as Adrian Lee. She’s the smart, ambitious student in The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Francia was excited to play a character who was outgoing and a bit rebellious in order to portray the reality of teenage relationships. We related to Adrian’s desire to live her life free from restraint. But also saw the consequences of her poor decisions. Although Adrian often pursued sexual relationships as a result of her insecurities, she also demonstrated she was sexually independent.
With an absent working mother and a non-existent relationship with her father, Adrian’s upbringing played a role in much of her impulsive behavior. Adrian chases a relationship with Ricky almost obsessively, pushing aside her own best interests in the process. We see Adrian’s insecurities rise to the surface when she becomes pregnant with Ben’s baby. That’s when she’s forced to grow up faster than she ever imagined. We also witness the burden of loss placed on her shoulders when her baby daughter is stillborn. In Adrian, Francia brought to life a flawed young woman striving to be happy.
As Ana Torres, Francia got the chance to explore her Latina roots further. Ana is a college freshman when we first meet her on Grown-ish. And like Adrian, she isn’t the most-friendly character in the series. Under her defensive exterior, Ana proved to be as lost and vulnerable as Zoey in her new college environment. We learn Ana has never lived so far from her family. And that she was afraid of being judged for her devout Catholic faith and conservative values.
Despite her opinion frequently contrasting with her more liberal fiend group, Ana’s values are respected by her peers and add another perspective to the issues they discuss. Like Zoey, Sky, Jazz, and Nomi, Ana tries to figure her life out in the confusing jumble of school, relationships, and adulting skills. Her Cuban culture and Catholic faith are core parts of herself. But as an individual, she integrates them into her everyday life in her own unique way. Through playing Ana, Francia has further added to the message that everyone is different – and that’s alright.