Stephanie Beatriz thought she'd be fired from Brooklyn Nine-Nine because she's Latina
Stephanie Beatriz knows that by diving into her new podcast Twin Flames, she's heading into some "murky water."
The Encanto star was initially intrigued by a Vanity Fair article about Jeff and Shaelia Ayan, the self-appointed "love gurus" who promise their disciples the secret of true romance. But she says she became even more fascinated by the YouTubers because they have "taken this idea of empathy, sympathy, compassion" and "twisted it and monetized it and created this very intense" following of people looking for genuine connection.
Speaking with EW, the new podcast host explains why she's excited to journey into this world — and reveals how she feared she'd be fired from Brooklyn Nine-Nine while shooting the pilot because she's Latina.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You had read the Vanity Fair article, but was there any particular interest in this topic that led you down this path to host the show?
STEPHANIE BEATRIZ: I mean, the article was fabulous reporting. I'm so fascinated by how the Twin Flames universe started in, literally, someone else's house. Jeff and Shaelia were posting these videos out of their friend's house, where they were living rent-free and touting themselves as these gurus of love. They hadn't gone to any kind of school, really — they just said they were experts and suddenly they were experts. On the internet, anything can be real. And I'm fascinated by that, because in my industry the whole point is to tell a story that feels so real that people connect to it, and either want to see more of it or talk about it or feel some kind of cathartic something through it. As we enter into this awards season, there are tons of films that give you a window into worlds you haven't been privy to before. And those stories are necessary and vital for us to continue as a human race, to move toward empathy for each other.
But Jeff and Shaelia — they've taken this idea of empathy, sympathy, compassion, and they've twisted it and monetized it and created this very intense — cult-like, I would say — following of people that are looking for that connection to other human beings. And I feel like, in hosting the podcast, I think it's really murky water, this world of self-help through social media.
I think a lot of us have been discovering that a lot in the past year: We get so enamored with something online, and then it becomes toxic. And it's like, where do you draw that line?
One of the things I found when I started dating again after this long relationship, when I was using the apps, was that you become enamored with the person online. You move through a flirtation and the initial stages of getting to know somebody on your phone, which isn't who they are. You are filling in all the blanks and fantasizing and building them up in your mind so much, so there's also no way they can ever live up to it. In some ways it's better to keep it all on the phone. I think that's why so many people fall for that catfishing story, because it's easier to keep it on your phone and keep lying to yourself about whether or not it could work in real life.
Podcasts seem be a platform where Latinos are starting to really grow in numbers. I'm seeing so many Latino-led shows, like Wild With Erick Galindo, Yes, No, I'm Not OK With Diane Guerrero, and Locatora Radio. Do you think Latinos have more opportunities in storytelling in an audio format, or is it just that there's still too much of that built-up old-school mentality in other areas of media like film and TV?
I think it would take someone smarter than me to answer it, because there's multiple parts of that question that come into play. There is how media, in particular film and television, has always focused on stories from a perspective that was not ours. Because we weren't necessarily the ones making the films, so we weren't in those offices. We weren't green-lighting stories. We weren't starring in them. If we were, oftentimes we were hiding our ethnicities, or we were cast simply because we were that and pigeonholed into playing that over and over again.
So the question you're asking could be a thesis. But I guess the short answer is, it's a f---ing exciting time to be alive, man. Because the stuff that's happened in the past, I'd say, 15 years is absolutely incredible. The fact that when I was cast on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I thought either me or Melissa Fumero was going to get fired... and we didn't? The fact that I thought that, and now you can pick out any number of stars?
Did you think that just because you were one of the Latinos cast?
Oh, absolutely. I thought, "Well, there's no way that they're going to keep both of us. We're going to shoot the pilot. Somebody somewhere is going to say, 'Well, why do we need both of them? We have one. Let's slot somebody in this other slot.'" As opposed to looking at us for our abilities as actresses. You would never look at a show and go, "Well, we've got one white actress — we don't really need two." You wouldn't do that. But there was a time when you would do that with actors of color. I really did think that. I don't want to speak for Melissa, but I think she probably had thoughts of that, too. And now you look at the TV landscape and there's tons of shows with multiple Latinos in the cast, with lots of Black people in the cast. It's not that way anymore. I mean, the more avenues we can get into to tell stories that are smart, funny, dramatic, daring, and reflective of the human experience, the better.
Speaking of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, what would your character Rosa think about Twin Flames?
Oh gosh. I think Rosa would want to... [laughs]. Let me say this: I'm interested to see what will happen as these episodes drop. Because the Twin Flames universe, though small, is very, very, very sure that what they're doing is right — so much so that many of their followers will do and say anything Jeff and Shaelia tell them to. So as this sort of forward-facing host, I don't know what will happen once the rest of those episodes drop. I'm loath to paint myself into a corner more than I may already have. [Laughs] So I'll just leave it at that.
Twin Flames is available now on Wondery+ and all major podcast platforms. A new 30-minute episode drops every Monday through March 28.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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