Justina Adorno is living every young actress' dream—the Hollywood kind. Cast as Yoli in the upcoming ABC drama, Grand Hotel, Adorno will be seen on screen in the luxurious Miami Beach hotel owned by an affluent family dripping with glamour.
The series is set to air in 2019 and is a remake of the Spanish telenovela, Gran Hotel. Stars are in her eyes and by her side, as Adorno is working with Eva Longoria, one of the show's executive producers. We asked Adorno a little bit about her fast-paced experience joining the cast and filming the pilot, as well as from where her inspiration arises.
1. When did you learn you got the role as Yoli, and how did it feel? How long had you been working toward the role?
This whole process has been fast and furious. It was for sure the last of ABC's pilots that I auditioned for, and it just felt right. I had the audition the day I was going to visit my brother in Orlando and I had to cancel my flight because they wanted me to come in and not self-tape. At the time I was upset, and my brother said, "They better cast you," and they did. I got a callback the next week on a Thursday, Friday I had my screen test, Saturday I found out I booked the role and by Sunday, I was flying to Miami to meet the cast along with Eva, Brian, Ben and Ken. It was all so magical. I was off-book for the pilot before our table read. Marci Phillips, the NY Head of Casting for ABC, was the best. She truly believed in me when we made the audition tapes to send to the team in LA. I feel like I've been working on this role my whole life. When I read the pilot I feel in love with Yoli.
2. Do you feel starstruck when you work with actors like Eva Longoria?
You know, as of now everyone has been so down to earth, and conversation has been easy, so I haven't had a starstruck moment. For a second I had to tell Chris Warren that I was a mega-fan of High School Musical to just get that out of the way. I had the sheets and the cups. I even went to the concert. It was funny, it was after our table read and we were all in different places getting our fittings and hair/makeup done, and Chris, and I believe Bryan, were in the break room. I debated if it was the right time to say it and I just did. Chris laughed about it and was kind of shocked that I was a fan—but come on, who wasn't? We laugh about it now.
3. Do you have a favorite moment from working on this show?
I have so many, honestly. I had the best time filming this pilot, so I am itching to get back to set to finish the rest of the season. But the one moment I will not forget while working on the show would be the pool scene I had with my sister. It was such a long day for everyone and we were the last scene of the night. It was the coldest day in Miami, but as an actress it really hit me that I was living my dream and doing what I love that it didn't even feel like work; that made my heart dance. Ken Olin said a few words to me that gave confirmation that I was on the right path. It was magical.
4. Did you watch the Spanish series Gran Hotel to prepare for the role?
I did. I actually stumbled upon the show years ago on Netflix, and I had watched the first three episodes and couldn't stop. I was so captivated by the story and how beautiful everything was. The acting was so great, but then I forgot what the show was called, and I never finished it. My dad then told me he was watching a show called Gran Hotel, and he explained the plot. I told him I had started the show but forgot what it was called, so I never went back to it. A few years later and it's back in my life. It's wild.
5. What advice do you have for aspiring actors who want to build their career?
I would say that you have to truly want it. You need thick skin and an awareness of one's self. Go find yourself. Once you're able to be you in any circumstance, without allowing other people's opinions make you doubt yourself, you're ready.
6. Who has been your biggest inspiration in the entertainment industry? Why?
I would say Kate Winslet is usually the first person that comes to mind. She is a strong leading lady that I looked up to growing up. She is a woman and always stands her ground. Her career is one I would die for. All of her roles have been complex and unapologetically honest. I saw Titanic in theaters when I was young, and since then I've been captivated by her.
7. What other projects do you have in the works?
At the moment, I am focused on Grand Hotel. I can't wait to give my all to this production.
"I want to work with everyone. I haven't yet because there are so many characters and plot lines we haven't crossed yet in the pilot, so I'm so looking forward to that "(Photo courtesy of justjared.com)
8. Did you get to film in Miami?
We filmed the pilot in Miami; it was the best time. I really felt that staying at the Fountain Bleu while filming created that relationship to our environment. I went on walks with different cast members around the area. We explored around the city and did what the locals did. I explored the hotel, the beach, the restaurants it had to offer, and by the end of it, I felt like I was home. It was so helpful for me as Yoli.
9. What has been the most challenging of being apart of a project this large?
So far? I want to work with everyone. I haven't yet because there are so many characters and plotlines we haven't crossed yet in the pilot, so I'm so looking forward to that once we get the ball rolling. So, the challenge is waiting to work with each other.
10. Where did you get your acting start?
I guess my first start professionally was a local commercial for underage drinking in South Carolina. I never looked back since.
Sweaty Palms & Weak Responses
Early spring 2018, I walked into the building of a startup accelerator program I had been accepted into. Armed with only confidence and a genius idea, I was eager to start level one. I had no idea of what to expect, but I knew I needed help. Somehow with life's journey of twists and turns, this former successful event planner was now about to blindly walk into the tech industry and tackle on a problem that too many women entrepreneurs had faced.
I sat directly across from the program founders, smiling ear to ear as I explained the then concept for HerHeadquarters. Underneath the table, I rubbed my sweaty palms on my pants, the anxiousness and excitement was getting the best of me. I rambled on and on about the future collaborating app for women entrepreneurs and all the features it would have. They finally stopped me, asking the one question I had never been asked before, "how do you know your target audience even wants this product?".
Taken back by the question, I responded, "I just know". The question was powerful, but my response was weak. While passionate and eager, I was unprepared and naively ready to commit to building a platform when I had no idea if anyone wanted it. They assigned me with the task of validating the need for the platform first. The months to follow were eye-opening and frustrating, but planted seeds for the knowledge that would later build the foundation for HerHeadquarters. I spent months researching and validating through hundreds of surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
I was dedicated to knowing and understanding the needs and challenges of my audience. I knew early on that having a national collaborating app for women entrepreneurs would mean that I'd need to get feedback from women all across the country. I repeatedly put myself on the line by reaching out to strangers, asking them to speak with me. While many took the time to complete a survey and participate in a phone interview, there were some who ignored me, some asked what was in it for them, and a few suggested that I was wasting my time in general. They didn't need another "just for women" platform just because it was trending.
I hadn't expected pushback, specifically from the women I genuinely wanted to serve. I became irritated. Just because HerHeadquarters didn't resonate with them, doesn't mean that another woman wouldn't find value in the platform and love it. I felt frustrated that the very women I was trying to support were the ones telling me to quit. I struggled with not taking things personally.
I hadn't expected pushback, specifically from the women I genuinely wanted to serve.
The Validation, The Neglect, The Data, and The Irony
The more women I talked to, the more the need for my product was validated. The majority of women entrepreneurs in the industries I was targeting did collaborate. An even higher number of women experienced several obstacles in securing those collaborations and yes, they wanted easier access to high quality brand partnerships.
I didn't just want to launch an app. I wanted to change the image of women who collaborated and adjust the narrative of these women. I was excited to introduce a new technology product that would change the way women secured valuable, rewarding products. I couldn't believe that despite that rising number of women-owned businesses launching, there was no tool catered to them allowing them to grow their business even faster. This demographic had been neglected for too long.
I hadn't just validated the need for the future platform, but I gained valuable data that could be used as leverage. Ironically, armed with confidence, a genius idea, and data to support the need for the platform, I felt stuck. The next steps were to begin designing a prototype, I lacked the skillsets to do it myself and the funding to hire someone else to do it.
I Desperately Need You and Your services, but I'm Broke
I found myself having to put myself out there again, allowing myself to be vulnerable and ask for help. I eventually stumbled across Bianca, a talented UX/UI designer. After coming across her profile online and reaching out, we agreed to meet for a happy hour. The question I had been asked months prior by the founders of my accelerator program came up again, "how do you know your target audience even wants this product?".
It was like déjà vu, the sweaty palms under the table reemerged and the ear to ear smile as I talked about HerHeadquarters, only this time, I had data. I proudly showed Bianca my research: the list of women from across the country I talked to that supported that not only was this platform solving a problem they had, but it's a product that they'd use and pay for.
I remember my confidence dropping as my transparency came into the conversation. How do you tell someone "I desperately need you and your services, but I'm broke?". I told her that I was stuck, that I needed to move forward with design, but that I didn't have the money to make it happen. Bianca respected my honesty, loved the vision of HerHeadquarters, but mostly importantly the data sold her. She believed in me, she believed in the product, and knew that it would attract investors.
From Paper to Digital
We reached a payment agreed where Bianca would be paid in full once HerHeadquarters received its first investment deal. The next few months were an all-time high for me. Seeing an idea that once floated around in my head make its way to paper, then transform into a digital prototype is was one of the highlights of this journey. Shortly after, we began user testing, making further adjustments based off of feedback.
The further along HerHeadquarters became, the more traction we made. Women entrepreneurs across the U.S. were signing up for early access to the app, we were catching investor's attention, and securing brand partnerships all before we had a launched product. The closer we got to launching, the scarier it was. People who only had a surface value introduction to HerHeadquarters put us in the same category of other platforms or brands catering to women, even if we were completely unrelated, they just heard "for women". I felt consistent pressure, most of which was self-applied, but I still felt it.
I became obsessed with all things HerHeadquarters. My biggest fear was launching and disappointing my users. With a national target audience, a nonexistent marketing budget, and many misconceptions regarding collaborating, I didn't know how to introduce this new brand in a way that distinctly made it clear who were targeting and who we were different from.
I second guessed myself all the time.
A 'Submit' button has never in life been more intimidating. In May 2019, HerHeadquarters was submitted to the Apple and Google play stores and released to women entrepreneurs in select U.S. cities. We've consistently grown our user base and seen amazing collaborations take place. I've grow and learned valuable lessons about myself personally and as a leader. This experience has taught me to trust my journey, trust my hard work, and always let honesty and integrity lead me. I had to give myself permission to make mistakes and not beat myself up about it.
I learned that a hundred "no's" is better than one "yes" from an unfit partner. The most valuable thing that I've learned is keeping my users first. Their feedback, their challenges, and suggestions are valuable and set the pace for the future of HerHeadquarters, as a product and a company. I consider it an honor to serve and cater to one of the most neglected markets in the industry.