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.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.