If you’ve been watching ABC’s Promised Land (it’s moving to Hulu after the fifth episode), you already know that there is more to this series than just being a soapy drama. Don’t be deceived by the gorgeous cast dressed in couture designs wandering in the luxurious setting of the vineyards in Sonoma County, California — there are layers of heartfelt emotions and trauma happening in this blended Latinx family. Star Christina Ochoa tackles the complex role of Veronica Sandoval, the ambitious eldest daughter in the family, trying to hold it all together amid financial, criminal, and relationship secrets that are weighing her down. In a new interview with SheKnows, Ochoa breaks down how the show goes way beyond stereotypes when it comes to Latinas, women in power, and more.
Ochoa has relished taking on the role of Veronica because, as a Latina woman in power, her character is conflicted about how to function as a leader while still being authentic to how she wants to move through life. It’s an unfortunately relatable situation that a lot of women often find themselves in.
“She is suddenly getting hit by all these secrets and monkey wrenches and betrayals, and she’s on a train and she’s just getting hammered left and right,” she told SheKnows. “And it’s making her question for the first time what her proactive role in that is. What does she want instead of what she should be doing? How does she want to be a leader?” It’s something many of us ask: how do we “find our own way?”
Veronica is navigating through rougher waters than most of us, but Ochoa thinks it’s her scenes with Bellamy Young, who plays her mother Margaret Honeycroft, where “those layers unfold.” With her mother abandoning the family and allowing patriarch Joe Sandoval (John Ortiz) to raise the kids with his second wife, Lettie (Cecilia Suárez), Ochoa says this is where the “mommy issues” creep in. “That kind of trauma is very ingrained in her, which I think is something we’re not used to really seeing.” So, hang on tight for a bumpy ride ahead for Veronica.
But the most important storyline for the entire cast is about representation — and it’s not the simple cut-and-paste look at a Latinx family that Hollywood too often leans into. It’s a complex view of a generation-spanning (and sparring) household that embraces their upper-class life while still remembering their immigrant roots. And that’s where Ochoa quotes her castmate, Tonatiuh, who explained that “the burden of the responsibility of representation doesn’t fall on just one of us, because there’s such a variety of characters and story points and points of view.” Promised Land isn’t just one story with one perspective, it gives the viewers beautiful, rich layers to peel back and gain insight into the Latinx experience.
Read on for more of what Christina Ochoa had to say below.
On humanizing the immigration experience of the show versus politicizing it:
I think the variety of stories, perspectives, and thoughts are most important because that’s a diversity that we don’t necessarily talk about very often. It’s a story that’s told without being politicized, even though it’s still very controversial. It’s a very hot topic because it’s showing that diversity is something very important to, I think, in general, all of us. One of my costars, Tonatiuh (he plays Antonio Sandoval) put it very succinctly, so I’m going to quote him in saying this, “The burden of the responsibility of representation doesn’t fall on just one of us because there’s such a variety of characters and story points and points of view.”
I think one of the things that strikes us now, especially with social media and with engagement with different audiences and different demographics, is the amount of people that reach out and say, “Hey, you know what? I’m a second generation. This is the story of my parents, or this is the story of my grandparents. And I see so much of that as a universal story and a very, very personal one reflected in each one of these characters. And it means so much that you’re telling this story and that you’re trying to do it in a way that is so well-rounded because it really is trying to show you all of those different angles.” And that kind of story was also founded on reality. Little did I know that in Sonoma and Napa, so many of these wineries are run by Latin families and communities that started picking grapes, and they eventually made their way up that ladder and now are the CEOs or the owners of these vineyards.
On stereotypes of women in leadership positions while shining a light on the Latinx experience:
I think that for her, the burden is more of that responsibility of feeling like the eldest sibling, feeling like she’s the heiress to this throne. She must do it right — it’s all of the “shoulds” in her life. She should be an empowered woman, but she also should be a great mother and should be a great wife and should be all these things. And then she’s just burdened by that because she’s going to have to question it. She represents the Latin community and the vineyard. [Her father] Joe is always telling her how important this is as a message to other Latin families and other people in their community.
I think as a woman, I resonated a lot with that. Instead of Veronica being this ball-busting Latina woman in charge, [she’s doing it] in a way that feels authentic to her. Maybe she’s not as assertive as Joe, but maybe she’s trying to charm the people that she works or engage with them differently. I think we see it in those brief moments with the relationships and her relationships with her siblings — there are moments that are very real. That’s her journey right now, figuring out what she wants and how she wants to do it.
I think in the zeitgeist recently, in the last few years, there is that hypocrisy or that dichotomy on how women are viewed in the workplace and how women in positions of power are viewed — and this was something that was much more personal to her, and in this case, her siblings, because they are her competitors. For the most part, it’s seeing her navigate those things and question those labels as they come instead of just accepting that they’re there for her.
On showcasing loving, but complicated, female relationships:
I think the fact that the women have such complex and colorful relationships with the other characters, but also among each other, is how we sell these characters. Veronica doesn’t just have intentions and ambitions, she also has questions and doubts. Those are things that I think, as women, we love to see on-screen because it has been remiss for such a long time. We want to see those journeys and those complicated and unpredictable reactions, which we all have. And that when you put two women together like that, that rings true to me. That is how I interact with all the women in my life that I love. It’s loaded, it’s complicated, it’s nuanced, but it has a lot of subtleties and it’s full, it’s rich.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
Before you go, click here to see celebrity women of color share the first movie or TV character who made them feel seen.