Justina Adorno: Grand Hotel

Justina Adorno opens up about her groundbreaking role on ABC’s ‘Grand Hotel’.

Justina Adorno opens up about her groundbreaking role on ABC’s ‘Grand Hotel’.

Justina Adorno is, like her character “Yoli” on ABC’s new series Grand Hotel, down to earth, warm, genuine, and a lot of fun. Born in the Bronx and raised in South Carolina where she went to school (she has since returned to the Bronx to live), Adorno has not an ounce of pretence in her husky voice; she could literally be the Latina next door. And I don’t mean the spitfire stereotype you’ve seen in movies and on TV.

Representation of Latina women is changing, thanks to young people like Adorno and established actresses like Eva Longoria who is the executive producer of Grand Hotel, which had its previous incarnation in both Spanish and Mexican TV series. But don’t expect Grand Hotel to be your typical telenovela.

It’s only partly so. It’s more a classic high-gloss soap opera, set in a family-run five-star hotel on Miami Beach. It’s diverse, it’s female-driven, and every one of the female characters is a “pistol” says Adorno.

She chased down the part of Yoli, the daughter of a charismatic hotelier played by Demián Bichir who must save the hotel from financial ruin while trying to keep its secrets under lock and key. Add to the mix hurricanes, glamour, a disabled womanizing son, three daughters, an unruly pop star, and a missing female staffer and you have plenty of high drama and intrigue.

Working with executive producer Eva Longoria (who also has a starring cameo role) is “incredibly humbling. But the first moment I met her it felt like I was meeting family. She’s such a sweet, generous, giving person. Super-humble, so funny. It felt like I was working with one of my closest friends.

She makes the room feel all-in-one. Which is why we all got together before our table read.” That meeting happened on Longoria’s yacht, on her birthday, which is a day before Adorno’s. And so the show’s chemistry was set: “Family first,” says Adorno. Longoria even comes to Adorno for vegan advice and offers some in return, one maxim of which is: “You can do it all, if you put that much effort in and if you believe in yourself.”

Adorno believes in herself and many things. She is an animal activist and vegan; Eating meat is “a bad habit that we have to break,” she says. “I wish I was vegan sooner.” In her spare time she kickboxes (she has a punching bag in her apartment) but physical perfection doesn’t come easily to anyone, or to her.

When she was a kid a commitment to a sports team was often in conflict with a commitment to being in the school musical. She’s gained weight for her role as Yoli, who characters refer to as “gordita,” which essentially translates to “little fat girl.” It’s opened her eyes again to body image issues, and she notes that women, especially in the Hispanic community, receive image-based appraisal.

It’s what’s inside that matters. She landed the role she believes because she gave “one hundred percent” to acting and armed herself with the attitude of “no more half-assing.” She wrote to every casting director she knew. One replied, and it was a woman for who Adorno had bombed every audition in the past.

First, Adorno auditioned for the role of Alicia, the daughter who returns to Miami from studying at Cornell. The role didn’t resonate with Adorno but then she got the audition for Yoli. “I love her, I got this feeling like this is my role, and I fully committed to it.”

She nailed it. And that’s probably because “there’s a lot of ways” Adorno and Yoli are similar. The ways “people overlook her, or make her feel less than because of her appearance.” “I always felt like a bit of an underdog,” she reveals. “I always gravitate to those roles anyway.”

“Yoli taught me to accept who you are with where you are in your life. You can still be beautiful and strong and a role model.”

She is also a proud ally of the LGBTQ community. In Episode 4 Yoli explores her sexuality. She’s attracted to the spa worker Marissa after sparring with her over issues of class. Adorno had no idea that story arc was coming until the showrunner tipped her off to the angle. “I was like, What? Yeah, absolutely because this story needs to be told.

Of course Yoli is having that moment with Marissa because Yoli is just a person who has a great heart and sees people for who they are. By all means if you’re a big person and there’s a connection, then there’s a connection. Yoli teaches me so much. I feel like her storyline can teach anyone so much. Don’t base a book on its cover, you can’t put people in a box, and love is love.”

The key moment in Episode 4 aired on Monday night. “I loved it. That was probably one of my favorite scenes,” says Adorno. At the end of that episode, Yoli suggests going on a date with Marissa, and without giving away too much Adorno says, “You will discover that step that she took will lead to her journey throughout the series. It’s a beautiful story. I’m so grateful that I was able to a part of Yoli’s journey.”

Adorno attended World Pride in New York this year with her roommate who is bi and asexual and a castmate from Grand Hotel. “It meant everything to me. I have a lot of people in my life who are a part of the LGBTQ community and I’ve been the person others have come out to. Being at Pride was very meaningful to me.

I cried three times. Everyone was so free and open and celebrating each other and having so much fun. I’ve never been so overwhelmed with positivity and love. It was so communal. I’ve never felt so safe walking down the streets of New York in my life.”

Adorno urges Curve readers to tune into Grand Hotel. “We celebrate and support the LGBTQ community. I don’t want to give too much away but there is more to come with that. We don’t have one weak woman on our show. I think our show represents women in a way that will encourage other women and young girls to feel empowered and to feel that their stories and their voice deserves to be heard.”