Most people would be surprised — shocked, even — to find out that the character of the rambunctious five-year-old Pepito Gonzales in the new animated Fox comedy Bordertown is in fact voiced by a 36-year-old woman. Jacqueline Piñol wasn’t given many details when she auditioned for the part, but it was a natural fit for the seasoned actress, who remembers giving voices to anything and everything as a child.
“It’s a bit of an escape from reality, so for me it’s super fun to create voices,” she told Vivala. “To do kids’ voices is really easy. I use my whole body in interpreting my character.”
The edgy series by Seth MacFarlane and Mark Hentemann takes place in the fictitious town of Mexifornia and follows two families — one Latino, the other led by a white border patrol agent — living in a desert town along the U.S.–Mexico border.
Piñol, born in Queens, has had a long career in Hollywood as an on-screen and voice-over actress with roles in The Fault in our Stars, The Call, and Bride Wars.
The half Colombian, half Guatemalan beauty moved with her family to Los Angeles at an early age where she began booking commercial gigs. Her first television role was as Ricky Martin’s little sister on General Hospital. A graduate of Loyola Marymount University, Piñol has landed roles in, Ponderosa, CSI: New York, and Lincoln Heights among others.
The bright-eyed Latina with a kind, bubbly voice and the personality to match also stars in the Amazon original series Bosch, as LAPD veteran detective Julie Espinosa. Season two of the drama is set to begin in March.
“What’s really great about Julie is that they’ve placed a Latina in such a position of power, where her voice counts,” she said. “It’s nice to say, Hey, we can have a young Latina who is petite be a very strong woman, who can handle an investigation, who can lead on a case. I think it’s a good message to send overall, to have a Latina in that role.”
But there needs to be more of those roles in Hollywood to promote diversity in the industry, according to Piñol.
“I’ve auditioned for so many things that sometimes started off as Latina roles and all of a sudden you find out that they want a Caucasian. I think it starts from the top. It starts from the development age and who the writers are,” she said. “When writers come from a completely white American background, they can only tell stories from that point of view.”
“In my own experience some of the roles I’ve tried out for have been very . . . they come from a different perspective. I think we need to motivate young writers to be more diverse and have Latinos be writers.”
Piñol’s life on the silver screen is buzzing, but don’t be fooled — she has plenty of other things going on behind the scenes. The mommy-to-be is getting ready to welcome her first child at the end of February (she and her husband chose not to have the baby’s sex revealed to them).
She hopes to take a pause from work once the baby arrives, but there’s one project she’ll continue working on during that time. Piñol is directing her first documentary film, a labor of love about saving abandoned animals. She just happens to be a tireless animal advocate who has four dogs of her own. When she learned more of the plight of abandoned animals in the United States, she decided she had to share her knowledge with others in an effort to alleviate the problem.
“I thought, What am I going to do with this information? I decided, Why don’t I just travel the U.S. and find out how we can spread that message out more?” she said. The excitement in her voice is palpable as she talks about the project. Piñol has traveled to places states such as Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, California, and Florida to film and hopes to travel throughout the country to take a look at how abandoned animals are treated in different states.
“I want it to be a positive take on a very big and negative problem. A lot of people won’t watch this documentary because it’s too emotional, it’s heart wrenching. But there are so many things that can be done on a very small scale.”