Interview with Francia Raisa from The Secret Life of the American Teenager

Recently, I got the chance to interview the beautiful and talented, Francia Raisa, from The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which airs on ABC Family on Monday nights at 8 pm. Raisa plays the sexy seductress Adrian, who while appearing to be a flirtatious hardcore girl, she secretly just wants to be loved. This season we’re going to see Adrian deal with pregnancy and other issues. Jump with me to read the interview.

What kind of emotional journey does Adrian get to go on this new season?

Francia- Well, we all found out last night that she is in fact pregnant. She was trying to hide it from everyone. In the last scene that you see with Adrian, you see that she is calling the women’s health clinic. The reason why she was hiding it from Ben and trying to hide it from everyone else is because I think she’s calling to decide whether she is going to keep the baby.
I think in her head right now, she’s not going to, because she’s trying to think about her life with a baby, and I think she’s seeing Amy’s life and the way it’s changed. She has this big decision coming up this season. She has to decide for another life as well as her own, so there is a lot of growing up that she has to do this coming season.

[Note from Me: This interview was done just after the season premiere so there have been two new episodes since, where we’ve seen her trying to figure out what to do, and even deal with morning sickness.]

Speaking of emotional journeys, it has to be pretty emotional for you these past couple of seasons to see the evolution that Adrian has gone through, right?

Francia Oh, yes. So much has been going on with my character, being in love with Ricky, and then the relationship with her father, and then her mother, and then now with her pregnancy, it’s just been an emotional roller coaster for Adrian. Once things are going well, then something happens and she feels like she has to get revenge. That’s the only reason why she’s in the situation right now is because she thought something happened between Ricky and Amy right when things were going really well between them. And then she goes, “Well, I have to get them back,” so she sleeps with Ben, and now look where she is. It’s just been a whole roller coaster for her — insane.

How do you relate to your character? Are you anything like Adrian?

Francia- I’m flirty by nature, so I think I relate to her in that sense from how she was in the beginning of the show. Back when I was in high school if anyone did anything to me, I was like, “Well, I’m going to get them back.” So I guess in that sense I can relate to her.
I feel a deep connection with Adrian just because a lot of her personality traits reminded me of myself when I was growing up, and then a lot of what her decisions reminded me of a lot of decisions that my friends made, my close friends made. So it was almost like it was a part of me just because I heard about so much and I was so involved in it. So I do have a personal connection with her.
And then the relationship with her mother, I didn’t have the best relationship with my mother when I was in high school, just because, I don’t know, I was going through puberty and I hated the world.
And now I have an amazing relationship with her now the same way that Adrian has with her mother and the same with her father.

What would you like to see from your character going forward, like what would you like to see from Adrian that we haven’t seen in the past seasons?

Francia- I think what I wanted to see from her and you guys are actually going to start seeing, was her growing up a bit, realizing that life isn’t all about sex and boys and everything that she was focusing on. Obviously, she’s also focused on her education, which I really appreciated that they added into the show. But she was also so focused on this guy loving her that she put herself aside and didn’t really think about herself, and now she’s in the position where she needs to think for herself and realize that she’s more important than any other guy or person around her. She has to think for another life and not just for hers and so she’s really growing up and maturing a lot, and letting people in her life, and opening up friendships.

Being on the Secret Life, do you ever feel like you’re taking on the role of spokesperson about teen sex?

Francia- Oh, yes, definitely. I feel like people are paying close attention to what we’re doing, because I remember when I was younger and anytime anyone did something on TV, I wanted to do that too. I was a big Mary Kate Olsen fan growing up, so anytime they did anything on TV, I was like, “Mommy, I want to do that, I want to dress like that, I want to be like that.” Yes, I do feel a big responsibility, like they’re paying close attention to every decision we make. I feel like they’re relating their lives a bit to ours and saying, “Oh, I’m just like that,” so whatever we decide on the show, whatever the consequences come about, they’ve related to themselves and their own lives.
With the show, what I’m hoping is when they see the consequences of sex, and young teenage sex, that they pull away from the emotional side of it right then and they think about it twice, because pregnancies can occur. You don’t always get the guy and it’s really not the best decision when you’re so young. There’s a whole life ahead of you. You get really attached to a person when you make that decision. It’s a big emotional responsibility, and at that young age, you can’t really handle it. And you don’t really realize it until you go through it, unfortunately, but we’re hoping that with this show it opens your mind a little bit and it shows you what it can do.

With your character being more kind of the bad girl role, have you dealt with negative feedback from viewers or have you had more positive, and have you been surprised either direction?

Francia- I’ve been surprised either way. Mostly the negative that I get is of course I’m Latin and they give me this type of role. They take it as a stereotype. They take it as racism. But I never took it that way when I took on this role. I just felt la connection with Adrian and I think I just did a good job at the audition and they gave me the part, because there was also a Caucasian girl that auditioned for my role. So that’s really the negative feedback that I’ve gotten.
But then it’s also very positive in a way, because I have had girls come up to me and say, “Your character reminds me so much of myself when I was in school,” or “Now that I’m in school and I don’t want to be that way.” Now, girls who might identify with Adrian are seeing it from another point of view and they say, “I see why people don’t like me, and I see why I don’t have any friends, and I see why I’m so unhappy in school.” And they change their lives because they’re seeing from another point of view what is going on in their own life and they can really see why a person doesn’t like them. Because I had a lot of people come up to me and be like, “I don’t like you, you’re so mean.” They’re like, “You’re so mean, but then I’m like that, too, so maybe I shouldn’t be that way,” and I’m like, “Maybe you shouldn’t!”

When you were in high school, which secret life character would you say was most like how you are? Is it Adrian or someone else?

Francia- I guess I was a lot like Adrian, funny enough, but then I had a little bit of Grace in me, too, because I went to a Catholic school and I was very into my religious beliefs and about being a virgin and waiting until marriage. I preached about it in school all the time, like, “I’m waiting until marriage, I’m this, and I’m that,” and I did that a lot in high school. I remember people making bets with me, being like, “I’ll pay you $500 if you wait,” and I was like, “I’ll take that bet.” So I was like Grace in a sense, but then I was a lot like Adrian just because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I was very blunt, and a lot of my friends say I have no filter. And I’m like, “Well it’s true and if I’m thinking it, I’m going to say it.” I was a bit vindictive at times and I was obsessed. I had a Ricky in my school. He was a guy that I was in love with and that he was always messing around with other girls, but yet dating me on the side. That’s why I can relate to Adrian so much, because his guy never took me seriously; just like Ricky doesn’t really take her seriously, but secretly loves her, but yet can’t stop being with other girls.

Did you ever think, when the show first started, that it would be Ben that got Adrian pregnant?

Francia- Never. My jaw dropped when I heard about it. I heard about it in, when was it, I heard about it right before we came back on the air in February. I went to this event and Brenda [Hampton] told me, and I was like, “No way, you’re kidding me,” like never in my life did I think that was going to happen. I thought it would be Ricky and Adrian, all the way Ricky and Adrian. Never in my life did I think I would even have a scene with Ben.

What have you learned if anything about yourself from playing the character of Adrian?

Francia- Let’s see, I learned a lot about myself, like I said, I relate to her a lot, but I wasn’t so aware of it or conscious of my actions, until I started playing her. And then my friends kept telling me, “You’re just like that,” or “You did the same thing,” and I ‘m like, “Really? Maybe I should be a little nicer sometimes.” [Laughs]. But , yes, it made me a little more aware of my personality and it just brought back so many high school memories.

We know these young teenagers are watching the show, but where do parents come into play? Would you like parents to be sitting down with their kids or do you want this to start conversations with them or where do you see mom and dad in here?

Francia- Actually, I know that a lot of parents do watch the show with their kids. I have parents coming up to me constantly and actually thanking me and appreciating the fact that this show does exist, because sex is a very touchy subject to talk about with parents and children. You never really know how to bring this up. And this show it kind of opens the door for that conversation seeing a pregnancy and heartbreak and just everything that sex brings into young teenage lives is a way for a parent to have examples I guess you can say.
It’s like the cool thing to talk about and so if their parents are watching it and talking to them about it, then their parents are so cool. It just opens a better relationship I guess for a lot of parents and their children. They’ve told me before that they watch it and they really appreciate it and they really enjoy it and it’s really easy for them to talk about it now, because my mom could never talk to me about it. My dad still turns pale when I even bring up the subject.

Bristol Palin is going to be a guest star on this season and I wanted to know what the experience was like having her on set and do you see her as a role model for young women who find themselves in these situations?

Francia- I actually didn’t get to work with her, Shailene [Woodley] got to work with her. But she’s definitely a big role model. This show is about teen sex and teen pregnancy, so she definitely has a voice about her experience being a teen mother, and the positivity about it and then also the negativity. She is a big example for a lot of teenagers, especially having her mom being such a big figure in political culture. But yes, I was really glad to have her on the show and I know a lot of people are going to be looking forward to watching her and listening to what she has to say.

What themes or emotions take place in season three that you think viewers can relate to?

Francia- A lot of the same emotions that have been taking place in the previous seasons. Like I said, there’s a new pregnancy, so there’s another emotion there with a teenage pregnancy. There’s drama between families, which a lot of people in families can relate to. And like I said before, it’s easier to see someone else go through, so you can see it for yourself or relate it to yourself. It’s a lot of the same that’s been going on in the previous season, it’s just different storylines and it’s in a different aspect.
Adrian handles her situation in particular a little differently than what Amy does. She actually wants to, before she goes through, oh, I can’t even say it, because then I’m going to give stuff away, never mind, but she handles it differently and in a different aspect, which I think is, I can’t say it, but that’s as far as I can say, because then I’ll give it away, sorry.

How do you feel your character, like what do you feel about your character contributes to season three in terms of her new storyline?

Francia- Like I said before, she handles the situation a little differently, so she contributes a different aspect to a teenage pregnancy. And because I cannot give away exactly what’s going to happen, it’s hard for me to answer that question. But like I said before, she had sex to get back at someone, and she only did it once, as a result she got pregnant. So there’s another example of what can happen when you have sex, even if it’s just to be a little vindictive, there’s consequences. So just think about your actions before you do it, is it really that big of a deal, is it really that important, is he really the love of your life? You’re just in high school.

I know you also talk a lot about the relate ability of the show, and I want to talk a little bit about the negative side of that. There’s a lot of talk recently I guess online that the show has been steering away more recently from being relatable to a lot of other people who had previously had enjoyed the show. Do you have any response to that?

Francia- Everyone’s experience is different, every single person. Maybe the people that said that were able to relate a little more to Amy’s storyline or the first season, because that’s how their life is going or that’s what they could have seen. And then other people, they can relate to mine. Every person’s experience is different. I don’t think it’s steering away from what the show is about and why Brenda created this show. I just think that they, like me personally when I see a show, I like a show to stay where the path is going, and then when there’s a twist, I like, “Wait, no, what’s going on?” But I can see why it happens, you want to cater to every single person.
Sometimes people don’t like change. I’m one of those people, but I think change is good sometimes. And like I said before, everyone’s experience is different. Everyone can relate to a storyline the same way. I’m sure people at first were saying that they couldn’t relate to the first couple seasons, but now they can. I think it’s a positive thing.

You talked a lot about the paths of the show, and I’m wondering where do you see the longevity for the show?

Francia- I heard that Brenda wants to break her 7th Heaven record. I think the show can go really, really far as long as people enjoy it and they want to keep watching it. I want to be on it as much as I can. I see it personally going really far. I know that the audience enjoys it and there’s so much more that can be written and done on the show. I believe she can maybe even beat her record.

[Note from Me: I don’t know if she can break the 7th Heaven record, but if she continues to tell intriguing stories people will watch.]

I’m going to throw some stats at you, of the 765,000 teenagers who become pregnant in the U.S. each year, there are at least 50% to 55% of them choose to parent, 30% to 35% choose to have an abortion, and less than 1% will choose adoption. Why don’t we see people talking more about adoption?

Francia- We talked about adoption a bit in the show with Amy’s storyline. I think adoption is probably one of the hardest things a person will ever have to do, because for me, personally, you have a baby growing inside you for nine months, knowing it’s your blood, and knowing that you created it, and you took care of it, and nourished it for nine months – only to give it up. It’s probably one of the toughest decisions you ever have to do give it to another family.I don’t know why it’s not spoken about a lot, though. I do hear about it all the time. I think it’s beautiful that even though a parent can’t take care of a baby, that they’re willing to give it to another family who unfortunately can’t have a baby and they’re yearning for one. We touched, like I said before, on the show a bit. And you know what, we might again with my pregnancy on the show, because we’ll be exploring all options.

[Note from Me: Adoption is a very hard choice, but so is parenting and so is having an abortion. Any choice to do with a child that was conceived before you were ready to be a parent is difficult. My advice is to be sure you’re ready for everything the comes from having sex.]

Okay that’s the end of the interview and the end of my afterschool special lecture. 😉 I encourage you to watch The Secret Life of the American Teenager on ABC Family Monday’s at 8 pm and if you have teenagers, get the conversations flowing. Stay tuned for more interviews.

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