Meet ‘All My Children’s New Matriarch

Elena Campbell Martinez just debuted on “All My Children” as Cara and Griffin’s mother, Leticia. Leticia understandably takes issue with her daughter’s decision to marry her ex-husband’s brother.  Martinez, has been a dayplayer on other soaps including “The Bold & the Beautiful” and “General Hospital“, and played small roles on numerous primetime shows. She is thrilled that her years of hard work have paid off with a recurring role. She discussed being a Castillo, leaving the corporate world for Hollywood and why she does not care if she ever becomes a big star.

Why is Leticia so opposed to Cara and Tad’s wedding?
Leticia has no idea that this is a sham. Leticia’s coming from one hundred percent, “I love this daughter of mine.” I just want to protect her. When she was little she had leukemia. I had to sit there and take care of her, and watch my little girl almost die. Then, for the rest of my life, I’ve been worried about the leukemia coming back. When she broke up with Jake (Ricky Paul Goldin), the leukemia came back. So in my mind, those two things are clearly linked. I almost lost her again because of this heartbreak so I can’t let that happen again. I just think she’s going down the path where she’s going to get her heartbroken again. For her, it can be life or death.

The Castillos are a new family in Pine Valley. The audience is still learning about them. What was Cara and Griffin’s childhood like?
I was a single mom, so I raised two kids alone. I was married. I loved my husband very much. He was very handsome and romantic and all that but he turned out to be not very helpful and a selfish guy so my heart got broken but I bucked up and said, “I’ve got two kids to raise,” so I’ve dedicated all my energies to taking care of them but that was all in Mexico. So my life is still in Mexico. I have to worry about my kids running around the world doing Doctors Without Borders and all this other crazy stuff. I can’t protect them.

Cara’s Mother Stops By For Dinner:

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Is there any chance that Leticia’s ex-husband, Cara and Griffin’s father, will show up in town?
I don’t know. That could be very interesting and exciting because I’m sure that if my ex-husband showed up in town, it would cause a lot of turmoil both for my kids and myself.  I might have to come back and deal with him.

How long is Leticia going to be in Pine Valley?
I came into town for a very specific reason this time, which was to try to stop this wedding and take my child back home to me. Once that’s resolved, one way or another, then I’m just going to go home for now and try to gather my wits about me and see what happens next.

Is there a chance that Leticia could become a long term contract role?
I certainly hope so. I guess it depends on what happens. That would make me very happy. It was a really, really wonderful place to work. You would expect that if you went into a cast and crew where people had been together for thirty years, you would expect that it’s like a big family. You wouldn’t expect that it would be a big family that would open their arms and welcome somebody who was brand new, seriously, like family. Everybody was so nice to me from casting to the crew guys, the wardrobe, make-up, other actors.  Getting to work with Lee Meriweather was just amazing  — to work with people you grew up watching on TV.

What did you think of your TV kids Lindsay Hartley and Jordi Vilasuso?
They’re adorable. First of all, I’m so proud. I tell everybody, “My kids are so gorgeous, and they’re both doctors.” When I got to actually work with them, they were so wonderful. They were just so gracious and generous. They made me feel like I was their mom from the first day. Tad, Michael Knight, was so adorable to work with. He was so funny and smart and challenging in terms of trying to get me crack. It was just really fun to work with them.

How does Leticia feel about Griffin’s relationship with Kendall?
Kendall (Alica Minshew) seems like a very nice girl. She’s very sweet. She was really kind. She let me stay at her house. She was just adorable and she’s beautiful and every time I just happened to walk by and see Griffin and Kendall chatting, it seemed like a little bit more than just doctor and patient. I’m very hopeful because I think it’s time for him to settle down and get married and have some grandkids for me. For me, it would be wonderful if they end up together because it seems like he really likes her and she’s great. Then I could come back for another wedding.

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Who do you think might be a good love interest for Leticia?
I don’t think Leticia has thought too much about love in the past twenty years because I think she’s just been so focused on getting her kids raised and dedicating herself to her family. I don’t think Leticia would take somebody that’s not available, at least not intentionally. I don’t know who she would go after – definitely not Tad since he’s her daughter’s husband.

Jack and Erica are on the outs. Maybe Leticia would like to date a lawyer.
Jack’s (Walt Willey)very cute. If Erica (Susan Lucci) doesn’t want him, well, you know…

You’ve had dayplayer roles on a couple of other soaps. Did that help you prepare for landing a major role?
Yeah. Because I knew how soaps worked. First of all, I knew how hard those [actors] work. I knew how many sides they have to memorize for one day and I knew that people come in, they do their scene, they do it once and that’s it. At least on the shows I’ve worked on, everybody is really professional and prepared. I knew that’s what was going to be expected of me. I knew you had to come in, be completely prepared, and not be the person that was causing retakes and taking more time. So I figured for my audition I had to come in and be one hundred percent prepared, which I always want to be anyway, but completely off book, completely prepared, completely ready to work. I took it as my first day of work. That was very helpful.

Acting was not your first career.
I tried a couple of other careers before this one. I’ve been here seven years now in L.A. and I’m really happy. I haven’t looked back once. I’ve always said from the very first day, as long as I’m having fun, and I’m working with nice people, and learning and challenging myself, I’m going to keep doing it. The minute it makes me bitter or miserable or boring then I can do something else, because I’ve already done a couple of other careers before this. But I still love it.

Where did you get the courage to give up a stable profession for acting? It’s such a difficult business, and it’s even tougher if you don’t start when you’re nineteen.
I’ve done one career that was kind of the corporate career. I was a management consultant. Then I took a big leap to go to Guatemala to do social work and volunteer. What I found out was that what made me happy was the kind of work that I was doing; whether I was working with good people, being challenged to feel like I was doing something valuable. The amount of money I was making didn’t really matter that much. I was happier working in Guatemala than the last few years of my consulting work. When I decided to move back to the states, I was already doing community theater in Guatemala. I realized, if I try to do this as a career, it should still be fun. If it doesn’t work out as a career I know I can still keep acting for fun. I can move to Portland or Austin or anywhere and do community theater. I never made it about the money. It never has been and never will be probably about being famous. It’s just about getting to do it because I enjoy it so much.

You are obviously an educated, accomplished person. Is it frustrating that so many of your roles up to this point have been playing housekeepers and nannies? Do you think the entertainment industry is still stereotyping Latina characters?
It is a little bit frustrating that when you look at TV and you look at movies you don’t see the diversity that you see when you look around you in your real life. There’s obviously some catching up to do. I think there is a lot of progress that’s being made. More and more, you’re going to see sitcoms or dramas where the lead actors are of color just because that’s how it is in real life. The real detectives and judges and lawyers and moms and dads in the world are, more and more, people of color, so why wouldn’t you see that on TV? But for me, I’m happy to have the opportunity. If the way a show is going to be diverse is to give the opportunity to somebody of color to be the housekeeper, that’s great, because at least we’re getting that. At least that’s a leg up and an opportunity to meet people, to get to do some work.

“All My Children” is better than a lot of primetime shows. Cara and Griffin are doctors. The hospital’s Chief of Staff and and the Chief of Police are African-American.
It’s very realistic. If you go into a hospital today, and you start talking to all the doctors and the surgeons, you’re going to see a lot of people of color, of all different colors, not just African Americans and Hispanics: Asian people, Indian people, all kinds of people. I think primetime has a little bit more catching up to do than some of the daytime shows.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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