Actor Jacqueline Guillén — a Brownsville and Matamoros native — is a long-time resident of New York City where she has been able to successfully expand her career and work on what she is the most passionate about: theater.
While attending Hanna High School and being part of the theater program, Guillén liked acting but didn’t think of it as her endgame. Since her mom is a teacher she always imagined herself following her footsteps and becoming one, too.
“I started acting in high school and it was “ de pura chiripa,” it was just by accident because I was in band,” she said.
“I was accidentally added into a theater class my freshman year and I was just very skeptical about it because I didn’t want anything distracting me from band. I went into the class, and I was like ‘alright, I’ll stick it out for the year’ and I ended up really really enjoying it.”
After graduating from high school, Guillén still didn’t think of acting as her career because she thought it didn’t seem like a real dream to her. Until one day a friend asked her to be her partner for an audition to enter the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting at Texas State, and Guillén decided to say yes just to help her friend out.
“One of the professors noticed me and then kind of started to mentor me and take me under her wing, told me to audition,” she said.
“That’s kind of what led me to believe that I have something and I went for it. Graduated, came to New York City immediately after graduating with my BFA from Texas State University.”
Fast forward eight years, Guillén’s Off Broadway credits include “72 Miles to Go” at Roundabout Theatre Company and “Then They Forgot About the Rest” at INTAR Theatre. Her TV credits include “Bull, Blue Bloods,” “Orange is the New Black,” and “Search Party.” She was a finalist for the 2020 Nosotros Ya Tu Sabes Monologue Slam presented by NBC.
“Theater is my love. When I’m on stage, when I step foot on stage and when the lights are up and running, I just feel so at home, so at peace,” she said.
“It is like a form of therapy for myself and I just love telling stories. Especially new stories, there are so many classical pieces that have been told over and over again, but being in New York and being a part of a big community of playwrights and people from all over the world telling stories, I love new works.”
Guillén’s latest work includes being a cultural consultant for new play “Tender Age” for Studio Theatre. Set in Brownsville, the play follows a government contractor who faces a crisis of conscience working his new job at a detention facility. Written during the Trump administration and further developed as President Biden manages an unprecedented influx of arrivals, Tender Age questions how much has changed for migrants at the US-Mexico border, the press release reads.
“I was happy to see Brownsville be told in a story. Because a lot of people don’t know Brownsville. … So that was very important,” she said.
“First, I think it’s important for education. … I think a story like this one is very important because some people may have not known of this situation, and they might have not heard about it just because they’re not around that conversation.”
When asked about the importance of bringing Latinas to the table in all aspects and fields, she said it is important for Latinas to continue building themselves up as a community. She said as women, we’ve been pushed to believe that we are each other’s competition at all times. No matter if you are a completely different person, with a completely different background and there’s no way of us being a competition.
“But because we are women and we are Latinas, we have to be like each other’s competition. I feel like we’ve been partly at fault because we are not mentioning each other’s names,” Guillén said.
“My advice would be, and I would love for our community to keep doing this, is to just keep bringing people in. Because when we have more Latinas in one room, then we are unstoppable.”