Since working on the series Doom Patrol, which is into its second season now, actress Diane Guerrero is no longer quick to dismiss a person based on first impression.
In a video call from her Los Angeles home, Guerrero explained: “The show has taught me that when I meet folks and I don’t fully click with them or understand them, it’s probably because they have a lot more going on than you may think.
“Our characters (on Doom Patrol) certainly helped to open up that world for me. If someone may seem strange, or angry, or sad, it’s probably because there’s something in their life that has happened, a certain trauma or something life-changing that has made them that way.”
Based on the DC Comics created by Arnold Drake, Bob Haney and Bruno Premiani, Doom Patrol revolves around a group of people who’ve gained their superhuman abilities after suffering horrible incidents.
Guerrero’s character, Crazy Jane, has 64 personalities and each one of her personality possesses a superpower. Jane created her multiple personalities as a defence mechanism to cope with the childhood sexual trauma she experienced.
Others in the Doom Patrol are Robotman (Brendan Fraser), whose brain was placed in a robot body due to a horrendous car wreck where only his brain survived; Elasti-Woman (April Bowlby), a former Hollywood actress who has problem maintaining a solid form after having been exposed to toxic gas; and Negative-Man (Matt Bomer), who is covered in special bandages, must co-exists with a negative energy entity that caused his plane to crash.
Doom Patrol not only explores how these people presently save the world from evil forces, but also how they deal with their past trauma.
But not everyone is appreciative of their heroic efforts. Thanks to their powers and strange personalities, they are subjected to further alienation by a society that doesn’t understand them.
Despite having fantastic powers like the ability to hurl fireballs and control minds, the characters in this band of outcasts still have to deal with their personal issues like everyone else.
This is something that Guerrero identified with. “Just because you have all of these superpowers doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental health issues that you also have to work on.”
As a mental health advocate, she is grateful Doom Patrol shares the importance of mental health.
“Even if you’re a robot, even if you have superpowers, even though you’re a beautiful actress... you still need help; you still need family and community.”
As a matter of fact, the series which was kind of kooky in the first season got a lot darker in its second year to reflect the characters’ collective trauma.
“When we pick up in second season, first episode, Jane is in a very dark place. That affected me in many ways, ” said Guerrero who has grappled with depression and mental health issues.
“By the third episode I had to start seeing a therapist myself because it was hard to distinguish between my feelings as Jane and as myself, Diane.
“That started to worry me... And so I said if I wanted to get through this season, I think I have to take care of myself.
“Then, of course, that translated over coincidentally and beautifully over to my character. As I move with myself, I also move with Jane throughout the season; she even sees the light at the end of the tunnel. So it was an interesting experience to go through.”
While the 34-year-old is admittedly playing a fictional superhero, she knows a thing or two about being a superhero in real life.
“I think that we all have the ability to be superheroes; the ability to help others and to be great, to be super.
“But in order to do that, one must confront themselves. And that means confronting their past and everything that hurts them so that they can take that and use it for good, ” she said.
Guerrero is a fine example of that. The actress is one Hollywood’s leading immigration activists.
Her passion for the subject was brought about when, as a 14-year-old, she watched her parents and older brother be deported from the United States to Colombia because they were undocumented immigrants. Guerrero, who was born in the US, remained behind.
She detailed this incident in her 2016 memoir, In The Country We Love, as well as in My Family Divided, a 2018 adaptation of her memoir for children and teenagers facing similar circumstances.
She described being separated from her family as the biggest injustice that occurred in her life.
“I was so devastated, losing my family, that I went on a mission to somehow change my life.
“Because when that happened, it was like the story was already written for me at that moment, as it has been for many children of separation and many families that have to deal with separation.
“I was determined to change that narrative. So, one of the things that I did was just to believe in myself, and the other thing was to say yes to any opportunity that came my way that seemed interesting. I felt like I had nothing to lose.
“That has carried me through every endeavour that I have tried, whether it is in acting, or in social justice.
“I became an immigration rights activist in 2016. So far that has been my greatest superpower. It has redeemed my story and my family’s story. And I continue to fight.”
As someone who is interested in social justice, Guerrero is very much part of the diversity conversation and the Black Lives Matter movement that is going on in the US right now.
“I care very much about my community and about the human race. And while I’m on this Earth, I’d like to be a part of change and be part of making it better, ” said Guerrero, who had recurring roles in Orange Is The New Black and Jane The Virgin.
Doom Patrol Seasons One and Two are available on HBO Go.
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