Streaming’s newest heroine is a quinceañera with a double PhD
Netflix’s The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia is about a 15-year-old Mexican-American genius who, after becoming the youngest person to ever earn a Ph.D., heads off to start her first job: making robots for NASA.
“It is an honor,” says Paulina Chávez, star of Netflix’s new series The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia, created by Mario Lopez and directed by Eva Longoria.
Chávez plays the sitcom’s 15-year-old Mexican-American prodigy Ashley Garcia, the world’s youngest Ph.D., who moves across the country to stay with her Tio Victor while she takes on her first job: making robots at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
But, as a teen who graduated from college at 9, there are a lot of other firsts she has to navigate as well…
The show may be funny, but Chávez takes her role seriously.
Playing the title character in Expanding Universe is the 17-year-old actress first major role, something she has been working toward, according to NY Daily News, since watching novelas with her grandmother after school and promising her that one day she would be on TV too.
Chávez, who is herself Mexican-American, told People she is proud to represent young Latin@s:
“There’s not a lot of that on TV…there’s a lot of it in the real world. There are Latinos that are engineers, they’re scientists, they’re astronauts, they’re everything,” says Chávez, whose older sister is an engineer. “Why don’t we showcase them on TV?”
A recent study by USC Annenberg, found that only 3% of leading characters in the top 100 movies from the last decade were Latino – and many of those roles were stereotypes, depicting Latinos as poor, uneducated, and criminal.
Research shows that “young viewers are influenced by whom they see playing scientists or leaders on TV,” reports the LA Times. So, shows like The Expanding Universe can have a major impact by inspiring Latinos to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and helping non-Latinos accept and expect to see us in advanced and academic positions.
And Chávez isn’t just promoting Latino scholarship through her work on the show.
Inspired by Eva Longoria’s foundation, which fosters Latina mentorship, parent engagement, entrepreneurship, and STEM education, Chávez has started her own scholarship program for high schools in her hometown.
“I want to help Latinos,” she told Bust. “Latinos helping Latinos.”
Unfortunately, the show hasn’t gotten a lot of promotion, so let’s spread the word.
Latinos helping Latinos. Si se puede!
The Mazatlan Post