Chrissie Fit is recognizable to fans across the world for her portrayal of foreign exchange student Flo in Pitch Perfect 2, but like most Latina actresses, her road to success in Hollywood hasn't been easy.
The 33-year-old actress grew up in Miami Florida, surrounded by other Latinos, "so in school, we didn't have the option of casting by race. It was just whoever could do the best job," she explained to ET over the phone on Monday -- but things quickly changed once she entered the big leagues.
"I remember my first audition was for The Secret Garden, and I auditioned for Mary Lennox, which was like, the Caucasian, British actor, and the director was looking at me, like, perplexed. Like, 'What the heck is this girl doing?' And he really politely said, 'That was great. Next season we're doing the King and I, and I think you're better suited for that,'" she recalled.
"In that moment I realized, 'Holy crap. This is how it's going to be,"" she said. "I felt a sadness. 'That's not fair. It shouldn't be that way.'"
Fit's rude awakening stung even more because it contradicted the lessons taught to her by her grandfather, who came to America from Cuba after Fidel Castro came into power.
"I didn't realize how much my American Dream was influenced by him," she confessed. "[He and his family] didn't know the language, and they only knew one person in the country, but my grandfather worked hard. He had two jobs and worked non-stop."
"He loved America so much. He would literally steal my history textbooks just to look at the pictures, and he would always say, 'You can be or do anything here as long as you are determined, and you've worked hard for it,'" she continued. "My grandfather's America was all that it was intended to be, land of the free, home of the brave, people are equal, and now it's very divided and hard work doesn't always get you to the finish line."
Inspired by actresses-turned-producers Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria, Fit channeled her frustrations into her writing, so she could one day be the person calling the shots, and creating her own opportunities.
"Jennifer Lopez is so successful and producing shows and movies, and Eva Longoria is doing the same, and she's directing. You do have more power on the other side, and they're kind of getting in shape with that idea," Fit reasoned. "How about we get on the other side, where they're making decisions, and that's how we can influence and change our story. And not only make it a Latino film, just make it have Latinos in regular films that are mainstream, because we all have the same stories, no matter what our skin colors are."
"We all love and get hurt and it's all the same, just different appearances. I think [the industry] has changed, but there's still work to be done," she said, calling attention to how Pitch Perfect 2 has weaved her Latina character into the mainstream. "I think that's part of what we need to do and just expand and make stories that are universal for everyone."
"People want to hear our stories," she insisted. "We just have to get it to them."
Fit concluded with a message to fans, asking for their support in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
"If there's any way you can donate to Puerto Rico after the destruction and devastation left by hurricane Maria; please do so. Anything helps!"
Pitch Perfect 3 opens in theaters on Dec. 22.