JoAnna Garcia Swisher on Giving Back, How She's Teaching Her Kids to Appreciate Their Cuban Roots (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
Maarten de Boer/Getty Images
JoAnna Garcia Swisher is making sure her kids grow up to love their Hispanic heritage.
The 38-year-old actress, who shares two young daughters with former baseball pro Nick Swisher, was born in Tampa, Florida, to Cuban parents -- and tells ET that throughout her life, both in and out of the spotlight, her Cuban heritage "hugely shaped who I am."
The Kevin (Probably) Saves the World star has embraced her roots throughout her two decades in Hollywood, bringing diversity to typically white roles in playing characters like Ariel on Once Upon a Time.
"The beautiful thing about fairy tales is that they resonate with most everyone," she says. "The thoughtful and incredible casting choices that [OUAT creators] Eddy [Kitsis] and Adam [Horowitz] make celebrate all races and ethnicities, and I think that is what makes the show that much more meaningful to such a diverse audience."
"I think Eva is a force," she gushes. "She's not only incredibly accomplished in our business, but she's a powerful activist and philanthropist. I would love to spread my wings further in our business and spend much of my free time writing."
Swisher is also open to starring in a Spanish-speaking role. "Working in a Spanish-speaking project is absolutely on my bucket list," she confesses. "I would be so nervous to make that jump, but it would mean the world to me."
Outside of Hollywood, Swisher has volunteered as a tutor for children learning English as a second language, but now says she spends "most of my time teaching Spanish to my little ones." The actress is also channeling her charitable spirit into her partnership with Smithfield and its “Make Breakfast, Share Breakfast” campaign, which will provide No Kid Hungry with one million meals to help children facing hunger this fall.
"Giving back is everything for our family," says Swisher, who stopped by a local Marietta, Georgia, elementary school to teach kids about the power of a well-balanced breakfast. "The Swisher Family Foundation is one of the most meaningful parts of our lives and as the girls get older, we look forward to watching their involvement evolve and hopefully instill the same philanthropic spirit that Nick and I share."
She also hopes that 4-year-old Emerson and 1-year-old Sailor grow up to appreciate their Latin roots.
"Every holiday and meaningful event was filled with special traditions and Cuban food," she recalls of her childhood. "We are still trying to perfect my abuela's recipes [and] thankfully my husband loves Cuban food, so he's always willing to enjoy."