The 34-year-old actress is ready for a show that reflects the changing landscape in America.
Melonie Diaz is ready to cast a spell on audiences -- or rather, show them the truth of the world they’re living in.
The 34-year-old actress stars in The CW’s new Charmed reboot, a show that takes the spirit of the original and pumps it up with feminism (yes, really) and a diversity that reflects the changing landscape of America.
Diaz, who was raised by Puerto Rican parents in New York’s Lower East Side, takes on the role of the middle sister, Mel, alongside Madeleine Mantock’s Macy and Sarah Jeffery’s Maggie. And while Mel freezes time a la the original Charmed’s Piper (Holly Marie Combs), that’s where the comparisons stop. Mel, a graduate student in the women’s studies department at their local college, is a proud challenger of the patriarchy. She’s Puerto Rican and a lesbian.
“Our creators, before we started shooting, were like, 'How do you feel about Mel being Puerto Rican?' I was like, 'Yes, I love that. I don't often see Puerto Rican families on television,’” Diaz, who was the first sister cast in the series, told ET. “So in Mel's bedroom, there's a Puerto Rican flag, and I think that it's important for Mel to really feel strongly about who she is and where she comes from. So culturally, I think there's going to be a strong representation there.”
“We just wanted our show to really reflect current times and the current environment, and I am friends with so many different types of people,” she continued, noting that Mel’s sexual orientation is just “a part of who she is.” “We wanted to create a world where it felt inclusive, where there was something for everyone.”
While her Hispanic culture doesn’t always drive the roles she plays -- “it’s always about character and story first,” she explained -- Diaz couldn’t be more proud to have started her career that way. “Raising Victor Vargas, for instance, one of my first movies, was about where I was from and the lower east side and the characters in the film were like my actual friends,” she said. “It's fun to go to set and know that I'm telling a story that's personal.” Diaz feels the same way about Charmed, despite early criticism from fans and the show’s original cast.
All four original Charmed witches, Shannen Doherty, Combs, Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan, weighed in when the reboot was first announced, with Combs the most upset about the show’s logline, which touted it as a “fierce, funny and feminist” take on the original. The 44-year-old actress noted that’s exactly what she felt the previous version was.
“I will never understand what is fierce, funny, or feminist in creating a show that basically says the original actresses are too old to do a job they did 12 years ago,” Combs wrote on Twitter in May. “I hope the new show is far better than the marketing so the true legacy does remain.” She and her co-stars, however, since have come around and wished the reboot success.
“I understand that the show, for a lot of people, they really identified with it, and it helped them through hard times, and I think we all really understand that, and we all really want to respect that. So we're not trying to change it,” Diaz said. “We're just trying to take it in a different direction for a different generation, and we hope that we are doing it well.”
Part of updating the show for this generation meant placing overt references to the #MeToo movement (that Milano helped reinvigorate last year) right in the pilot episode, which also features a woman coming forward with sexual misconduct allegations against a powerful man.
“When I first had my meeting with [executive producers] Jennie [Snyder Urman] and Brad [Silberling], we talked a lot about the 2016 election, and how upset we all were and how [President Donald Trump] kept using the term witch hunt, and this idea of why women who are witches are bad,” recalled Diaz. “I'm really angry, and I'm really frustrated with the current politics of America right now, and I enjoy coming to work and being able to talk about it in a way that's not like, hitting you over the head. It’s a smart, savvy way to get people talking, but it's also a form of entertainment.”
“Mel is politically active, she's a social justice warrior,” she continued. “I think that the reason our writers went in that direction was because we need a character like this right now in television, to kind of speak about the frustrations women like her have, and to kind of give a voice to a demographic of people who don't have a voice.”
For Diaz, making the witches Latina was just another necessary step. “Latinas are the majority, and not the minority anymore. And our entertainment should reflect that. I think not only is it smart business-wise, but it just should reflect the fabric of America. There's so many of us, and we want to be seen on screen and in television,” she said, noting the recent surge in Hispanic-led TV shows like Mayans MC, Magnum PI and the upcoming Party of Five reboot. “I think what it's going to do for young people's self esteem is going to be invaluable.”
“There's a reason why this show has come back, and why I think people are so excited about it. There is no more important time than now,” she said. “With everything, the #MeToo movement to social media, to the Kavanaugh hearings, women are coming together in their struggle together. And our show's tagline is true. We are stronger together, and we need each other in these really, really dark times… It’s thematically strong for young girls to watch that and feel that, and know that they can go out in the real world and be strong with their own sisters and fight whatever demon is out there.”
“I love entertainment, I love the movies, I love television, and I feel like it can really help you in different ways,” Diaz expressed. “So the fact that we can be a part of that, I think this is why what I do what I do.”
Charmed premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.