Lopez's Ashley Zamora. Photo Credit: Amanda Elkins.

Lopez actress Ashley Zamora. Photo Credit: Amanda Elkins.

It takes a lot of courage to leave college to pursue your dreams, let alone move across the country by yourself to do so. Ashley Zamora has done both, and despite her rookie status, she is making herself known on George Lopez’s new sitcom, Lopez, as his expressive teenage daughter, Erica. Lopez is a single-camera comedy that is loosely based on Lopez’s own struggles as a Hispanic-American, showcasing his journey in finding himself in the world of race, class and fame.

Sitting down for an exclusive interview with GALO, the TV Land actress whose own Cuban-American upbringing echoes that of her character, Erica, revealed her work-life balance, how important family is to her, and the specific moment she knew she wanted to act, while sharing some solid advice for others looking to succeed in Hollywood.

GALO: Describe to me the moment when you knew you were destined to act. I believe you were only a child when you realized this passion?

Ashley Zamora: I was really young. I was always in drama club and theatre shows at school. Then one summer, I didn’t have any extracurricular [activities] going on, [so] my parents found this summer theatre school at a studio. It was a little theater with a children’s program. They would drop me off in the morning and pick me up in the afternoon. That was the first time I felt it. When I was 13 or 14 years old, my friend started taking acting classes for on-camera acting. She wanted me to do it with her, and, of course, it sounded fun. Once I started the classes, I realized that I really loved it. I knew this was for me.

GALO: Not too long ago, you worked an average job at a tobacco shop, despite not being a smoker yourself. Now you’re working alongside one of the funniest men in Hollywood: George Lopez. Tell me what that transition has been like for you.

AZ: It was an easy transition since this is what I always wanted to do. [The tobacco place], it was a little job to get me by. I was going to the local community college working toward a degree. My parents felt like I needed a backup and I understood that. A lot of people want to become actors, and they don’t make it, unfortunately. I just always worked hard at everything I did. It wasn’t a hard transition — I was prepared. It was the right time for me and it worked out great. I’m so grateful, and I never forget where I came from. Now we have the second season and I’m so excited.

GALO: I love that you said it was the right time for you. Considering that you are fairly new to acting, do you get anxious about the auditioning process? If so, how do you handle that anxiety?

AZ: Yeah. The first audition was just a general audition. They brought a bunch of people in. When I read the role for the character, I said, “Oh my gosh! She’s so much like me — very quirky, very funny.” I felt like I connected with her. When you book a role, you kind of have this feeling like this was [written] for [you], [like] I’m feeling this, vibing with it. I went into the audition [and] worked hard. I was so thrilled, and the audition went great. Sure enough, I got the producer’s callback, and George Lopez was supposed to be there, [along with] the other producers and director — a lot of important people. That was really nerve-racking for me. After the third callback, they told me they wanted me for the role.

GALO: To date, you’ve done a gritty crime drama and a family-friendly comedy. That’s quite a bit of versatility already for someone who has just started out professionally. What kind of role are you most comfortable in?

AZ: I’ve been trained in everything, so I’m really well-rounded. I like having these two roles on my resume because it does show my versatility. I really don’t have a preference; they are both so different that you can’t compare them. You use different techniques for different roles, so you connect to them differently. I love my job, and my job is to create different characters.

GALO: Let’s talk some more about the show. Your family is from Cuba, and your TV family on Lopez is Mexican-American. Despite the difference in nationalities and cultures, what similarities do you see between your own family and in your fictional upbringing?

AZ: Mexican and Cuban cultures are very different. I think that, overall, Latin cultures are very close as far as language is concerned. I feel similarities in the way Erica’s dad annoys her, but they are very loving. I think that is a lot like my culture.

GALO: Staying on the subject of family values, on your Instagram, you show your fans how important family is to you. For instance, there was a picture that you shared recently showing you on vacation with your sister in the Bahamas. Describe how your family dynamics have been impacted by your career, if at all.

AZ: My family is the most important thing in my life. They are first, no matter what. If it weren’t for my family, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They support me and remind me to be humble and to work hard. Everything is earned. I talk to my parents every single day and my grandparents at least every other day. They are very important [in] keeping me grounded.

I see my family all of the time. Last time was a week ago on vacation, next time [will be] for the fourth of July. It’s important to stay close, especially since I’m in L.A. all by myself.

GALO: That’s got to be tough, moving across the country all by yourself.

AZ: Yeah, it was crazy, but necessary to follow what I always wanted to do, which is acting. My parents actually helped me move. It is tough being out here by myself, but it helps me focus. The harder I work, the more often I’ll get to see my family. Economically, it [was] going to be hard flying back and forth from Miami to California. It was worth it to move cross-country. And [it was] an investment — a big one, [but] it paid off.

GALO: Do you have any tips for young actors who may be struggling in balancing their work and personal lives?

AZ: Sometimes you do have to make sacrifices if this is what you really want to do — if you want it badly enough, it will happen. A lot of times my friends are saying, “Let’s hang out,” but I say, “no.” You have to know what you want enough to not give into peer pressure. Tell them, “I have things that I need to work on; I’m trying to get somewhere.” Just figure out your priorities.

GALO: What have you learned so far from playing Erica on Lopez?

AZ: I learned to zone in on what I’m doing. You have the director, camera person, lighting crew [on set], and a makeup team doing your face and hair [in-between sets], and it all helps me to learn how to focus. There’s a lot going on, but on camera, it looks like it is only two people in the room. In reality, there are about 20. That can be pretty nerve-racking. I had to learn to center myself and forget about everything else.

GALO: I know most actors are reluctant to give too much away, but what can we expect from Erica during this second season?

AZ: Erica is just going to continue doing her own thing, so there will be some exciting things to expect.

GALO: Do you have anything else in the works right now? And what would you like to see yourself doing soon?

AZ: I would definitely like to hop into movies. I would like to do film, since I haven’t done any work in Hollywood yet. I think that would be really exciting. Right now, we’re just working on season two, and we’ll see what comes up in the future.

Missed an episode of “Lopez?” Don’t worry, you can now watch the last two full episodes on TVland.com! And if you’d like to learn more about Ashley Zamora and her endeavors, you can do so by following her on Twitter @ashleyzamora. || Featured image: Photo Credit: Amanda Elkins. Hair: Brooke Rodgers. Makeup: Marina Gravani.