She’s a Latina working in Hollywood.
“I never thought there’d be a time when my experience and culture was reflected on TV,” she says. “It’s kind of exciting to know that today there actually is a Valentina on TV and it’s not on a Spanish-language soap opera.”
Garza, a native of Echo Park, is the supervising producer on Fox’s new animated series Bordertown, which is produced by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. The sitcom takes viewers to a dusty border town where the nation’s immigration debate plays out in the intertwined lives of white and Latino families that exist next door to each other. Her last big gig was as a staff writer for another animated series, The Simpsons.
It’s clear Garza is a comedic talent, but in a town that’s often oblivious to the sea of minorities that surrounds it, you don’t get as far as she has without putting in the extra work. Born at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, she was raised by a lovably “crazy” Cuban-American mom in a biracial (black and Latino) household. Which makes her extra rare in Hollywood. “I had this really kind of weird upbringing, and I needed a way to cope with the crazy in my family,” Garza says. “I started writing to do that. I’ve been writing since I was a kid.”
She studied comparative literature at UC Berkeley and returned home to seek out her place in the television industry. Garza started out as a writers’ assistant on Telemundo’s Spanish-language sitcom Los Beltrán. She went on to work in similar positions on That ’80s Show and George Lopez. Garza says she eventually got to write a few episodes and, after completing a Warner Bros. Television Group writers’ workshop, set her sights on The Simpsons.
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She wrote a spec script — her own unsolicited episode, essentially — and was hired as a staff writer. The Bordertown job follows a six-year stint at The Simpsons. Garza says she could barely imagine a day when she’d work on a network program that focused so much on Latino culture. “I really don’t think there was a space in this town for my point of view for a very long time,” she says.
So far 2016 has arguably been the most contentious for Hollywood’s minority problem. Awards season was dominated by news about the Academy Awards’ lack of minority acting nominees, but Garza sees some good in the fallout.
“My mom says there’s a long path between saying and doing,” she says. “This is a time where the town is actually ready to hear these unique voices. I certainly hope so.”