For triple-threat talent Cierra Ramirez, it’s God, family, and work — in that order. The Good Trouble star and early bet pop artist practically grew up in front of the camera — a career she thanks God for, in particular — while taking on leading roles in films like Girl in Progress and Drink Slay Love before finding long-term success in shows like Marvel Rising and, perhaps most notably, a major role as Mariana Adams Foster in The Fosters.
Ramirez is used to consistent creative work; she has developed Mariana’s character since 2012 and released a debut album pre-pandemic, kicking off what should have been the continuation of an upbeat, multi-hyphenate future for the star. But 2020 switched the narrative a bit for Ramirez, like many, and what once felt like a fleeting moment in the year’s timeline became a greater strain on work and creativity.
“It was very weird. At first, going into it, no one really knew how long it would be,” Ramirez said. “We ended up shutting down production [on Good Trouble] when we got the news in March, and I remember telling everyone, ‘Oh, I’ll see you in six weeks. We’ll be back so soon.’ And then here we were, six months later, not even having conversations about going back to work.”
During those months filled with the waiting game of production resuming looming overhead, Ramirez started out optimistic about locking down indoors before the lack of work became heavy, leading her to seek inspiration elsewhere.
“At first, I think I loved the idea of being able to sleep in, but then it got to a point where staying home and not working, I’m someone that really just needs to go, go, go,” Ramirez said. “Otherwise, I just really don’t feel my best. So, I think quarantine definitely helped me get out of my comfort zone. I found different ways to be creative and stay productive.”
Such a year is particularly challenging, considering that creativity is practically Ramirez’s middle name. Ramirez acts, she sings and she is basically a social media influencer, too — her Instagram graced with the nickname Miss Thang and adorned by 2.7 million followers.
But despite the pandemic, Ramirez’s life hasn’t really slowed down — at least, not in the big picture sense. September ended Good Trouble’s production pause, so her days are filled with filming, adjusting to an at-home workout schedule (though she says eating Hot Cheetos puffs on the couch is much more enjoyable), and relatably choosing both daytime and nighttime pajamas.
Ramirez’s sentiment toward finding an exercise routine during the pandemic, “If I wasn’t going to do it, no one else is going to make me,” is an important lesson in accountability elsewhere, too. In particular, striking a balance between social media and the real world is a blurred line without social interaction, and Ramirez had to guide those priorities herself this year.
“Social media, in the beginning, was a really nice way to distract myself. I didn’t really like watching the news too much and getting really just scared about the world, and everyone went through their banana bread phase, and then Tiger King,” Ramirez said. “But then things got really real with Black Lives Matter and all of these topics, and I think that there was almost a reset with social media that I really loved to see. I feel like I’ve grown so much, learned so much.”
At that point in the summer, Ramirez explained that she saw an uptick of people online holding each other accountable for doing research about race, as well as opening dialogue for necessary conversations within and outside of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Along with protesting in person, “I couldn’t help but be a part of it on the front line,” Ramirez explained, “It is something that is really important to me,” she found herself excited about the opportunity to learn and unlearn on social media and what that sense of community and shared education could bring.
Ramirez’s activism for equity extends into her onscreen life, as well. Her Good Trouble character, Mariana, can often be found fighting for workplace equality, calling out her often-sexist and racist treatment by colleagues while constantly working to prove herself at Speckulate despite her evident talent and experience.
And Mariana’s battle is a very real reflection of a major problem — according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, Hispanic women made up only 2% of the computing workforce in 2019. Ramirez explained that developing Mariana’s character is inspiring in part because of her dedication to fighting for equity for Latinx women, something Ramirez is an advocate for in her off-screen life, as well.
“With Mariana, it’s such a thing with her workplace; it’s hard to deny the fact that she is a woman, and she is a woman of color,” Ramirez said. “It kind of becomes the subject of all of her discussions at work, and what she’s fighting for, for equality. That’s so inspiring to me because I feel like that really reflects everyone’s place of work. Even acting, I’ve been told many times that I’m not Latin enough, or I’m too Latin. It’s a very weird world that might be uncomfortable to talk about, but it’s necessary. And I’m really thankful for a lot of the really strong Latinos that have really opened doors for people like me.”
Ramirez’s Latin background as a self-described Mexilombian (a blend of her Mexican and Colombian heritages) informs practically every decision she makes in her public life. Everything from choosing roles to audition for to how she navigates her front-facing presence online stems from her background and drives her professional passion. “I just hope that I can continue that legacy to open doors for others,” Ramirez said.
Now, Ramirez is taking steps to fuel Latin stories on her own terms, as becoming an executive producer on Good Trouble became the first step to developing her craft behind the camera. Her dream directing gig? A dark, indie drama with a Latin-driven storyline.
Part of the inspiration to take her talent off-camera comes from the work she watched the writers’ room do on The Fosters. Saying the “writers must have a crystal ball,” Ramirez recalled one particularly inspiring moment during filming in which the team needed to decide whether or not to film an alternate ending to the moms’ wedding (played by Sherri Saum and Teri Polo) due to the fact that same-sex marriage has not yet been legalized.
The Fosters team opted to carry on with the wedding, “They decided, no matter what, they’re married to each other in their eyes; let’s have them get married,” Ramirez said. And, according to Ramirez, the day the episode was filmed was consequently also the day same-sex marriage became law in the United States.
“I’ll never forget the energy on set,” Ramirez said. “Everyone was just so happy to be a part of something that was, really, a part of history.”
That creative control to tell larger-than-life stories, especially ones that get people talking and takes them out of their comfort zone, is something Ramirez strives for. The Fosters didn’t shy away from the tough stuff and, similarly, Good Trouble is known for tackling big, status quo problems.
It’s no surprise that Ramirez would want to have her name on the executive producing credits for a show breaking so much ground, and that type of storytelling is exactly what draws Ramirez to finding herself in the role of a director herself (though she wants to do some more shadowing first).
“I love being a part of the story, but I would love to be in a position where I was in control of tone and the way that the story is told; there’s something so interesting to that,” Ramirez said. “I did get the opportunity to shadow, and I’ve just learned so much about even camera work, how there is storytelling within that. I’m an actor, so I get put on a mark and I do my thing where I’m comfortable, but I don’t take into account how much thought has been put into the shots in a scene or the way things are set up.”
Fortunately, Ramirez gets to take some of that passion for sharing anecdotes into another medium: music. Her sonic concepts are inspired largely by the music she grew up listening to, which she describes as everything from Etta James to Marilyn Manson, but Ramirez particularly resonated with the sounds of Motown, soul, and the storytelling of country.
She released her first EP, Discreet, in 2016, before debuting her first full-length project in early 2020. Over Your Head features singles “Liquid Courage” and “Broke Us,” both of which center narratives that sway between emotional and empowering and the intersection of the two with a typically high-energy pop sound.
While Ramirez carries on a character arc with Mariana in Good Trouble, she uses lyrics like, “Don’t tell me that you wanna stay / If that ain’t the truth / You just keep walkin’ away / But I’m talkin’ to you,” on “Broke Us” to shape a unique pop persona that separates who Ramirez as actor from who she is as a musician.
Striking a balance between telling stories on screen and in song is likely no easy feat, but Ramirez explained that the experiences have some overlap when it comes to creativity.
“It’s weird because, when you’re acting, you’re getting into a character that isn’t necessarily you, but you’re putting your whole heart and soul into it,” Ramirez said. “And I think that goes for music, as well. You’re telling a story, you’re playing a role and you’re hopping into shoes that will translate to a lot of other people in ways and touch them and they can relate to, just like acting. So, I think that they really go hand-in-hand.”
Despite their similarities, finding the space (both creatively and literally) to create music during the pandemic has been a challenge that Ramirez has yet to overcome — but she is excited for the moment she can get back in the game.
“It’s been difficult doing music during a pandemic, meeting up and going to the studio, so I haven’t been working on music,” Ramirez said. “I’m mainly just really happy that I’m able to do acting. But I know that inspiration will come really soon, and as soon as the world opens back up, I’m ready to get back out there.”
Though she isn’t sure when new music will hit the airwaves, the world will be seeing Ramirez on the small screen again very soon. With the season three premiere of Good Trouble dropping on Feb. 17, early 2021 brings an optimistic start to a year of artistic growth for Ramirez. And, chances are, she will find a way to do it all.