From Taina to Primo, Christina Vidal Has Always Been Our It Girl

It’s early morning in Christina Vidal’s Los Angeles home office. She’s easing into the day, doing her best not to let her lengthy to-do list creep into her mindspace too soon.
“So I am not an organized person,” Vidal, 41, tells Refinery29 Somos one early Friday morning. “I can let things get a little bit dirty, but I don’t like it to be dirty for too long. Like right now, I’ve got dishes in my sink since I got home about three days ago and it’s driving me nuts.”
Such is life as a mom of two young daughters, ages five and two. While a non-parent might ask how motherhood changes everything, a parent would probably reframe the question entirely, Vidal explains. 
“I think a better question would be, how didn’t it?” she says. “It is a crash course in learning to be unselfish. The things you talked about, the things you were concerned about, the things you can add energy to before having children, that completely changes. Your perspective on all of that changes.”
Vidal’s adventures in parenthood have helped her prepare for her latest role on the new Amazon series Primo, which follows a Latine teenager, 16-year-old Rafa (Ignacio Diaz-Silverio), who’s living in San Antonio alongside his single mom Drea (played by Vidal) and five uncles. Each character means well when it comes to Rafa’s upbringing, but tons of familial chaos — set against a good dose of humor — ensues over the course of season one’s eight-episode run. 

"The character, the writing — this is the kind of stuff I actually dream about. That’s when I really became committed to getting the part."

Christina vidal
When the role of Drea first came in, Vidal was auditioning for various parts simultaneously. After landing a callback, she dug even deeper into the script, further cementing her intense interest in the role.
“They had given me a couple new scenes [where] I was like, ‘I have to get this part,’” Vidal says. “The character, the writing — this is the kind of stuff I actually dream about. That’s when I really became committed to getting the part.”
The moment Vidal received the call she’d been waiting for, it came with a few hiccups. “I was in the shower and my phone rings,” she recalls, laughing. “I answer it from the shower: Hello? Hello? Hello? There was nothing that was gonna keep me from that phone call.”
After some back and forth with her team, the news was official: She got the part. Vidal went “screaming down the hall,” celebrating with her husband and kids. “I just couldn’t believe I booked it honestly, and I was so grateful.”
When she considers how she’s different from her on-screen counterpart Drea, Vidal highlights Drea’s strength and resourcefulness. She’s used to having the weight on her and understands how to carry the mental load not just for herself, but her entire family. 
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.
“She’s just tough and a little bit scary,” Vidal says. “That is not me at all. But it’s the women in my family: my mom, my sisters, my tías, and my grandmas. I come from very strong-willed, sort of alpha females.” 
Vidal, however, came out “like a little delicate dove” among these alpha women. Her sensitivity and aloofness set her apart from others in her family. “I have always been taken care of by my family members because I’m the baby of the four kids. Drea is more like my oldest sister and my mom. So what was good about that is I feel like I already knew her, even though I myself don’t embody those qualities.”
Drea is a world away from the character of Taina Morales on the early 2000s show Taina, which aired on Nickelodeon from 2001 to 2002. Vidal played the now-iconic role, stepping into the shoes of a young Puerto Rican teen living in New York City who dreams of a successful career as a singer and actor. 

"It’s all these 20-somethings telling me how my show was life-changing for them. And it’s like, wow. That’s pretty amazing. Thank you."

christina vidal
“Taina, like me, was Puerto Rican from New York; Taina, like me, went to performing arts high school and wanted to be a star,” Vidal shares. “That was me. I was like, this is literally my story.”
Through Taina, Vidal unintentionally provided a representation of Latina girlhood that resonated with countless kids and teenagers of a certain generation. To this day, people still come up to her to express how much Taina means to them.
“It’s all these 20-somethings telling me how my show was life-changing for them,” Vidal says. “And it’s like, wow. That’s pretty amazing. Thank you.”
After Taina, there was her turn in Freaky Friday, alongside Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. “Oh, my gosh, that was so much fun,” Vidal recalls of working on the 2003 Disney film. 
“The director of that movie [Mark Waters] found me from Taina and kind of pushed for me to play Maddie. He was like, ‘It needs to be her.’ So that was really cool.”
While her career seemed to be at an all-time high, Vidal actually felt a bit stuck. There was a long period of time where she was “not Nickelodeon young enough.” 
Photo: Courtesy of Nickelodeon.
“But I also still looked too young to move into more of the adult stuff, so it was kind of a weird time for about five years,” she says. “I worked here and there, on and off, but not really much.” 
She then left the business for two years in what she describes as “sort of an Eat Pray Love moment.” She sought clarity, peace. What was she going to do next? From her vantage point, she didn’t really have a career anymore. 
“And now God has kind of changed my life and the way I even think about what I want in life,” she says. “But then he made it very clear that I was, in fact, going back into acting. When that happened, it felt like a new career because I felt like a new person. I was starting from the ground up again.”
Her first job back ended up being with her sister, veteran actor Lisa Vidal, on the BET show Being Mary Jane in 2015. The Vidal sisters played onscreen sisters at the suggestion of the show’s creator, Mara Brock Akil. The younger Vidal “will forever be grateful” for that comeback opportunity.
“I was anxious and all that,” she says. “It was this beautiful moment with me and my sister. I was so glad she was there to walk me back in because I was really nervous.”

"It felt like a new career because I felt like a new person. I was starting from the ground up again."

For most of her career, Vidal avoided being overly discerning about roles. “I was just like, please hire me, please give me a job,” she says. It wasn’t until the last three or four years that she became more intentional about the opportunities she seeks as an actor. 
“I got stuck in a niche of drama so now I try to not search for it,” she says. “I’m drawn to more comedic roles. My dream is to have a career like Julia Roberts or Jennifer Aniston, where you have these huge dramatic things here and there that you do.”
Another role she’s ready to try on: rom-com leading lady. “I hope it happens soon because I can still play a single older woman who’s just looking for love,” she says. “And maybe she finds it at a villa in Italy. I don’t know — I wanna do one of those so bad.”
Petition for Christina Vidal to star in a rom-com? Immediately yes. 

More from TV

R29 Original Series