Exclusive Q&A: Coral Peña on what makes For All Mankind’s Aleida unique

Coral Pena in season two of “For All Mankind,” now streaming on Apple TV+ Image Courtesy of Apple.
Coral Pena in season two of “For All Mankind,” now streaming on Apple TV+ Image Courtesy of Apple. /

In a series like For All Mankind, it ought to be difficult to stand out. But that’s exactly what Coral Peña’s portrayal of Aleida Rosales does. (You might even say that, contrary to what her Twitter handle claims, she’s the real deal.)

Like many of our favorites, we first met Aleida in Season 1. She was just a little girl, crossing the border with her dad in search of a better life.

Despite her talents for math and science getting her into the Kennedy Math and Science program, the America that Aleida lived in was not the one of the so-called American Dream. The last time we saw her before Peña came to the role in For All Mankind Season 2, her father was deported. She was running away from a home that had been torn apart, with a “Notice of Seizure” left on the door.

In Season 2, it’s obvious that the last 10 years have not been good to Aleida, which has shaped who she has become. What hasn’t changed is her talent for engineering or the way this series made her one of the precious few well-rounded immigrant characters on television.

Coral Peña
ATLANTA, GA – FEBRUARY 02: Actress Coral Peña attends Cast Award Photo Opp Backstage for “24: Legacy” during Day One of the aTVfest 2017 presented by SCAD on February 2, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for SCAD) /

Coral Peña on what makes telling Aleida’s immigrant story a dream come true

When we spoke with Coral Peña about Aleida, our conversation covered a lot of topics. In Part One, we discuss the importance of keeping true to her immigration story without making it be the only part of her story. In Part Two (coming soon), we’ll talk more at her personality, opening up to Bill Strausser, and tease a little bit about next season.

Hidden Remote: First, I have to say, my favorite part of For All Mankind Season 2 has been Aleida’s story.

Coral Peña: That’s so nice to hear!

HR: You were phenomenal. Aleida has all these layers that I want to discuss. But just to start out, what brought you to the character?

Coral Peña: It just appeared, and it felt really natural and comfortable. The writers, and [executive producer] Ron [Moore], and everyone felt the same way.

HR: Sounds like kind of the perfect thing at the perfect time, right place and everything.

Coral Peña: Exactly.

HR: Aleida has pushed everybody away, can’t keep a job…But she still so much talent. What should viewers take away from that?

CP: I sometimes feel like there’s not a lot of patience and compassion given to women like Aleida, who are clearly better than everyone in the room but aren’t focused on being likable. I hope, because we get a lot of Aleida’s backstory and understand the trauma she’s been through and the hardships that she’s gone through, that we recognize people like that in our lives, particularly women, and can expand that level of compassion and patience that women like her deserve.

That’s what I hope people take away from this because I don’t often feel like characters like Aleida exist. Usually, the troubled genius is played by a man. It’s exciting to see that being flipped.

HR: Bouncing off of the idea of not seeing a character like her a lot. I also, personally have seen—and please, correct me if I’m wrong—when television usually looks at an immigrant story, they either give us “she’s a screw-up.” Or she’s “in the family business,” as Aleida sarcastically tells Margo about being a janitor.

Or. They completely ignore where she became from to begin with. There’s usually not this mixing. Would you say that’s accurate?

CP: Yeah. I think, oftentimes, when there’s an immigrant in a story, especially one that is an illegal immigrant, that is their only personality trait—that they’re an immigrant.

What was really exciting about Aleida is that it was a piece of her story, and that’s something that colors her personality. But it’s not the only thing to know about her.

In fact, it’s the least exciting thing about her. She has this deep love and skill in Engineering, and even that isn’t her main personality trait.

She’s all of these things at once. She’s allowed to be complicated and multi-faceted, and when it’s an immigrant, that’s rare to see on TV.

HR: In terms of the importance of finally getting to see an immigrant character with these layers, after what’s been enabled—encouraged, let’s be honest—over the past several years…If people who aren’t used to seeing that representation, might it reach at least one viewer? Or do you think it’ll take a lot more than that?

CP: I think people who want to make enemies out of immigrants will find any way to make enemies out of immigrants. So, as complicated and heartbreaking as Aleida’s story is, I think that people who want to see Aleida as an enemy will always see her as obnoxious, or “oh, she’s so aggressive.”

They’ll find any reason to dislike her because that’s their goal at the end of the day—to make an enemy out of someone who isn’t a citizen or, really, anyone who is an “other.” So, even if you’re a citizen, if you’re “other” than them, they’ll find a way to make you an antagonist.

My focus is never on making people who would otherwise see Aleida as a bad person, [see her] as a good person. To be Aleida in this way, and to be blunt, I don’t care about that or about those people.

I care about the people who need to see Aleida because they are Aleida. This is who that’s for. Although when I’m working on something, that’s not what I’m necessarily focusing on, I do know, when I zoom out, that those are the people who will get the most out of Aleida.

And those are the people who I want to get the most out of Aleida. I want them to see themselves and to make them feel like they can do whatever they want. Because they can!

No matter what they’re told, or no matter how little of themselves they see, they can do whatever they want. They can strive to be whoever they want. They are given permission to.

HR: Is there anything that you haven’t been able to talk about with Aleida before that you’d like to?

CP: I’ve said this once before, but it was never a direct question. There’s not a lot of latin people that occupy sci-fi spaces. And the other layer that’s exciting about Aleida, on top of all the complicated layers that she has as a character, when you zoom out…

I’m a big sci-fi fan, and it’s been one of my dreams for a long time to actually be part of something that was sci-fi related. A dream of mine has come true by being able to play, not only a latin person in this sci-fi world, but to play a complicated latin person whose latinness doesn’t get stripped from them.

You might see a latin person in something sci-fi. But there’s no talk of them being latin, or they’re playing an alien.

They lose all of that identity part of themselves. And so, there’s a lot that comes with this character that I’m grateful to be the one that brings her to the world.

I’m so fortunate and happy to be a part of this show. I feel very lucky.

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HR: Thank you. I think that’s the perfect place to end, actually…

CP: Thank you!

Don’t miss Coral Peña as Aleida in For All Mankind Season 2. And stay tuned for more of our interview closer to the finale!