Jillian Mercado is a proud, disabled Afro-Latina (Dominican) actress who is determined to put her best foot forward playing immigration attorney, Maribel Suarez in Showtime’s THE L WORD: GENERATION Q which is a sequel to thr groundbreaking series THE L WORD (2004 to 2009), which focused mainly on a close-knit group of bisexual and lesbian women.
This season of THE L WORD: GENERATION Q kicks off in the aftermath of Sophie’s (Rosanny Zayas) decision at the airport as she, Dani (Arienne Mandi), and Finley (Jacqueline Toboni) are all left to pick up the pieces. Meanwhile, Bette’s (Jennifer Beals) personal and professional pursuits force her to reexamine her roots — something Angie (Jordan Hull) also questions and explores in her own way. In the wake of her divorce, Shane (Katherine Moennig) throws herself into finding new ways to keep the bar thriving, while Alice (Leisha Hailey) is surprised when writing her first book steers her whole life in a new direction. Micah (Leo Sheng) is pushed to reckon with his identity as he navigates big changes in his career and love life, while Gigi’s (Sepideh Moafi) journey to move on from Nat (guest star Stephanie Allynne) and Alice takes an unexpected turn.
Growing up with muscular dystrophy, Mercado notes that people with disabilities are rarely realistically portrayed in movies and TV. This season she steps into a new, romantic relationship and she’s grateful that she’s able to bring to life a fully developed character with a rich career and a thriving love life.
It’s fair to say that Jillian Mercado (born April 30, 1987) is a role model and a hope for thousands of creative artists who are disabled. It’s clear from her accomplishments that she doesn’t take “no” for an answer often. Along with her work as an actress, Mercado is a prominent figure in the fashion world and constantly challenging archaic ideas of beauty. True to her zodiac sign (Taurus), she is keen to fight the lack of representation for people with disabilities in the fashion, entertainment industry, and beyond.
A New Yorker, Mercado’s love for fashion originated from her mother, a dressmaker, and she studied fashion merchandising at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (2006 to 2010), completing internships at Veranda and Allure magazines. Deeply involved in that world, she volunteered at the famed Fashion Week for years, which ultimately allowed her to cover events for society photographer Patrick McMullan’s PMc Magazine.
Fashion beckoned and Mercado answered and in 2014, she was featured in her first campaign for designer denim brand Diesel. That successful campaign caught the attention of IMG Models President Ivan Bart and landed her a modeling contract with IMG in 2015. In 2016, she was one of three models who appeared in a campaign for Beyoncé’s official website which promoted merchandise for the singer’s single and the Formation world tour. To date, she has been featured in numerous campaigns and editorials spreads and is represented by CAA Worldwide.
Here is what Jillian Mercado had to share about being on THE L WORD: GENERATION Q as a proud Afro-Latina, Queer disabled woman.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL: You are Afro-Latina, correct? Dominican?
JILLIAN MERCADO: Yes.
LAS: I live in a Spanish-speaking, Dominican household and my Spanish is horrible but it works.
JM: (laughing) I am sure it does.
LAS: CONGRATUTIONS on your expanded storyline this season. I think there is some kissy-kissy, love smooching coming your way. Am I wrong?
JM: (laughing) We are on the L Word honey. We. Are. On. The. L. Word.
LAS: Yasss, but I think that you are going to be the one to break a heart or two.
JM: I love it. I. Love. It. The storyline can go so many different ways. You know that Dominicans bring the drama in.
LAS: Do you guys even call it drama, isn’t it more like, it’s like Monday?
JM: (laughing) No. We call it waking up. I feel like we are the spice of life, you have to put some spice in it.
LAS: I agree. You have to spice it up. It’s THE L WORD: GENERATION Q. Let’s talk about being a disabled actress.
JM: Let’s do that.
LAS: The creators of the show don’t harp or focus on the fact she’s disabled.
JM: She’s written as a humanized person and it’s beautiful. A lot of people in the entertainment industy are fearful of humanizing people like myself.
LAS: That’s so sad. Why do you think that is?
JM: I don’t think that they know how to write about us which is valid, and I think the key message is about giving opportunities and giving people like myself a voice.
LAS. Yes, I agree.
JM: And the writers on the show have been very comfortable and open and have allowed me to be as authentic as I am in real life and to bring that to this character [immigration attorney Maribel Suarez]. It was a lot of meetings, there was a lot of conversations and there were so many times that our showrunner would ask — ‘would this happen in real life for you?’ — and [here, again] I was able to help make my character as authentic as possible because of the simple fact, that we all agree that there wasn’t [enough positive] representation as there should be with authentic stories, with people who live the life of having a physical disability like myself.
LAS: That’s so vital. To be a role model, in a way.
JM: I am an advocate in the community, so it was important for me to show that on television because I have such a great opportunity to really rewrite the book of what it is to live a life like myself and to portray that on television. In my personal life, I don’t discuss my medical history. I’m dating and traveling and doing everything that a ‘quote – unquote – normal person does’ except that I ride around in my chair. I think that this industry has an obsession to try and make us feel less than.
JM: We [disabled actors] are always dying or always the help and wrapped around these really sad stories, and that’s not the life that I live. And so, it’s such a blessing and a useful opportunity that I have with being a part of THE L WORD: GENERATION Q.
To watch and share the trailer, go to: https://youtu.be/LAL3MZRqAzs.