Towering in the center of Times Square in New York City is a billboard promoting Pitch Perfect 3. On it, eight women in black serve serious looks that scream, I'm ready to kick some ass. One of those fierce females is Hialeah native Chrissie Fit.
"It was surreal [to see]," Fit says with a smile that can be heard in her voice. "Having your face on a billboard in Times Square is something you dream about when you're younger... but what makes the moment even cooler is seeing so many strong women standing side-by-side — now that's really inspiring."
It's a recent Saturday afternoon, and Fit has just returned from the airport to her Los Angeles home after attending the Latin Grammys in Las Vegas. "I had never been before," she says, "and not only was it a great show, but I was taken aback by all the positive messages." The 18th-annual awards ceremony opened with rapper Residente dedicating his performance to his native Puerto Rico. The evening was filled with tributes to the island.
"I think it's a really important time to use your platform to help speak on these issues that are affecting so many people," says Fit, adding that the Latin Grammys were like a "message and a show" wrapped into one.
Fit is from Miami-Dade's "La Ciudad Que Progresa," so it's only fitting that she use her talents to bring progress to Hollywood. The Cuban-American is best known for her work in Disney's Teen Beach movies and stars in the upcoming third installment of the Pitch Perfect franchise.
Though Fit wasn't onstage at the Latin Grammys, she understands the power of celebrity. Because both Teen Beach movies were filmed on location in Puerto Rico, Fit and her former castmates came together to design a limited-edition tee whose sale proceeds are donated to the Hispanic Federation. "We became a family when we shot a film on the beautiful beaches of Puerto Rico," Fit says. "Now we are coming together to support the people of Puerto Rico in their recovery efforts."
In her latest film, Fit doesn't go to Puerto Rico, but she does get to travel overseas for a mini European adventure. "Pitch Perfect 3 goes international," she quips. "The girls are out of college and in the real world, trying to find their place where they don't have a part to sing." They join a USO tour and compete for the chance to be the opening act for South Florida's DJ Khaled.
The film's main story line centers on Beca (Anna Kendrick), but its supporting cast continues to play a vital role. "We all have a presence in the film and contribute to the group," says Fit, who plays Flo. Ultimately, she says, Pitch Perfect is about friendship and the unconditional love of a chosen family. Flo, a token Latina character, is a member of that family. But this time around, the actor wanted to do something different — to move away from plots and lines that seemed to exploit her for being a minority.
"With this third movie, given everything [happening in our country and around the world], I sat down with the director and had conversations with the producers and writers," she says, "and expressed my desire to not rely on the 'In my country' jokes or do that kind of bit."
Frankly, she adds, "I just wasn't comfortable doing that this time around."
It's becoming more common to see Hispanic culture and Latino characters properly represented in Hollywood. That shift is due in part to actors like Fit who speak out against stereotypical roles and misrepresentation.
"I knew that if I brought up these concerns [about my character], it would be a risk and that I wouldn't be given as many jokes this time around," Fit explains. "But it was important for me to take that risk and have Flo be just a natural part of the group and not constantly talk about the Bellas' 'white-girl problems' or to refer to a time in her country when things were bad."
So where exactly is Flo now, after graduating from the fictitious Barden University? "She's very hardworking, and without giving anything away, I would say that Flo is the Bella that is the most put together after college. She's making really good life choices, and that's all I'm going to say," Fit adds with a laugh.
When she's not playing a Latina on the big screen, Fit can be found on TV. She recently recorded an episode of Disney's animated series Elena of Avalor in which she voiced Princess Valentina, who lands in Avalor to shake things up with the titular Princess Elena (voiced by fellow Miamian Aimee Carrero).
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"I think a lot of girls dream of being a Disney Princess, and when I was growing up, there were no Latina Disney Princesses to look up to," she says. For her, Jasmine was the princess she could relate to most because of her dark hair and olive skin — despite the character being from the Middle East.
But now there's Elena. And Disney is adding more Latina princesses to the world of Avalor, including Princess Valentina. "To just see another Latina princess is great. Valentina is sassy and a little bit conceited," Fit says, "and it's awesome to play! We [Latinas] come in all shapes and sizes, and to see that represented in the show is really cool."
In addition to acting, Fit is producing and writing stories with strong Latino characters. "I think we just need to have more stories written about us, and people behind the scenes can make a real difference."
Catch Fit in Pitch Perfect 3, out Thursday, December 21, and in an upcoming episode of CBS' Code Black in February 2018.