GiGi Erneta often finds that her life mirrors the classic television series “Green Acres.” A self-proclaimed city girl, Erneta lives with her husband on a ranch in Texas, and she admits that at times she feels a bit out of place. “I’m kind of like Zsa Zsa Gabor,” she says. “Just out in the city one day and then out on the ranch the next day. My husband is the farmer. I’m not. If I had the choice, I would be able to wear heels out back.”
For more than two decades, Erneta has worked steadily in the entertainment industry in a variety of roles, working as a film and television actor, host, TV reporter, writer, producer, stage actor, voice actor, and stunt person, among others. She’s had roles in the surprise hit film Happy Death Day and its upcoming sequel Happy Death Day 2 U, the military-themed film Flag of my Father, and the Sean Penn series The First. She can also be seen in a few notable upcoming projects, including the horror film Body Cam, the new PureFlix series Sons of Thunder, and the acclaimed series Veep.
Born to Argentinian parents, Erneta started performing at a young age. “I started dancing when I was two, and when I was eight, my parents moved me from New York to Houston where they put me in a Houston ballet academy,” says Erneta. “I was picked up by the dance company and ended up performing in front of thousands of people. A lot of kids get kind of freaked, but I was just embracing it and I loved it. I couldn’t wait to perform. I thought I was going a ballerina until I was about 13 or so.”
Erneta was accepted into the Royal Academy of Dance, but her dreams of becoming a professional dancer were cut short when she was diagnosed with a curved back. “I really pushed into the acting instead,” she says. “I did a McDonald’s commercial when I was 15, which was my first SAG job. So, I was like, ‘Oh, I can do this.’”
Erneta ended up getting a film degree from UT (The University of Texas at Austin) and eventually headed out to Los Angeles. Her parents were supportive of her decision, but it wasn’t their first career choice for her. “They wanted me to be a doctor,” she says. “Well, I shouldn’t say “they” wanted me to. I was thinking that if I had to get a “job” job, then I wanted to be a doctor. But when I found out I had to cut into cadavers I said, ‘No thank you.’ So, I stuck with my acting, which was always my plan A anyway. I decided I was going to play a doctor instead.”
Speaking fluent Spanish, Erneta has been able to work on a number of Spanish-language projects, though her upbringing didn’t necessarily encourage the use of the language. “My family told me pretty much ‘Okay no more Spanish’ because I had to go through school,” she says. “They weren’t as friendly in school back then. Either you learned English or you couldn’t pass your classes. It’s not like it is now. Now as an adult, I am struggling more with my Spanish because I’m not using it as much, but I do feel like I have an advantage. Because my family is Argentinian, and Argentinians tend to be a little bit more European looking, I don’t fit the casting version of what they think a Latina looks like. But with that being said, there are so many opportunities coming now because people are realizing we come in so many colors.”
Early in her acting career, Erneta supplemented her acting roles with stunt work. “After my dancing, I began figure skating I competed on the ice,” she says. “I was a pairs skater briefly and I learned how to fall because my partner would drop (laughing). So, I learned how to fall without hurting myself and that is how I get into stunts. When I was in LA, they would call for me skating or rollerblading stunt work. I kind of dabbled in it a little bit, and then I got to do some driving stunts. I just get called for random things now, but if there is a role that and requires stunt work, I’d like to do my own stuff. Though I will not do fire gags. That is where I draw the line. I don’t do flames.”
Of the many different aspects of the industry in which Erneta is involved, television is the medium she finds herself drawn to. “Television is kind of where I’m putting all of my energy now,” she says. “It moves fast. There really isn’t a lot of time to fool around. You are in and out of a scene like that. They could spend three or four days in one scene on film and you just don’t have that kind of time. So, I just like the pacing. I like the fact that you are not in any one position very long. I like seeing the results. On a film it can sometimes take a couple of years for them to get done and then I never know if I’m on the editing room floor.”
As of late, many of Erneta’s roles are those of strong authoritative characters, which she is just fine with. “I think I’ve found my little niche and I really like it,” she says. “I would be open to trying other things. but I really enjoy those kinds of roles and I really don’t mind people looking at me as an attorney, or a doctor, or a news anchor, or some other kind of professional. I would love to be able to play a mom and have a good, solid dramatic series, but I realized that there are so many opportunities in the roles I’m already in.”
Special thanks to Eaya Moore for transcribing the interview.