For most actors, delving into one character’s trauma can be dark and challenging enough, but Diane Guerrero delves into dozens.
The 34-year-old, who is known for her roles in Orange is the New Black and Jane The Virgin, admitted she has started going to therapy since taking on the role of Crazy Jane in DC’s latest reimagining of the cult comic Doom Patrol.
The abstract and bizarre series follows a number of downtrodden superheroes as they try to save the world and deal with their own traumas.
Guerrero’s character, who suffers dissociative identity disorder, has developed 64 alternate personalities – each with their own unique superpower – in response to extreme sexual abuse.
In a video conference with The New Daily, Guerrero said that it was often hard to let the character’s struggles go at the end of a long day of shooting.
“I definitely had to go to therapy and take care of myself in that way,” Guerrero said.
Jane goes to very deep places, but that also means I have to go to very deep places in order to achieve the kind of empathy that I need for Jane.
“I have to – also as an actor – refer to my own life and to my own lived experiences, which have been also quite traumatic.”
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A new kind of superhero
The opportunity to play a character with such a rich, complex backstory is a dream come true for Guerrero, who said she was tired of auditioning for “the ditsy girl,” and characters that didn’t “push any boundaries”.
Crazy Jane, with alters like the aggressive Hammerhead (who has super strength) or Baby Doll (a telekinetic child-like alter) allows Guerrero to explore her acting abilities.
In the original comic series, written by Clint Mansell and Kevin Kiner, Crazy Jane was not written as a Latinx character, which was one boundary Guerrero was eager to push.
A vocal activist, Guerrero is passionate about equal representation and using her platform to empower marginalised members of the community.
“I never really saw a superhero that represented much of my community, and I was interested in seeing how that fit and this opportunity came by and it was absolutely perfect,” Guerrero said.
“Not just a superhero but one that is deeply, deeply troubled.”
Scarlet Harlot (a sex addict with the ability to create ectoplasm projections and absorb psychosexual energy) and Karen (a giddy romantic who can make people fall in love with her) are some of Guerrero’s favourite alters.
As well as exploring some exciting, eccentric characters within Crazy Jane, Doom Patrol has allowed Guerrero to work with some of Hollywood’s elite.
Brendan Fraser (The Mummy franchise), Matt Bomer (American Horror Story, White Collar) and Alan Tudyk (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) all co-star alongside Guerrero as Robotman, Negative Man and Mr Nobody.
“It’s been such a treat because everybody on set, everybody who has played with us, has such respect for this craft, and has such respect for each other and is very generous with what they know and with the work that they’re giving you,” Guerrero said.
“I’ve never worked with a cast that I’ve liked so much.”
Not quite Jekyll and Hyde …
Dissociative identity disorder (DID), previously known as multiple personality disorder, is a mental illness that Hollywood often gets wrong.
Whether it’s James McAvoy in Split, Edward Norton in Primal Fear, or Anthony Perkins in Psycho, sufferers of DID are often portrayed as violent, murderous villains.
Though her alters range from innocent child to aggressive misandrist, Crazy Jane is still a hero at heart.
Providing meaningful, positive representation to those suffering complex mental health issues is important to Guerrero, who researched the role extensively.
“I’ve been all of these characters in me in some way or another and I try to honour that by just trying to make my choices small – not every character has to have this grandiose presence,” she said.
“Often people who suffer from DID are misdiagnosed or not believed … something that I made sure of is to learn some of the experiences that people have.
“I just try to respect that as I can by making each character not a cartoon version of what it is.
“Every single person has a different experience, its not one cutout copy for each person – there may be some similarities but certainly everyone has different experiences because everyone has different trauma.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14
Doom Patrol Season 1 and 2 is available to stream from September 2 on BINGE