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Home #Hwoodtimes San Antonio actress checks into Eva Longoria’s ‘Grand Hotel’

San Antonio actress checks into Eva Longoria’s ‘Grand Hotel’

Feliz Ramirez of San Antonio smolders in the pilot as stylish troublemaker Carolina, but reveals more dimensions in "Grand Hotel's" later episodes. (Photo: Ed Herrera, ABC)
By Jeanne Jakle

Every sudsy TV drama features at least one spoiled, selfish young troublemaker — the proverbial “bad girl,” if you will.

In early “Dallas,” it was Lucy. In “Dynasty,” Fallon, and in “Nashville,” Juliette.

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In “Grand Hotel,” ABC’s new summer getaway, Carolina, played by San Antonio actress Feliz Ramirez, seems to fit the bill.

The series, which is executive produced by Eva Longoria and based on Spanish drama “Gran Hotel,” has all the ingredients of an addictive soap: family squabbles, secrets, scandals, cliffhangers, even a mystery involving a hotel employee who seems to have met with foul play during a hurricane.

It also is a feast for the eyes, filled with bikinis, six-pack abs, poolside flirtations and spectacular beaches,

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In the pilot, which airs at 9 p.m. Monday, we’re introduced to the preening Carolina and her more down-to-earth fraternal twin Yoli (Justina Adorno).

They’re the daughters of Gigi (Roselyn Sánchez, “Devious Maids”), the glamorous and cunning second wife of charismatic Santiago Mendoza (Demián Bichir, “The Bridge”). He owns The Riviera Grand in Miami, a posh seaside hotel at the heart of the series.

Carolina and Yoli also are the despised stepsisters of Santiago’s two grown children, who still mourn the death of their mother, the soul of the hotel.

The pilot was directed by Ken Olin (“This Is Us”) and filmed at the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.

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“One of the intentions with the show was to make you feel like you were going on vacation,” creator Brian Tanen said at an ABC press session. “We are having incredibly troubled times right now, and this show feels like a tonic.

“It looks like nothing else on TV right now: blue skies, gorgeous beaches, beautiful people,” he added.

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Naughty Carolina causes trouble right from the start. Upset that a celebrity rapper she fancies has eyes for her comparatively plain sis, Carolina throws herself at him in his hotel room — the night before she’s set to marry someone else.

“It’s true that when someone steals her thunder, especially if it’s her sister, it’s a no-go for her,” said Ramirez, 27.

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Her betrayal is found out, and punches fly at the wedding; after all, brawls at such events are a tradition on nighttime soaps.

All this aside, Ramirez said her character isn’t as one-dimensional as she initially seems.

“There are really amazing dimensions to Carolina — things with family,” Ramirez said. “She gets put into situations where she needs to make a decision, needs to ask herself questions internally. That becomes a beautiful moment for her. She’s so surface all the time about her exterior, and when you see that moment, I can really tune in to that.”

Ramirez understands family dynamics. The San Antonio native grew up in a household of 10, which included her mom, dad and seven siblings.

That’s where any similarity to her character, who struts around in expensive designer fashions, ceases.

“I come from humble beginnings,” she said in an interview at the February TV Critics Association tour in Pasadena.

She lived in a three-bedroom, one-bath residence on West Woodlawn Avenue. Considering it had to accommodate so many children, “it was intense for a while,” she said. “We shopped at a thrift store.”

She attended St. Paul Catholic School and Antonian College Preparatory High School.

Her love of acting came early via modeling jobs and commercials. However, in order to attend college outside of San Antonio and eventually pursue her dream in a city more conducive to theater, film and TV, she needed a scholarship.

The avenue she took was sports: “Everything was about volleyball, and I focused on it intensely.”

It paid off. She helped Antonian win two state championships, which led to a free ride at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, N.Y.

She spent every moment away from class and off the court attending casting calls and auditions. After college, she joined a theater company, and her career was off and running.

She initially nabbed small parts, such as a guest shot on the CBS series “Bull.” “Grand Hotel” was her big break, a regular role in a network series.

Along with others in the cast, Ramirez speaks Spanish. Her grandparents hailed from Mexico, and her parents grew up near the Texas border, in Laredo and Hebbronville.

“I’m second-generation Mexican American,” she said.

Though “Grand Hotel” takes place in contemporary Miami, the show it’s based on was a period drama set in early 1900s Spain.

“It has a lot of themes of ‘Upstairs, Downstairs,’” Longoria said, “but we thought it was very unique to have the upstairs be a Hispanic family and to show a different community.”

“Nine of our 11 cast members are people of color,” she added.