Marvel's Jessica Jones broke down many barriers in its critically-acclaimed first season by providing women with a feminist, nuanced exploration of sexual assault, addiction, and (sometimes literally) smashing the patriarchy with one of the first female superhero antiheroes, but it still could do better in terms of rounding out a diverse cast. But the addition of J.R. Ramirez to Jessica Jones Season 2 as Oscar, a potential new love interest for Jessica (Krysten Ritter), is bringing some much-needed Latino representation to the Netflix series.
Devoted single father Oscar moves into Jessica's building in an early episode of Season 2 with his young son, and while Ramirez can't reveal too much about his arc for the season, he was thrilled to be able to bring authenticity to Oscar by drawing on his own Cuban roots, especially in scenes with Oscar's mother and his son cooking meals together in his apartment.
"It means everything to me since I wasn't even born in this country. I came here as a baby," Ramirez tells Bustle. "And this show definitely needed some Latin representation, absolutely." While Jessica Jones did feature Rosario Dawson's "Night Nurse" Claire Temple in the first season, Ramirez — who watched Season 1 straight through when it first debuted on Netflix — was disappointed to see the lack of Latino characters. So being able to inject his culture into one of his favorite shows was important to him.
"There are not a lot of Latinos at all in it, so the fact that they are now bringing us in and they're highlighting culture and how important family is, the cooking, the love, it's all very much real in the day-to-day for the Hispanic culture," Ramirez says. "We're really showing that this year and to be a part of that in a time when people are starting to open their eyes to issues like cultural diversity, it's one of my favorite things, hands down, this season."
As a self-described fan of Jessica Jones, when Ramirez first watched Season 1 he never dreamed he would eventually be part of the Netflix series. Even throughout the casting process, Ramirez didn't even know what show he was auditioning for until he was deep into it.
"I had absolutely no idea," he says with a laugh. "I just had a feeling that it was going to be something good because when it's all secret like this and you don't even get the script, it can only mean that there are some higher up people behind it and it's something big."
Full of gratitude for the chance to join Jessica Jones in Season 2, Ramirez can't stop saying how "lucky" he is to get to play Oscar, not only to bring some much-needed Latino representation to the series but also because it's giving him the chance to play a character he's never gotten to explore before. "I've always wanted to play a father," he says. "Playing the dynamic of having a son was my favorite part about the show because it gave me so much to work with."
Ramirez describes Oscar as "a very talented artist who has been through a lot in his life." "He's a good guy, but he's definitely not always been on a straight path," he reveals. "He's definitely not had it easy. He's a hardworking, dedicated father who loves his son. He lives and breathes for his 10-year-old son that he would take a bullet for. His son is his whole world."
With everything that Oscar has gone through in his past, he's able to "connect with all the darkness and craziness that's going on around him" in the building when he moves in and becomes Jessica's neighbor. "He gets a job as a super in the building that Jessica and Malcolm [Eka Darville] live in so he's there trying to fix everything that breaks throughout this season," Ramirez says. "He's trying to make sure the building stays intact and upright."
With a super-powered, super strong person like Jessica living there and attracting all kinds of destructive trouble, that's no easy feat. "Yeah, she keeps him busy to say the least," Ramirez says with a big laugh. "He's quite busy throughout this season."
While Oscar and Jessica's first meeting doesn't go over well, it's not hard to imagine that their prickly dynamic will evolve into something more electric down the line. But at the beginning, Oscar is prejudiced towards Jessica because of her powers, which is a fascinating inverse of the usual prejudice seen between a white person and a Latino person.
"I loved that storyline," Ramirez says of flipping the expectations of that real-life issue. "It's such an interesting twist on the concept they've brought to the table. It's normally the other way around so it was cool to play with that in the first half of the season."
Ramirez promises that "the audience will learn more about why he has the hesitations he has towards her."
"I don't think he's prejudiced towards all powered people," he adds. "It's more a fatherly instinct that kicks in. He knows what those repercussions can be of hanging around powered people. Once he sees what she's capable of, he's trying to protect his son. You never know when you're coming into a show as a new character, but the writers really gave him a complex, multi-layered storyline with a wonderful arc throughout the whole season, so I am really excited to see what audiences think."
As for how Oscar and Jessica's relationship could grow from there, Ramirez can't reveal too much, but he does tease that executive producer Melissa Rosenberg "does such a great job of creating this push and pull there between Oscar and Jessica."
"There are obstacles they both have to get through together," he says. "She definitely doesn't make it easy for him but I do think that Oscar, because he has gone through so much in his life, there's something in Jessica that he relates to and can understand. He begins to have sympathy for her, seeing that she wants to just do good but everything falls apart around her. He gets that. Are they going to have a happy ending? It's Jessica Jones, so probably not. Who knows?"
But he is excited for fans to finally get answers this season to questions that were left hanging in Season 1.
"You're going to get answers this year," Ramirez promises. "We really dig into Jessica's backstory and explore why she is the way she is and why things are happening the way that they're happening. It's gritty and it gets even darker this year. The stakes are beyond heightened and I think people are going to love it." And with the wait for new episodes almost over, we'll finally get the chance to see for ourselves.