“When I see that cute little girl with her pretty brown skin, it makes me melt,” said actress Gina Rodriguez, who is Carmen in the animated series.
Carmen Sandiego and Maria Vargas Aponte don’t have much in common. One is a fictional criminal mastermind who travels the world to avoid capture, while the other is a very real Texas-based video game blogger who makes an honest living as a computer engineer.
But when Netflix released the trailer for its new series “Carmen Sandiego,” which drops on Jan. 18 and features actress Gina Rodriguez as the voice of the main character, Vargas Aponte watched it “more than 15 times.”
Like other young adults who grew up in the 1980s and ’90s loving computers and gaming, Vargas Aponte relates to Carmen for many reasons, though one sticks out.
“Many Latina characters are secondary characters, but with Carmen Sandiego, we have this badass Latina character,” said Vargas Aponte, 28, who grew up playing a version of the “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” computer game.
Rodriguez, a native of Chicago who is of Puerto Rican descent, views her character as one that bridges cultures, something that resonates among the increasingly diverse younger generations.
“Carmen gets to travel to so many different places all over the world, and you see her empathy and desire to learn other people’s languages and cultures and religions, and she teaches that,” Rodriguez said. “The show fuses two things I love the most, which is art and education, and when I see that cute little girl with her pretty brown skin, it makes me melt. I almost want to cry when I think about it.”
Carmen Sandiego was introduced to the world in 1985 as a character in a computer game.
The character has since appeared in multiple iterations of the game, such as “Where in the U.S. Is Carmen Sandiego?”; “Where in Europe Is Carmen Sandiego?”; “Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?” and others.
The character also inspired a PBS game show where middle-schoolers won prizes for successfully answering questions about geography, as well as an animated television series, “Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?” Rita Moreno was nominated for three Daytime Emmys for her voice work as Carmen in the latter series. On Thursday, fans found out that Moreno will be voicing the character of Cookie Booker in a few episodes of the new series.
Duane Capizzi, one of the new show’s executive producers, told Variety that “Gina just wigged out at the prospect of having both Carmens in our show, past and present.”
Though Carmen Sandiego was the center of a sprawling franchise, she was perhaps best known to young people like Vargas Apointe from the educational computer games where she first appeared — and where there were hardly any young women of color.
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