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Station 19's Jaina Lee Ortiz Went from Pro Salsa Dancer to Grey's Anatomy Spin-off Star


Actress Jaina Lee Ortiz stars as a first responder based near Grey’s Anatomy’s hospital in Shonda Rhimes’ new series Station 19 — and she’s prepared for any challenge. The Bronx native, 31, was a professional salsa dancer before she turned to acting.

“It comes in handy doing stunts or something physical,” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on stands Friday. “It also taught me discipline. Knowing my body and being familiar with choreography, I can say, ‘No, I can do that. Challenge me.’”

Ortiz, 31, trained with active firefighters to prepare for the series and works with consultants for the show as well. “We learned as much as we could,” she says. “It was like a fast-track Fire Academy in two days.”

Most of the equipment used on set is real. “If it gets to be too much, then we opt for the fake oxygen tanks and axes and even those are heavy!” Ortiz adds. “We definitely get our workout in.”

Her character, firefighter Andrea Herrera, “is the alpha female,” the actress says. “She’s not afraid to ask for what she wants. She is supercompetitive, and I wish I had her courage and mental strength. The more I learn about her, the more I’m starting to realize she is the woman I want to be when I grow up.”

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Ortiz, who also worked as a makeup artist before winning parts on shows like Fox’s Rosewood and USA Network’s Shooter, channels her father, Joe, a retired first grade homicide detective, when her character needs “to be a badass,” she says. “I’m the female version of him in all my roles.”

For more of Ortiz’ interview, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday

When she isn’t working, Ortiz stays in shape by hiking and doing core power yoga and prefers to hang out at home or spend time with friends. “I’m an introvert, so I’ll read a book or watch a movie,” she says. “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I’m kind of boring, but at the same time, I just love taking care of myself and spending time with friends and family. It keeps me grounded.”

Station 19 premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

(This story has not been edited by N24 staff and is People.com auto-generated from a RSS feed.)

Published Date: Saturday, March 24th, 2018 | 12:45 AM

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