ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s not often that Azie Tesfai gets to play such a strong character.
Yet in CW’s Emmy Award-winning show, “Jane the Virgin,” she does.
Tesfai plays Det. Nadine Hanson.
“Nadine is so smart and capable,” she says while on break from filming in Los Angeles. “You don’t get that kind of character a lot. She puts her job first.”
Tesfai is part of the ensemble cast that has helped the show become one of the fall’s hits. The show airs at 7 p.m. Mondays on the CW.
She says what makes the series work are the relationships that each character has with each other.
In the series Hansan sparks a romantic relationship with Jane Vinnanueva’s, played by Gina Rodiguez, ex Michael Cordero Jr., played by Brett Dier.
The two detectives were once rivals, but working together has brought them closer.
“She cares about Michael,” she says. “At the same time, she doesn’t want to compromise her career. She’s not like most women in TV. She won’t budge when it comes to her career.”
Tesfai’s decision to join the series came very quickly.
She only read for the part once — which is a rarity — and was cast the same day as the audition.
“It was a good life lesson for me,” she says. “Then I was told to go to a table read and was just blown away.”
Tesfai says having no time to think about the project worked in her favor.
“I didn’t have any obsessive insecurity time,” he says. “Thanks to our casting director, I found my place.”
Because Tesfai came to the show after its airing, she had to catch up on the show.
“The entire series is special,” she says. “After a few episodes, critics were praising it and that’s when it all started flowing.”
Tesfai was born and raised in Los Angeles.
She splits most of her time between the U.S. and East Africa where her family still lives.
After finishing high school in Ethiopia with the hopes of becoming a lawyer, Tesfai was accepted into multiple Ivy League universities including Yale, UC Berkley, Brown, Columbia and went on to receiving her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from UC Berkeley.
After receiving a random call from an old print agent who offered her a test deal with Nickelodeon, she began traveling back-and-forth between L.A. and Berkeley attending auditions and acting classes.
After booking a role in “Wicked Wicked Games,” Tesfai completely fell in love with acting and has since landed roles on numerous hit TV shows including “Melrose Place,” “Wicked Wicked Games,” TNT’s “Franklin and Bash,” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
Because of her multinational upbringing, Tesfai has witnessed first-hand the issues related to poverty, hunger, and women’s rights in third world country and is very passionate about bringing awareness to these issues.
After a non-profit charity in Ethiopia that she was volunteering at was to be shut down, she began making and selling jewelry to friends and family to donate the fees and save the charity that was so close to her heart. Her success with this led to the creation of Fortuned Culture, her handmade jewelry line made in Los Angeles.
Each piece symbolizes the human needs that people desire: health, love, faith, wisdom, balance and more and with each purchase, these needs are fulfilled for someone less fortunate.
She has since partnered with charities all over the globe including TOMS who in 2012 bought 10,000 pieces of jewelry from the line.
“I’m not sleeping very much,” she says. “I had taken a year off from acting to start the jewelry line and do charity work.”
Though doing charity work was her purpose, Tesfai says acting is her passion and she felt the need to get back to it.
Now she’s balancing the series and her non profit.
“I do about four collections a year,” she says. “I’m never going to stop designing the jewelry.”
Tesfai is able to balance the two and admits there is very little time to do anything else.
“I wrote 2013 on a check the other day,” she says with a laugh. “I’m always a step behind and trying to catch up.”
Tesfai says some of her jewelry has appeared in the series and during her down time from shooting, she can be found working on the line.
“It’s a non stop business for me,” she says. “I feel very blessed and fortunate that I’m able to give back.”