As the reboot of Fantasy Island takes hold of us all, there’s one aspect that we definitely can’t ignore — the new character, Elena Roarke. Played by Roselyn Sanchez, Elena is taking the world and her guests by storm by granting their wishes, whether they know what they’re asking for or not. And there are a lot of ties to the original Fantasy Island.
But it’s not just Roselyn’s character, Elena, that we love. We also love Roselyn in general — honestly, she’s already iconic. It’s rare to see a Latinx leading lady, and Roselyn is proof that we need to see it more often. So who exactly is she and who is her character, Elena?
Roselyn Sanchez plays Elena Roarke in the ‘Fantasy Island’ reboot.
In the original Fantasy Island, which ran from 1978 to 1984 on ABC, the proprietor of the island was a mysterious Mr. Roarke. We know basically nothing about him, and the show itself borders on scary. He remains aloof as the island grants the wishes of his guests, sometimes to their detriment.
On the other hand, Elena Roarke is much more “human.” She has a flirtationship with the head of transport, Javier, played by John Gabriel Rodriquez, and it’s clear she has more empathy than her predecessor. Not only was Mr. Roarke her predecessor, but Elena Roarke is actually the grandniece of the original Mr. Roarke, who was played by Ricardo Montalbán.
“Elena was a regular woman studying neurobiology, madly in love, engaged to get married,” Roselyn explained to the New York Times. “She didn’t want the responsibility; she just wanted to have a normal life. But the last name and the legacy is bigger than her.” So unlike her great-uncle, Elena is definitely a bit more well-rounded.
Roselyn Sanchez talks about what it means to be part of the ‘Fantasy Island’ reboot.
Roselyn's been acting for decades — some of her most well-known roles were as Lisa Morales in Act of Valor in 2012 and as Isabella Molina in Rush Hour 2 in 2001. So she’s really been around the scene.
“I’ve been No. 2, 3, 4, 5 on call sheets,” Roselyn explained. “This is the first time I can say: ‘It’s me on the poster, and I’m by myself. I’m No. 1 on the call sheet!’ And it happened at 48 years old.”
It’s exciting that this is finally happening for Roselyn, especially with a show like Fantasy Island. She actually used to watch the original when she was growing up in Puerto Rico, which is where the reboot shot 90 percent of its scenes.
She even put her directorial debut on hold to take part in the Fantasy Island reboot, which brought hundreds of jobs and $54 million to Puerto Rico, which is still suffering from natural disasters and COVID-19.
Showrunner Elizabeth Craft explained that in Roselyn, they found the necessary “humor, warmth, compassion, and natural authority” they wanted to bring to Elena Roarke. Plus, the Fantasy Island reboot is a completely feminist switcheroo from the original.
“Directors, a lot of heads of departments, showrunners — they’re all female, behind the camera and in front of the camera,” Roselyn revealed. So the reboot definitely has a modern and unique point of view.
We are fully rooting for Fantasy Island’s success behind Roselyn Sanchez.
Tune into Fantasy Island Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST on FOX.