Why aren’t there more Latinos in Hollywood movies and TV?
Melinna Bobadilla identifies as an “active actor” who had a fairly successful start to her career. In 2017, she landed the role of Bertha in Luis Valdez’s cover of “Zoot Suit” at the Mark Taper Forum. Then, she got a recurring role in the final season of “Orange Is the New Black” (playing an indigenous migrant stranded in detention at an immigration and customs control center) and appeared in a key episode of the Apple + immigrant anthology series âLittle America.â She also has a role in the upcoming second season of Netflix’s darling âGentefiedâ. And she starred in the short film “For Rosa,” portraying one of the real-life women sterilized without full consent at Los Angeles County General Hospital in the 1970s. It is now airing on HBO Max .
But there are some roles the Lincoln Heights native, UC Berkeley and New York University graduate, is struggling to land. These are the neutral roles with no identified race or ethnicity.
âWhen I audition for these roles, I end up watching the show or movie, and it’s white by default,â says Bobadilla. âSo I wonder if there is only lip service to fairness and diversity in the cast. It’s really easy to hide behind.â Well, he’s just the best person for it. work.”
It’s up to color creators to make way for actors like Bobadilla.
Kumail Nanjiani, co-creator of “Little America,” set out to tell original immigrant stories by hiring writers, directors and actors of color. The episode of Bobadilla, directed by Aurora Guerrero, is about a high school student whose immigration status affects her educational prospects. The Boyle Heights drama “Gentefied”, directed by co-creators Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette ChÃ¡vez, was praised for showcasing a rainbow of up-and-coming artists from Chicano, Central America and California who are part of a generation pushing for richer representation in studios and media companies.
Increasingly – and also posing new challenges – actors and audiences of the Bobadilla generation tend to want their entertainment to reflect or match their values. Bobadilla, who described herself as Chicana, says she chooses roles being aware of her “positionality”. She said she had a hard time deciding to play the character “Orange Is the New Black” identified as Maya KÊ¼icheÊ¼, as she was not a member of that specific Indigenous group.
âI’m not a fan of saying, ‘What about us? Where is our equivalent of this Black show? Or this Asian show? ‘ I would always say there isn’t enough representation when it comes to black actors and black executives, âBobadilla said. “Are we just complying with bilingual whiteness?” Again, this is erasure. I am interested in disenfranchising white supremacy in all its facets.
For this, she is inspired by two pioneering models: Viola Davis and Sandra Oh.
âI look up to them and I feel a connection, and I feel empowered in a way that I don’t feel when I see a white Latin American person just because they have a Spanish last name,â Bobadilla said. . “It’s not enough for me.”
Longoria stressed that even with the diversity of races and origins that count as Latino, unity is necessary.
âDo we have collective power if we segregate ourselves? âI am not Cuban; I don’t want to watch this show. I am not Mexican; I don’t want to watch this show, âLongoria said, echoing some reactions to the shows among viewers. âOur community also has a responsibility to show off. We need everyone to keep their foot on the gas.
She would like to see more recruiting of executives, agents, producers, casting directors, Latino technicians of all kinds: âYou want someone in the DNA of these companies, and in these rooms, who understands the community.
âWe all want diversity; the industry wants it too, but they also spend a lot of money, so they want the product to generate income, âsaid director and screenwriter Michael D. Olmos, a son of Edward James Olmos. âIt’s all of those things. It’s a horse or buggy thing.
Co-director of the 2012 hit “Filly Brown” with Gina Rodriguez and the late Jenni Rivera, the younger Olmos said the industry he has pursued can often be a “meritocracy”, but it is also an “industry of reference “, where connections matter most. And making those connections can be difficult.
That’s part of why Elder Olmos founded the Youth Cinema Project, which teaches fourth-graders how to make their own films. He wants to tackle the question of the âpipelineâ as soon as possible.
Flavio Morales, executive vice president of distribution and production company Endemol Shine Latino, says a flood of âlowbrowâ Latino content is a response to the idea that if more people of color are working as handles, costume designers, Cameramen, editors or production assistants, the pool of future directors and pioneers of cinema is growing naturally.
âWatch the Blaxploitation movement,â he said of the often-rejected films. âWe have executive producers, writers, directors. We need our Blaxploitation movement, and we need our Roger Corman. How are we going to improve if we don’t practice? We just need more things on the screen. More more more. “
Others express their admiration for how black creators such as “Girls Trip” producer Will Packer have leveraged decades of collective organizing and pressure to break old molds in the industry.
âWe have to start projecting that light,â said South Los Angeles producer George Salinas. âThere was a certain stereotype for African Americans before Tyler Perry, before the Will Packers, and all those guys who just elevated storytelling for African Americans. Now you see them portrayed as important doctors and lawyers, and that’s fantastic. And that is what we are trying and looking for.
âIt’s up to us to tell our own stories,â Olmos said in his testimony to Congress. “And we go.”