Hollywood movies

Why aren’t there more Latinos in Hollywood movies and TV?

Melinna Bobadilla identifies as a “working actress” who had a reasonably successful start to her career. In 2017, she landed the role of Bertha in Luis Valdez’s revival of “Zoot Suit” at the Mark Taper Forum. Then she landed a recurring role on the final season of “Orange Is the New Black” (playing an Indigenous migrant stuck in detention at an immigration and customs facility) and appeared in a key episode of the series. Apple + “Little America” ​​immigrant anthologies. She also has a role in the upcoming second season of Netflix’s darling “Gentefied.” And she starred in the short film “For Rosa,” portraying one of the real women sterilized without full consent at Los Angeles County General Hospital in the 1970s. It’s now streaming on HBO Max.

But there are certain roles the LA native with degrees from UC Berkeley and New York University is struggling to land. These are the neutral roles with no race or ethnicity identified.

“When I auditioned for these roles, I ended up watching the show or the movie, and it’s white by default,” Bobadilla says. “So that makes me wonder if there’s just lip service to fairness and diversity in casting. It’s really easy to hide behind ‘Well, that’s ‘is just the best person for the job.’

Melinna Bobadilla at her home in Los Angeles: “I’m not a fan of saying, ‘Where’s our equivalent of this Black show? Or this Asian show? There’s not enough representation when it comes to black actors and black frames….Are we just conforming to bilingual whiteness?

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

It’s up to the creators of color to make room for actors like Bobadilla.

Kumail Nanjiani, co-creator of “Little America,” set out to tell original immigrant stories by engaging writers, directors and actors of color. The Bobadilla episode, directed by Aurora Guerrero, is about a high school student whose immigration status affects her college prospects. The Boyle Heights drama “Gentefied,” helmed by co-creators Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez, has been praised for featuring a rainbow of up-and-coming artists from Chicano, Central America, and California who are part of of a generation pushing for richer representation in studios and media companies.

Increasingly – and also posing new challenges – actors and audiences of Bobadilla’s generation tend to want their entertainment to reflect or match their values. Bobadilla, who describes herself as Chicana, says she chooses roles with an awareness of her “positionality.” She said she had a hard time deciding to play the “Orange Is the New Black” character identified as Maya Kʼicheʼ, as she is not a member of that specific Indigenous group.

“I’m not a fan of saying, ‘What about us? Where is our equivalent of this Black show? Or that Asian show? I would always say there is not enough representation when it comes to black actors and black executives,” Bobadilla said. “Are we just conforming to bilingual whiteness? Again, it’s erasure. I am interested in disenfranchising white supremacy in all its facets.

For this, she is inspired by two avant-garde models: Viola Davis and Sandra Oh.

“I look at 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 surname,” Bobadilla said. . “That’s not enough for me.”

Longoria stressed that even with the diversity of races and backgrounds that count as Latino, unity is needed.

“Do we have collective power if we segregate ourselves? “I am not Cuban; I don’t want to watch this show. I am not Mexican; I don’t want to watch this show,” Longoria said, echoing some reactions to the shows among viewers. “Our community also has a responsibility to show up. We need everyone to keep their foot on the accelerator.

She would like to see more recruiting of executives, agents, producers, casting directors, Latino technicians of all kinds: “You want someone in the DNA of these companies, and in these rooms, who understands the community.”

Eva Longoria at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills on Tuesday, July 30, 2019.

Eva Longoria: “I don’t need another statistic. I understand.”

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

“We all want diversity; the industry wants it too, but they also spend a lot of money, so they want the product to generate revenue,” said director and screenwriter Michael D. Olmos, son of Edward James Olmos. “It’s all of those things. It’s a horse or buggy thing.

Co-director of the 2012 hit “Fily Brown” with Gina Rodriguez and the late Jenni Rivera, young Olmos said the industry he pursued can often be a “meritocracy,” but it’s also an “industry of reference”, in which connections matter above all else. And making those connections can be difficult.

That’s partly why elder Olmos founded the Youth Cinema Project, which teaches fourth-graders how to make their own movies. He wants to solve the so-called “pipeline” problem as soon as possible.

Flavio Morales, executive vice president of distribution and production company Endemol Shine Latino, says a flood of low-budget Latino content is a response to the idea that if more people of color work as designers, costume designers, cameramen, editors or production assistants, the pool of future directors and cinema pioneers is naturally growing.

“Look at the Blaxploitation movement,” he said of the oft-rejected films. “We have executive producers, screenwriters, directors. We need our Blaxploitation movement, and we need our Roger Corman. How are we going to improve if we don’t train? We just need more things on screen. More more more.”

Others express admiration for how black creatives like “Girls Trip” producer Will Packer have used decades of collective organizing and lobbying to break old industry molds.

“We have to start projecting that light,” said producer George Salinas, a native of South Los Angeles. “There was a certain stereotype for African Americans before Tyler Perry, before the Will Packers and all those guys who just elevated the storytelling for African Americans. Now you see them portrayed as important doctors and lawyers, and that’s fantastic. And that’s what we’re trying to do. »

“It’s up to us to tell our own stories,” Olmos said in his congressional testimony. “And we go.”

VIDEO | 06:23

LA Times Today: Bridging the Latino Representation Gap in Hollywood

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