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Latino Lead Roles? Where?!

Josh Villa, Staff Writer

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Think about the last time you saw a Latino play the main role of an Hollywood film.

Are you done?

Exactly.

Yeah, it’s tough to make it in Hollywood, but it’s even tougher for Latinos, as was found in a study conducted by the University of Southern California which concluded that Latinos continue to be the most underrepresented group in Hollywood films.

Films often require roles that help establish the setting such as “that one Latina with the hot accent”, “Officer Martinez”, or even “Cartel stuntman #2”.

Who could be better to achieve these roles other than Latinos, our fellow brown people?

But as for the main roles? We don’t get those.

Believe it or not, the percentage of Hispanics in films today are lower than they were in the 50’s. According to research from Columbia University, more than 50 million Latinos in the U.S. make up 17% of the population, yet there were no leading roles for Latino actors among the top 10 movies and scripted network TV shows in all of 2013.

Back in the day, Latinos on average made up only 2.8% of the U.S. population in the 1950s, but accounted for 3.9% of lead actor roles and just 1.5% of all leading roles.

What’s the source of the problem here? What can Latinos change in order to rise and appear in media, or at least as rise as much as other people of color?

For the most part, it is the lack of attempts.

Each year, we have less and less Latino actors auditioning for lead roles; the Latino piece of the pie chart isn’t trying. Why is that? Maybe it’s a numbers thing.

The PPIC (Public Policy Institute of California) notes that 78% of undocumented immigrants here in the U.S. are from Latin America and most of us can’t even audition. In these times, where minorities are targeted the most, the risk of deportation is the primary issue immigrants here in the U.S. face; there is no time to think of becoming Hollywood’s latest star.

Another reason is probably credentials. According to Study.com, the casting directors of a film are tempted to select actors with a degree in theater arts, people with a paper as proof of experience. As found in Pew Research’s 2014 study,  just 15% of Latinos between the ages of 25 to 29 have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Education after high school isn’t always the option available to  them. 66% of Hispanics who got a job or entered the military directly after high school cited the need to help support their family as a reason for not enrolling in college.

We could all agree that Hollywood isn’t completely diverse; out of every movie that has been released, the leading roles were all white. Chris Pratt, Emma Watson, Ryan Reynolds,and all of out favorites, the list just goes on.

Researchers in a USC study found that off the top 100 films of 2014, nearly three-quarters of all characters were white. So maybe it is a racial thing.

But starting in 2017, hope for Latino actors has risen. Making 1.1 billion in box office sales, Rouge One: A Star Wars Story embraces a Mexican Actor taking on one of the leading roles in the film in the form of Diego Luna, who plays the fearless Captain Cassian Andor. But aside from movies, Latinos are also beginning to rise within television shows as well.

Almost the entire main cast in CW’s Jane the Virgin is Latino.

The show, with 7.8/10 by IMDb and 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, is a loose adaptation of the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen created by Perla Farías. The series stars Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva, a working, religious young Latina virgin, who becomes pregnant after being accidentally artificially inseminated.

Latino actors have made slight change over the past year, but to be represented more in the media, current Latino actors need to address the problem more actively. George Lopez, Diego Luna, Eva Mendes, they all need to influence the call to action. They need to influence the young Latino actors in the making today.

I myself would love to see more of my culture incorporated with Hollywood’s films and television shows.

My people playing the role of “janitor” or the “taxi cab driver” has long since been played out. Give us the main role.

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “Latino Lead Roles? Where?!”

  1. Gerardo Banuelos on May 18th, 2017 9:37 am

    I really like how you’re speaking up about a topic that is not seen as a big deal. I have also noticed that Latinos are not getting important roles in films only in more recent years.

    [Reply]

  2. Brittney on May 18th, 2017 1:07 pm

    Thank you for writing about this topic. I really thought I was the only one who thought about this. I too love being surrounded by my latin community and too would definitely love to see more of them in the media and having them set the example for others giving them the hope that they too can do it.

    [Reply]

  3. Julianna Rizo on May 18th, 2017 1:28 pm

    Super excited about the diversity mentioned in Star Wars, one of the largest film franchises in history (already two Latinx leading actors and more to come). Always ready to support our brown and talented community.

    [Reply]

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