John Leguizamo is tired of asking Hollywood for more Latino representation.
In an “Open Letter to Hollywood” published in the LA Times, Leguizamo said the time for more Latino representation in film, TV, and plays is way past overdue. “We Latinos are 19% of the population and the largest ethnic group in America — How are we not more visible onscreen and onstage?”
The Colombia-born Emmy and Tony-award winning actor is best known for his roles in “Waco,” “John Wick,” and Disney mega-hit “Encanto.”
Leguizamo argues that Latino heritage is a burden to success in Hollywood, even for “White Latinos” — “Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada still goes by Oscar Isaac. Bruno Mars ditched his Hernandez.”
Back in March, Isaac appeared on Saturday Night Live and poked fun at his name change in his monologue, saying, “My full name is Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada. I said to Hollywood, you can pick two of these names. Guess what they went with? The white ones.”
Even as performers feel the need to downplay their ethnicities, Latino stories continue to be of interest to Hollywood.
The problem with that, Leguizamo said, is that those roles still aren’t cast with Latinos. “You had Al Pacino in tan makeup, coked up and wild as a Cuban in ‘Scarface.’ The studios loved it so much they put him in ‘Carlito’s Way‘ as a Puerto Rican from Spanish Harlem. They surrounded him with Latino actors, but not one of us [latinos] had a lead role.” He also cites Ben Affleck‘s casting as CIA operative Tony Mendez in “Argo,” and Javier Bardem‘s casting in “Being the Ricardos.”
Leguizamo argued that the absence of Latinos onscreen isn’t even reflective of the city in which Hollywood resides. “Los Angeles is approaching 50% Latino. But where are we onscreen? That is cultural apartheid.”
Latino representation also means including Latinos of all hues, since “more often than not,” the Latinos who are cast in major roles are “white-passing.” Those roles are still few and far in between, Leguizamo said, as Latinos make up 2.9% of all lead roles in Hollywood, according to a report from the Latino Donor Collaborative.
Ana Valdez, President and CEO of the Collaborative, told Insider that the argument for more Latino inclusion in the media is not just about fairness — it’s also about following the money.
“I quite frankly think [Hollywood decision makers] don’t care about the Latino community. It’s not on their radar — but all the facts show that this [lack of representation] is money being left on the table. Latinos travel, and they sell.”
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