“Too bad you’re Puerto Rican ‘cause you’d be so much further along,” says a Hollywood producer to actor and comedian John Leguizamo. Way to perpetuate an obnoxious stereotype, big-shot producer. I don’t know if this infuriates people the way it enrages me, but I can’t keep my mouth shut after listening to such disheartening words. Leguizamo describes his struggles with, as he calls it, “Hollywouldn’t” in an interview with NPR, where he talks about how he often competed for similar clichéd roles with the same actors—like Benicio del Toro and Benjamin Bratt. Vying for parts like the gang leader or the drug dealer in many ways annoyed Leguizamo because there are plenty of Latinos who are educated and who have advanced status positions that Hollywood hardly represents.
And the problem with Hollywood writers, producers, and directors constantly portraying Hispanics in the typical Latino roles is that many spectators can develop a narrow perspective of an entire race—because that is all they see, hear, and read about. And it doesn’t look like this pigeonholed ideology is going away anytime soon. Now, this is not to say that there hasn’t been any progress since Legiuzamo began his acting career in the 1980s. Thankfully, in almost 30 years, Latinos today find it easier than ever before to break into roles that are colorblind, like Ramon Rodriguez who played Bosley in the short-lived television series Charlie’s Angels or Eva Mendez in Last Night. Of course, there are plenty of more examples, and it’s relieving to see Hispanics in protagonist roles as well. But there’s still a lot of work to do.
Many have found success, but that usually goes for actors who have already gone through being subjugated in the typical Hispanic roles—the maid, the loud-mouthed, the Latin lover, the villain. It’s time for a change, and if it takes Hispanic writers to create the roles no one else is writing about, then so be it. Latinos—and all minorities—are just as talented as the White American, English, and Australian actors we see on the big screen (and television and computer screens). And hopefully, there won’t be any more closed-minded producers who think Hispanics won’t ever amount to the top, because after all, enough is enough.
Check out the full NPR interview with John Leguizamo (and Rita Moreno) at http://www.npr.org/2011/10/24/141594495/moreno-leguizamo-talk-latin-life-in-hollywouldnt.