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The iconic Latino actors changing the face of Hollywood

The iconic Latino actors changing the face of Hollywood

Their phenomenal success is making the movie industry rethink its entire approach to immigrant and minority ethnic actors.

For many minorities, diversity and inclusion on the big screen are highly desired. Latinos are no exception: we want to see our culture and community represented.

We want to see actors who share commonalities with us; commonalities that entail appearance, speech, and cultural background, to name just a few.

We resonate with characters who reflect us – who look like us, speak like us and even endure the same obstacles we do. When we see this on the big screen, it gives us great joy knowing we are being represented by one of our own.

In an interview with NPR, actress-director Eva Longoria noted that no one was telling stories about the Latino culture, nor were there many Latino lead roles.

"I don't think there's studios and networks evil-plotting 'let's not hire women and let's not hire Latinos’ I think they just unconsciously hire who looks like them, the stories that feel most familiar to them. And so it's about changing those rooms. We are becoming the creators."

As such, she, along with other Hollywood stars, is championing our part through their advocacy and determination. Here are some of the most inspiring Latinos and Latinas changing the face of Hollywood.

Gina Rodriguez

Gina Rodriguez was born to Puerto-Rican parents and began acting at an early age.

However it wasn’t until 2012 that she made her breakthrough, when she starred in the independent musical-drama movie Filly Brown.

She was propelled even further into stardom two years later when she took on the role of Jane Villanueva in The CW satirical romantic dramedy series Jane the Virgin, which is based on and inspired by telenovelas.

A show that did not back down from difficult topics such as racial stereotypes, immigration, and abortion as such, Jane the Virgin received plaudits from viewers and critics alike.

In 2015, her charismatic performances were recognized with a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. At the end of Jane’s second season she was also added to Time magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People.

After this incredible experience, Gina was eager to give back to minorities and plans to do this by allowing Latinos and women to share their experiences. 

She already began her efforts on social media by highlighting Latino members of the television and movie industry and using the hashtag #MovementMondays for the public to be reminded of how we have and will continue to break through the movie and television industry. 

Latinos supporting other Latinos bring much joy to the community, and we applaud these efforts.

America Ferrera

Born to Honduran parents, America Ferrera made her acting debut in the 2002 movie Real Women Have Curves, a movie in which she was given license to play a Latina.

This successful movie won multiple accolades, including being noted as a culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant movie by the Library of Congress. This movie, along with others, fueled America’s motivation to continue to change the way we are portrayed in the media.

Since then, she has landed a number of high-profile roles, including playing Betty Suárez in Ugly Betty, which became an overnight sensation (and transformed US soap operas), and landed her an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a comedy series.

But what makes America stand out are not only her awards, but her activism. She wants to “presence a possibility” in and out of Hollywood, as she stated in a recent TEDTalk.

As part of this, she wants to see multiple successful shows and movies that feature Latino actors playing the lead roles. But until then, she will continue paving the way for others.

America is making waves as an actress turned producer-director, creating shows with a Latino cast, such as the Netflix series Gentefied.

latino hollywood actor

Lin-Manuel Miranda

US-Puerto Rican Lin-Manuel Miranda was born and raised in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood.

The composer, lyricist, performer, and director became an overnight sensation on Broadway with his record-breaking shows, Hamilton and In the Heights, the latter of which is an ode to his Latino community in upper Manhattan.

Lin-Manuel brings many cultures together through the arts and music and has received countless awards, including the Tony and Grammy for Best Orchestration, Choreography, and Musical.

What makes him stand out, however, is how he approaches larger social issues through his work. In one interview, he told The Associated Press: “Philanthropy and artistic inspiration kind of come from the same place.”

Lin-Manuel is committed to serving the Latino community by showcasing both the successes and struggles of being a Latino in the US. In particular, he is drawn to what he calls, “the things that don’t leave you alone”, such as the realities of immigration.

He also supports the Advance Change Together initiative, which supports 20 Latino nonprofits with monetary contributions. Although Lin-Manuel has already made an imprint in the arts and Hollywood through his groundbreaking work, his plan to showcase Latino lives is just getting started.

Jenna Ortega

At 20, Jenny Ortega has already done more than most who are double, or even triple, her age.

Like Gina Rodriguez, Jenny – whose father is of Mexican descent and her mother of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent – made her breakthrough in Jane the Virgin, where she was cast as a young Jane.

She went on to receive critical acclaim for her performance as Harley Diaz in Stuck in the Middle, winning the Imagen Award. Imagen is an organization dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the positive portrayals of Latinos in the entertainment industry.

Her charismatic performances soon won the attention of Netflix, which cast Ortega as Ellie Alves in thriller series You and as Katie Torres in the family comedy Yes Day in 2021.

After being cast in arguably her biggest role in the Netflix series, Wednesday, she cemented her position as a vocal advocate for Latino representation in the movie industry.

"I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to [give something back to] young girls that look like me,” she said, referring to Netflix’s decision to make her character, Wednesday, Hispanic. "Wednesday is technically a Latina character and that's never been represented. So for me, any time that I have an opportunity to represent my community, I want that to be seen."

Eva Longoria 

Born to Mexican-American parents, Eva Longoria made her acting debut in American soap operas until landing a role in the hit television series, Desperate Housewives.

Since then, she has been nominated for a Golden Globe and received a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an ensemble in a comedy series.

Like America, Eva is eager to see Latinos rise in movies and television. And so, after a successful acting career she now works as a producer and director who focuses on hiring Latinos to play the lead roles.

In an interview with NPR, Eva said: “I’m just going to do what I want, hire who I want, and tell the stories that I want. That, for me, is stories from the Latinx community. We have heroes, we have fairy tales, we have success stories. And I think our community deserves to see them.”

She has also launched The Eva Longoria Foundation, an organization that aims to help Latinas build a better future for themselves and their families through education and entrepreneurship. 

Helping our community both on and off the screen is at the forefront of Eva’s plans and we commend her dedication.

Diego Luna

Born in Mexico, Diego Luna’s acting breakthrough came in the 2001 Oscar-nominated movie Y tu mamá también

As a result of this successful movie, Diego starred in many other movies but instead of going to Hollywood, Diego had other plans. The actor-turned-producer and director decided to stay in his home country, Mexico, and bring Mexican cinema to the US.

Diego, like many other Latino icons, wants non-Latinos to experience the magic of our culture and encourage this audience to understand that beauty can be found around the world, especially in Mexico and Latin America. 

He gives back to the community through his movies by showcasing the importance of our history. One such movie is his 2014 English language movie, Cesar Chávez – a real-life story about a migrant farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist. 

Educating the broader public about our history is what he is striving to do one moving reel at a time.

 

As Latinos and Latinas become ever more present in Hollywood and beyond, the landscape is undoubtedly changing. However, it also requires those with platforms to continue speaking out against the inequities and to advocate for greater visibility, all while celebrating the amazing talent of all those with Latino heritage.




Nicole Canchucaja

Nicole is a proud Latina and first-generation Peruvian-American from the tri-state area. She enjoys writing about Latino culture in the US and advocating for the Latino community. She has written for Orgullo Latino since 2022.

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