Entertainment

America Ferrera Recounts Her First Hollywood Audition Where She Was Asked to Sound “More Latina”

The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were held on Sunday, and big-name stars gathered to celebrate and acknowledge groundbreaking television programs. One of the celebrities that made a special appearance was America Ferrera.

In a segment called “This Is What I Sound Like,” Ferrera spoke about her troubling experiences as a young Latina actress just starting off in Hollywood.

Before the segment, “Grown-ish” actress Yara Shahidi introduced the segment, emphasizing the importance of representation onscreen.

“The stories we tell on TV shape how we see ourselves and others,” she said. “And how we are seen can many times determine how we are treated. The dream of television is the freedom to live our full and nuanced lives outside of boxes and assumptions.”

In a pre-recorded segment, Ferrera then described her first audition in Hollywood–an experience that ended up being a formative one.

“I was 16-years-old when I got my very first audition and I was this little brown chubby Valley Girl who spoke, you know, like a Valley Girl,” Ferrera explained. “I walked in, did my audition. The casting director looked at me and was like, ‘That’s great. Can you do that again, but this time, sound ‘more Latina?””

According to Ferrera, she asked the casting director whether she wanted her to do the audition in Spanish. The casting director declined. Ferrera tried to explain the contradiction of the directions, telling the casting director: “I am a Latina and this is what I sound like.” Needless to say, she did not get the part.

When she went home to tell her family the story, they seemed unsurprised by the blatant stereotyping Ferrera was facing. They told her that the entertainment industry will want her to “speak in broken English” and “sound like a chola”.

“What did you think was gonna happen?” her family members asked her. “[Hollywood was] gonna have you starring in the next role made for Julia Roberts?”

According to Ferrera, the realization that Hollywood saw her in a different way than she saw herself made her want to “create more opportunity for little brown girls to fulfill their talent and their dream.”

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Since then, the Honduran-American actress has starred in numerous projects that illustrate the diversity of the Latinx experience in America, from “Real Women Have Curves” to “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” to “Ugly Betty“. Most recently, Ferrera dipped her toe into the producing waters with the bilingual Netflix series “Gentified“.

Although Ferrera is putting in the work for more Latinx representation onscreen, the Television Academy still has a long way to go when it comes to recognizing Latinx talent. Unfortunately, the only Latino person nominated for an Emmy this year was Argentine-Mexican actress Alexis Bledel for her work in “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

Here’s to hoping that Latinos like America Ferrera will continue to make their voices heard, giving inspiration to little brown girls everywhere who want nothing more than to see themselves onscreen.

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Oscar Isaac Will Be Marvel’s First Live-Action Latino Superhero on Disney Plus

Entertainment

Oscar Isaac Will Be Marvel’s First Live-Action Latino Superhero on Disney Plus

Photo: Roy Rochlin/WireImage

On Monday, it was announced that Oscar Isaac was cast in the new Disney+ Marvel TV series “Moon Knight”. According to Variety, “Moon Knight” will tell the story of “an elite soldier and mercenary who decides to fight crime after he becomes the human avatar of Khonshu, the Egyptian god of the moon.”

The news is exciting because it marks the Guatemalan-American actor’s first lead on a TV series and Marvel’s first live-action Latino superhero. In a time when seeing Latinos on TV is rare, this announcement gives us hope that Hollywood is becoming more open to hiring Latinx talent. It is also exciting because this isn’t the first time that Disney+ has hired a Latino actor to spearhead one of its blockbuster shows.

The streaming giant also hired Chilean-American actor Pedro Pascal to be the lead of its extremely successful Star Wars spinoff series “The Mandalorian,” which will be premiering its second season on October 30th. “The Mandalorian” follows a story of a mysterious space bounty hunter who goes on the run with a “child” (i.e. Baby Yoda) he was hired to track down and return to his client.

“The Mandalorian” was a commercial and critical darling. Experts believed it helped launch Disney+ into the competitive streaming market. Experts believe the show was one of the reasons Disney+ amassed 26.5 million subscribers in its first six weeks.

And as Variety so astutely noted, since there will be no new Star Wars movies until at least 2023, Pascal is the current and only face of the Star Wars franchise. The burden is heavy, but Pascal bears it well. And his excellence in the role is further proof that Latinos can and should be starring in more TV shows.

The hiring of Isaac and Pascal as the leads of their two major shows makes Disney+ strides ahead of other networks who won’t take a chance on Latinx talent. The failure of Hollywood to give Latinos a seat at the table has been a hot-button issue of late, with the problem culminating recently in an open letter that 270 Latinx writers recently penned condemning the entertainment industry. The letter noted that Latinos make up 18.3% of the U.S. population, but only 8.7% of TV writers.

The move to cast Isaac after the success of Pascal in “The Mandalorian” might not be coincidental. The two men are famously close and have been best friends for years after meeting in an off-Broadway play at the beginning of their careers. Isaac has been candid about that time in their lives and in the industry at large, telling Variety that back then it was “so easy to be pigeonholed in very specific roles because we’re Latinos.”

“The dream was to be able to pay rent,” Isaac continued. “There wasn’t a strategy. We were just struggling. It was talking about how to do this thing that we both love but seems kind of insurmountable.” The two actors have been friends rather than competitors in a cutthroat industry, so much so that Isaac convinced Pascal to audition for “The Mandalorian” in the first place, as he told Wired.

It’s worth giving Disney+ credit where credit is due. While people like to discount TV shows and movies as if they don’t make a difference, the truth is, it is so fulfilling to see someone who looks like you reflected back to you through your TV screen. Representation matters.

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It’s Finally Justina Machado’s Time to Shine

Entertainment

It’s Finally Justina Machado’s Time to Shine

Photo: Getty Images

On Monday, beloved (and not to mention, underrated) actress Justina Machado sat down for a wide-ranging interview with the Los Angeles Times.

In it, Machado covers everything from her lengthy career, to the sad state of Latinx representation in Hollywood, to the offensive phone call she had with a tone-deaf TV exec in the ’90s.

Finally, after almost 25 years of hard work in Hollywood, Machado is dominating America’s Monday nights with two high-profile gigs: a spot on “Dancing With the Stars” and the return of “One Day At a Time” to CBS after it was unceremoniously dropped by Netflix.

Naturally, with so much on her plate, the Puerto Rican actress in not only mentally, but physically exhausted. After all, “Dancing With the Stars” is notorious for its grueling practice and shoot schedules. “Every day when I come home, my routine is dunking my feet in [an ice bath],” she told the LA Times. “The first week and a half of rehearsals, forget about it–I was crying.”

But Machado is glad that she took the DWTS opportunity for what it means in terms of Latinx representation on network television.

“The thing about ‘Dancing With the Stars’ is it reaches so many more homes than [‘One Day at a Time’]…,” she told the publication. “I know they’ve had Latinas on the show, but they need a whole lot more. And so I was like, ‘I’m going to do that. I’m going to be that Puerto Rican woman that’s on that show.’”

Throughout the interview, Machado gets candid about what it’s like to be a Latina in the American entertainment industry–which is an unforgiving business.

She described the beginning of her career as plagued by insecurity. Before she began a professional acting career, Machado was convinced she couldn’t make it as an actor because professional acting “wasn’t a part of [her] world.” “Nobody was an actor in Chicago that I knew, in my neighborhood, in the inner city of Chicago,” she explained.

After she finally established her footing in Hollywood, she was then met with further doors slammed in her face in the form of racism and anti-Latino sentiment.

Like when an executive called her to tell her why her TV show wasn’t moving forward, back in the ’90s.

“He literally called my house, nice man… and said, ‘My God, your pilot is so great. Everybody loves you, everybody. But we don’t think America is ready for a Latino family.’”

What’s depressing about this story is that Latino representation onscreen still hasn’t gotten much better over 20 years later. But Machado is hopeful that the tides of change are turning

“That was acceptable for him to say…Like, what? And that was the ’90s! And look at today. How many Latino families do you see on television? So America better get ready because we’re here. We’re here.” We know that if Machado has anything to do with the future of TV, we’ll be seeing Latino families more and more often.

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