Entertainment

Jorge Diaz Is All About Owning Your Latino Identity

You might remember Jorge Diaz from “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” or as Paulie on “East Los High.” Now, Diaz lends his voice to Disney’s “Elena of Avalor” as Gabe and he couldn’t be more excited to me a part of the cast for a show featuring the first Latina Disney princess. mitú spoke with Diaz about being a Latino in media and being part of bringing the first Disney Latina princess to life.

Jorge Diaz has built a solid career telling stories of Latinos from a Latino point of view, but that was not his intention.

Jorge Diaz / Facebook
CREDIT: Jorge Diaz / Facebook

“I kind of consider myself a blue collar actor. I’m not just here to tell stories like, ‘Who wants to hire me? I’m here to tell your story.’ It just happened to be that case [of doing several Latino stories] which is, now looking back at it, it’s been pretty beautiful to be part of these projects that are pioneering new faces that you don’t see in the media too often,” Diaz told mitú. “To be part of ‘Elena of Avalor,’ I remember as soon as I read that, the first Latina Disney princess, I was like, ‘Woah. That sounds amazing. It’s about time. I hope I get to be a part of it.’ Now, here I am.”

“I just look for projects that ring true to my heart and if it’s a story I want to tell,” Diaz told mitú.


Diaz feels like “Elena of Avalor” is one of those projects. As a Latino in media, Diaz is proud of his name and of the work he has done to get more new faces on the screens.

For Diaz, “Elena of Avalor” is more than just a kid’s show, it’s validation for an entire group of people who have not been prominently featured in media.

I'm a toy! ? #elenaofavalor

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“Suddenly, your experience becomes normal and accepted,” Diaz told mitú about the importance of young Latinxs watching the show. “If you see something like them eating pozole or them mention tamales and they’re doing posadas in the episode then it’s just like what we do. Suddenly the psychological effect it has on children is that their experience is completely normal and they are good enough and they are enough and who you are is beautiful.”

And a huge part of his pride comes from the dolls because of what they represent in the grand scheme of things.


Diaz remembers seeing the Doll Test video that went viral on Facebook. The video, if you haven’t seen it, shows young children at a table with a white doll and a black doll. They were asked which was bad and which was nice and many of the children chose the darker doll as the bad one. But now, with “Elena of Avalor” dolls, Diaz thinks things are changing.

“Now I see this doll when I go into the Disney store and I see it all around, and it’s not just for Latina children. It’s for a little boy. Like, this little 10 year old white boy was like, ‘That’s my favorite show, man,'” Diaz recalled to mitú. “Seeing this little brown doll up there that’s gorgeous, that’s a leader, that’s compassionate, that’s thoughtful and has a beautiful family and is courageous. That’s what it’s about. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about and it’s a reminder to me and it’s a reminder to other artists that we have the ability to tell these stories and to have it have a beautiful effect on the next generation.”

This is something he credits several other actors and entertainers before him, especially Gina Rodriguez.

Happy birthday to this lil magical pumpkin unicorn being of Light @hereisgina ????

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“A woman I really respect and she happens to be one of my best friends is Gina Rodriguez,” Diaz told mitú. “She’s done so much just in the past two years and her career has taken off, but what she’s going to do is going to be so beautiful and she’s handled it with such grace. To be the lead of a series, it’s crazy hours. It’s insane hours and she handled it with such grace and she’s so warm to every single person on set, outside, on the street. She carries herself with so much love, so much grace, so much professionalism, so much class and it really inspired me.”

But Diaz doesn’t forget to remember and thank actors from the generation before him who really did break down walls.

Guys, so I'm a DISNEY Character. I know right!?! Although I may only be 1/4 a stud that this dude is, I've always had childhood dreams of voicing cartoons, and this is finally premiering TOMORROW! So grab all the kids in your fam and watch tomorrow night because (1) it's SO adorable & fun (2) there's amazing songs & music you'll be singing all week long (yes, you will be hearing me sing this season ? watch out, Michael Buble) (3) there's a SHLOAD of AWESOME people behind this & amazing humans guest starring all season long aaaand (4) because it's The FIRST LATINA PRINCESS EVER!!! And she's empowering & relatable & positive & a leader. What a great image for young girls everywhere, right??? So, Tomorrow on @disneychannel #ElenaOfAvalor #Disney #DisneyChannel ?

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“I am friends with so many of those actors that are like 10-15 years older than me, and they’re just like, ‘You know, this isn’t my real name, by the way. I had to change my name because I was tired of playing gang members, I was tired of playing a prostitute, I was tired of playing a maid.’ I was like, ‘Wow. I didn’t know that,’” Diaz told mitú. “My name is Jorge Eduardo Diaz. That’s as Latino as they come and I can’t change that. Part of me, when I was younger, I was thinking about that because I was like, ‘Should I change my name? Should I just make it George D. or something like that.’ That came across my mind but then I was like, ‘No, man.’ I’m just going to do this and I’m going to do it as Jorge Eduardo Diaz.”

And he has some advice for any other Latinxs considering a career in entertainment.


“The advice I have for anyone trying to pursue acting, you really have to fall in love with the art of it. If you’re trying to be famous, if you’re kind of attracted to celebrity life or what you see on TV, it’s all fake glamor,” Diaz told mitú. “Just train and put yourself out there. Know that your time will come ultimately. I’ve been doing this for years before I got to a point where I was working consistently. Right now is such a beautiful time in the industry. There are going to be more and more doors opening and there are more artists coming up and they are opening more doors and I feel like it’s going to continue to change.”


READ: ‘Elena Of Avalor’s’ Big Secret Will Finally Be Revealed In This Flick

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Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival Will Be Digital And Free This Year

Entertainment

Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival Will Be Digital And Free This Year

laliff_ / Instagram

If you are a film buff saddened by the fact that you can’t go to your favorite film festivals, fear not. The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) is going to be completely digital and free to anyone who wants to enjoy this year’s film roster.

Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) is going to be free and online for everyone.

In-person participation at LALIFF has been canceled because of obvious reasons (COVID-19). However, the organizers wanted to make sure that everyone who wanted to enjoy the films could. Plus, the festival is a way for these small, independent filmmakers to get their names and projects out there. Being online opens it up to a lot more people to enjoy these films.

The festival, founded by Edward James Olmos, is a very important event for Latino films.

While COVID-19 is keeping people in their homes, LALIFF doesn’t want it to keep them away from enjoying these films. It is the 21st century and that offers filmmakers and organizers a new way to connect with their fans and cinephiles.

“We are living in unprecedented times and we must find unprecedented solutions to continue to support our Latino filmmakers and provide them with a platform to showcase their work,” Edward James Olmos, founder of LALIFF, said in a statement. “Working together with our filmmakers, musicians, partners and sponsors we will be able to celebrate our festival virtually to continue to showcase some of the most inspiring and thought-provoking Latino films of 2020 and share with cinephiles everywhere, from the safety of their homes.”

LALIFF is an integral part of highlighting and promoting Latino talent and their quick pivot to go online will give these artists more opportunity to shine.

The film festival organizers made news when they announced their virtual experience. LALIFF Connect is going to let everyone enjoy the 2020 films as well as the 2019 retrospective highlighting last year’s work. You can currently watch all of the 2019 films and shorts featured last year at LALIFF. The new films will be available from May 5 – 31.

“We are proud to advocate for Latinx artists and musicians, especially at a time where they have been hit the most and share their beautiful sounds. Be sure to dance in your living rooms and don’t worry about the door fee—LALIFF has you covered,” Managing Director of LALIFF, Alexis de la Rocha, said in a statement.

Now is a great time to watch some of the previous LALIFF features, like “Suicidrag.”

The short film is about a group of Mexican drag queens who are taking to the streets and clubs of Mexico to highlight the issues of gender stereotypes. The queens are showing the dangers those stereotypes cause when they are imposed on the consumer culture that controls so much in our societies.

They are also showing “I’ll See You Around.”

Director Daniel Pfeffer explores the complexities of a family when drugs and betrayal derail a relationship. In the film, one brother has to figure out how to salvage a relationship with his brother after he finds out his brother stole his laptop to buy drugs. This film is a tough reminder of the difficulties families must face.

READ: How To Keep Yourself Sane And Balanced While Self-Isolating And Working From Home

Actors Of ‘On My Block’ Discuss How They Authentically Tackle Serious Issues Facing Our Community

Entertainment

Actors Of ‘On My Block’ Discuss How They Authentically Tackle Serious Issues Facing Our Community

Courtesy of Netflix

Audiences recently took to the comments of Netflix’s Latinx-focused Instagram account @ConTodoNetflix to choose which name blending they preferred for characters Monse Finnie and Cesar Diaz, two of the main love interests on Netflix’s ‘On My Block’ comedy-drama series.

BTW, if you were curious to see which won out between MONSAR and CEONSÉ, CEONSÉ seemed to be the fan-favorite, with actress Sierra Capri, who plays Monse on the series, writing, “I’m down for either but it’s something about that Ceonse 🌹🔥.” 

Before season 3 premiered last month, mitú sat down with Capri and her on-screen love interest Diego Tinoco in between takes on the OMB set to discuss how this on-screen couple is able to portray that something when the camera is rolling, how the show is creating a learning experience for young audiences—whether it’s discussing gun violence or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids, and their friendships with the cast IRL.

Actors Sierra Capri and Diego Tinoco are proud of the representation they are offering to their fans.

The on-again, off-again relationship between headstrong and intelligent tomboy Monse Finnie and sensitive Cesar Diaz, who is trying to escape his family’s circle of gang violence, maybe dramatized for ‘On My Block,’ but the two actors say fans have related to their characters’ tough upbringings and in some cases, viewers have been able to leave precarious family situations thanks to the show. 

During shooting one day, Capri was stopped by a police officer who knew the story of her character.

“She [the police officer] stopped me a couple of days ago when we were filming a scene outside a convenience store and she’s a cop now, and she was like, ‘I was Monse growing up,’” Capri recalled.

“I’ve had a lot of girls come up to me and they say, ‘I’m experiencing it now. I’m a tomboy, I come from a single-parent household and I don’t really know where I fit in, so I feel like I can relate to Monse as far as just trying to find out where I fit in.’ Because Monse, she’s not a normal girl. She’s def unique, so I appreciate when girls come up to me and they’re like, ‘You made me feel like I wasn’t alone in certain situations,’” she said about her fans’ relation to her character.

Fans are invested in the Cesar/Monse joint storyline.

Tinoco also had fans reach out to him, with one, in particular, telling him how his character inspired them to break away from the grip of gang violence in their family.

“I had a kid come up to me at the orthodontist saying that he watched season 1 of the show, and that he was in very similar circumstances as Cesar, and you know involved in some gang stuff and he wanted to go to college, but he didn’t know how to tell his brothers all that stuff that he wanted to get out of the gang, and that after watching season 1 he was really inspired and didn’t want any part of it. He said he’s going to college. We still DM each other. He’s a sweet kid,” Tinoco said. 

Set in the fictional Los Angeles neighborhood of Freeridge, Monse and Cesar learn to navigate ordinary teen situations with their squad of friends while dealing with the uncertainty of gang violence in an area ruled by two rival gangs—the Santos and the Prophets. 

Without diving too much into politics, ‘On My Block’ is still able to tackle heavy subjects.

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hi, i'm cesar 😏

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The show touches on subjects such as PTSD, gun violence, and ICE raids in its scripts, essentially providing a lesson for its audiences without shoving a particular agenda in viewers’ faces.

“I think because gun violence is also in relation to police brutality,  which is at an all-time high right now, especially in the African American community, I think a lot of people watch our show—and I’m not going to say whether or not we touch on that—but I do feel it’s something that they can watch and feel like they can learn from. I feel like we still need to make shows that kids can learn from and as well as be entertained,” Capri said.  

One poignant scene in particular in season 2 was when Cesar, who at the time was homeless, sought refuge at a church where some undocumented immigrants were also staying. Tinoco said he purposely didn’t prepare his scene in order to keep that element of surprise undocumented immigrants face when bombarded by an ICE raid. 

“That’s harsh terms—putting little kids in a cage—that’s not right. So I definitely empathize with that. Going into the scene, I didn’t prepare much on it because my character, it’s supposed to hit him [snapped his finger] by surprise, so I thought only for the circumstances, it would work better if I didn’t know until the priest walked in there. But yeah, me and Eddie [Gonzalez, co-creator and executive producer of OMB] definitely talked about that, ‘Like this is f*cked up what’s going on out there,’” Diego said about shooting the scene. 

The actors see their show speaking to a community of young Latinos in a way they need.

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freshest on the block? ✅

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“Our show speaks directly towards Hispanic, Latinx and YA [young adult] audiences with intent, purpose. And growing up, I certainly know I didn’t have that type of show. I’m Mexican, so I feel like I still don’t have the Mexican leading actor guy that I’m like ‘Oh! I want to be that guy.’ So I’m just really grateful to be on the show, be a part of such a great thing,” he commented.

Netflix executives also took notice of the work the cast was doing on-screen to promote diverse stories in the television industry. After fighting for pay raises, the OMB main cast was able to negotiate a pay raise of $81,250 per episode, according to Business Insider

The bonds the cast made off-screen also carried into their scenes together before filming wrapped up on the show’s current season.

“It’s bittersweet. We’re finishing very strong so we’re happy on that, but it’s always a little sad to leave your friends,” Tinoco said about wrapping up season 3 shooting. 

“It went by so fast. For me it felt like it went by really fast. Which tells me we had a lot of fun filming it. We had a lot of fun episodes,” Capri said. 

Fans who have yet to watch season 3 will be glad to have some light-hearted laughs again. 

“This season definitely taps into the humor from season 1, so that was nice to have back into our lives, but it’s [the season] definitely heartbreaking as well,” Tinoco said. 

READ: Jason Genao Of ‘On My Block’ Talks Growing Up On His Block And His Secret To Making Bomb Empanadas