Politics, Moderate



Hollywood still has a long way to go in casting Latinos

Esther J. Cepeda on

And yet, stereotypes seem to be what sells in Hollywood -- at least that's the perception.

Despite the highly publicized incidents of Latino actors being overlooked in Hollywood (who can forget comedy darling Tina Fey failing hilariously at naming 20 Latino performers for "Billy on the Street"?), at least one person thinks being Hispanic is a good career move.

The week before the Academy Awards, Hollywood acting coach Lesly Kahn was caught on tape advising a young Armenian actress to try passing as Hispanic: "Just the fact that your name is Rosa Ramirez is gonna get you a meeting," Kahn said. "Wear something f-----g red. Wear some f-----g sparkly earrings," Kahn continues. "Change your goddamned name and let's just do an experiment. You know what I mean? Just f-----g come up with the most Latin name you can come up with. ... So stop admitting to being a huge Jew, OK? That's not going to help you."

After the audio of Kahn's comments went viral, the National Hispanic Media Coalition's president Alex Nogales released a pointed statement: "Shame on you. Latinos are severely underrepresented in the film and television industry, and through your words you are contributing to even less representation." Kahn apologized.

She was wrong to suggest that actors misrepresent their race or ethnicity, but I like Kahn's sunny outlook: It sure would be nice if, someday, having a Hispanic surname wasn't an immediate disqualifier for speaking roles in mainstream TV shows and movies.

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It would be even better if someday there were so many Hispanics (and for that matter, Asians, African-American and Native Americans) who won best actor and best actress statues that their achievements were lauded for supreme artistry and sublime ability to evoke emotions -- instead of being notable because of their rarity.


Esther Cepeda's email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group



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