Dave McNary’s Dec. 21 Daily Variety story entitled “Mixed Casting Call” quoted a Screen Actors Guild study that highlighted the qualitative impact of these roles. While Latino actors may have edged up almost a percentage point (from 3.5% to 4.4% of TV and film roles), the glaring fact is that these figures reflect every minor role, including walk-on parts and back-of-the-head shots.When you subtract those filler Latino reflections, the obvious truth is that Latinos appear in less than 1% of TV and film roles — a number that has been consistent for decades — despite the fact that Latinos make up almost 12% of the U.S. population. Gone are the days when at least recognizable Latinos were on TV, such as Jimmy Smits, Hector Elizondo and Benjamin Bratt. Breaking the SAG statistics down by gender finds Hispanic women virtually absent on TV. In a September 2000 report, prepared by Children Now and the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, entitled “Latinowood and TV: Prime Time for a Reality Check,” we found that “Latinas, when they are shown, are often portrayed in service roles, such as nanny, nurse and maid.” To truly see whether there has been advancement for minority actors in the entertainment industry, Mr. McNary would have been wise to ask SAG for a more revealing statistic: the TV and film salary breakdowns for Latinos and other minority actors in comparison with nonminority actors for fiscal years 1998 and 1999.
— Felix R. Sanchez