“The Good Doctor” actor Nicholas Gonzalez says Latinx representation in media is often stereotyped, and even when it isn’t, the characters are only temporary.
“I was thankful to be … doing a very positive portrayal of a high-achieving cardiothoracic surgeon who happened to be Latino, which I think was a very good representation of the heights we can ascend to, those kinds of roles we’re talking about having, and they killed him,” the actor said during SAG-AFTRA’s Race & Storytelling: Through the Latino Lens virtual panel on Tuesday. “We don’t last.”
Moderated by “Good Day LA” anchor Amanda Salas, panelists also included actors Dan Bucatinsky and Nicholas Gonzalez, casting director Carla Hool, Broken English Productions president Jolene Rodriguez and “One Day at a Time” showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett.
Latinx roles make up 3-5% of the lead parts in Hollywood despite making up around 17% of the overall United States population. Because of the drastic underrepresentation in media, Kellett said anything hoping to portray Latinx experiences should have Latinx actors as wells as creators behind the camera.
“I think that there can be nothing about us, without us. Full stop,” she said. “If you are going to put Latinos as the main characters on the shows, you better have Latinos behind the scenes.”
But of course, the Latinx community is not homogenous. Many different countries and cultures are represented within the term “Latinx.” A story about Puerto Rican experiences, for example, should have specific input from Puerto Rican creatives, not a Latinx with a different nationality.
One of the communities that’s commonly underrepresented is Afro-Latinx people. Torres said Hollywood needs to a better job working with and telling the stories of people like her, as it’s something she feels has been deeply neglected for too long.
“As an Afro-Latina, I certainly have never felt represented in the industry,” she said. “We’ve all been seen through the lens of the white male who’s in charge. They have presented a very specific image of what they believe ‘Latinidad’ to be. It has to start with education, it has to start with showing people that we are not a monolith.”
Hool said even when she asks for Afro-Latinx actors for a casting, agents and managers still don’t grasp the nuances.
“I don’t think there are many measures being implemented when it comes to Afro-Latinos,” she said. “When I’ve had Afro-Latino roles, I will release a breakdown. Agents don’t know what an Afro-Latino is. they’ll submit either Latinos or Black people, not Afro-Latinos.”
Watch the full conversation on YouTube.