Lights, camera, struggle? A recent study from the University of Southern California made headlines after concluding Latinos continue to be the most underrepresented group in Hollywood films. The report only confirms what Latino actors, producers, and advocates already know: It is tough to make it in Hollywood, but it is even tougher for Hispanics.
The study by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that diversity on-screen lags far behind that of the U.S. population. Researchers looked at films over a six-year period and found that Latino characters accounted for only 4.9 percent of all speaking roles. In contrast, Hispanics are 17.1 percent of the population, yet are 25 percent of the moviegoing public.
“I didn’t realize we were doing so poorly,” said actor, writer, and producer Rick Najera. “But you have to remember, most people in Hollywood only interact with Latinos in subservient positions. They think we are all maids, gardeners, and nannies. They don’t know Latinos who are professionals.”
Najera observed that prime Latino roles still go to non-Latinos. “Look at “Argo,” the main character was Tony Mendez, a Latino from Colorado… and the part goes to Ben Affleck,” he said. “And if you are not seeing Latinos on camera, that means there are probably few Latinos behind the camera, or writing scripts.”
The USC study also found that Latinas were the mostly likely of any group to appear on film partially or fully nude. Hispanic males were the most likely to be shown in tight or revealing clothing.
“I see it all the time on the breakdowns (casting notices), it’s like if you are Latino, you have to get naked,” said actress Patricia Rae. “It seems like many projects, even for TV shows, say “Nudity Required.”
Rae, who has played lead roles in films like “Maria Full of Grace” and “The Big Wedding,” reports that the overwhelming majority of roles that she auditions for are Latina-specific. “It is hard to get an audition for a part that is not written for someone who is Hispanic. It is frustrating, especially because they want us all to have the stereotypical Latino look.”
Rae is a two-time Imagen Award nominee for her performances. Still, she said, “I have fights with my managers all the time, because I don’t want to go in and audition for the role of the maid. I studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, I have done off-Broadway shows. I don’t want to play a cleaning lady.”
One reason that Latino performers struggle to find work is that Latino-themed films have a mixed track record at the box office. “La Bamba” (1987) and “Selena” (1997) were successes, and last year’s “Instructions Not Included” became the top-grossing Spanish-language film of all time in North America. Yet the more recent “Cesar Chavez” film was a commercial disappointment.
Najera maintains that this is no excuse for studios not to pursue Latino projects. “If I drilled an oil well in Texas and did not strike oil, have I proved that there is no oil in Texas? Of course not. So why is it that Latinos get one film, one chance, to prove that the market exists?”
To read the full story: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/lights-camera-struggle-hollywood-latinos-speak-out-n181686