Breaking Stereotypes: Latinos in Universal Roles via Latino LA

One day, I know I’ll get to play Ophelia: I didn’t think I’d get cast. For one, I interrupted my audition several times. “Wait. So I know there’s NO slang, but which accent would you prefer?” Secondly, my preoccupation with portraying an authentic “Latina” character kept me from finding my lines on the page. “Are you sure you don’t want anything? I got Dominican, Chola–Rosie Perez?” In fact, I was so certain I didn’t get cast that I re-recorded my audition at home with the help of my Macbook’s web camera. This was before I got the news.

I was cast to play “Olivia” in “Chutes and Ladders,” a sci-fi web series about a teenage girl in search of her mother. “That’s it?” I asked, but not because my acting experiences have exactly spoiled me. I just have to work extremely hard to play the stereotypical “Latina” roles that are left for me and I want to make sure I am ready.

See, I have a problem with bad acting. I want to portray what I know and give justice to the human condition, but what I know is the ivy League and what I can’t give justice to is a one-dimensional
character who doesn’t embody the scope and depth as to why she, the cocaine smuggler from Mexico, is the way she is. This is not the case with Olivia. In the Chutes & Ladders’ reality, anything goes. Even “doubles,” the evil versions of our characters, emerge from a director and producer who think larger.

Most times, however, I am not looked at for roles as universal as Olivia. Non-white racial groups –and the actors who have to stand in for them – are too often limited by the narrow characteristics that have been portrayed about them that I find myself wondering if in fact I am “Latina” with all my feelings, fears, existential angst, nerdy tastes, eccentric mannerisms, and years of schooling; all of which, for the most part, the media and the film industry seem to suggest I possess alone.

Then I met the cast of Chutes and Ladders. Leo, my brother in the series, is in many ways — aside from his early maturity and unprecedented professionalism — just like me. Besides not speaking Spanish, he is an “actor’s actor” committed to tell his (Latino) truth.

My web parents, equally, are admirably determined actors from South America, who have had to adjust to Hollywood’s racial framework.

Having been given the opportunity to get to know and bond with my cast members, I am thankful that together we share a passion for the work, especially as it pertains to the positive and more inclusive portrayal of Latino Americans. [Source: Latino LA]

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