Stop acting like there aren't Latinx stars deserving of Emmy nominations: Opinion
The Television Academy announced its 2020 Emmys nominations on Tuesday, and there were zero nominations for Latinx talent in any of the major categories. While the answer as to why this segment of the population is overlooked year after year remains complex, Hollywood's issues with diversity and inclusion remain at the forefront.
As a Latinx writer covering our community in Hollywood for more than 12 years, I can speak to the various reasons why our shows continue to fall through the cracks and why our stars continue to be ignored year after year. I have had a multitude of conversations with showrunners, producers, directors, and writers who are all busy behind the scenes, as well as actors who are ready to represent our vast community on screen — and have heard their frustrations. And while the topic is complicated, the easy answer to the problem is that there needs to be more representation across the board.
What this means is that we need more Latinx talent both in front of and behind the camera. Many writers and producers pitching shows have expressed their frustrations when meeting with white executives and not feeling understood. Many are questioned about certain cultural aspects that are unique to our Latinx experience only to be asked to replace it with something more stereotypical. In turn, our stories are treated as being foreign.
While many of us do speak at least two languages, most of us have been raised as predominantly English speakers. The fact that we also speak Spanish and/or Portuguese does not make us any less American.
Following the cancellation of ABC's The Baker and the Beauty, there are no shows left on TV right now with a majority Latinx cast on a major broadcast network. Which opens up another can of worms: What should be considered a Latinx series? Shows like Starz's Vida, Pop TV's One Day at a Time, FX's Mayans M.C., USA's Queen of the South, Netflix's Gentefied, HBO's Los Espookys, and Disney+'s Diary of a Future President are often considered Latinx by the media or entertainment industry at large but neither ABC's new comedy United We Fall nor its Latina-led Station 19 with Jaina Lee Ortiz is labeled as such.
How many Latinx participants does it take for Hollywood to brand it a "Latinx series"? This title is neither requested nor required. It serves no other purpose than to pigeonhole a community. It exists as if to tell non-Latinx audiences, "This show is not for you!" which is the exact opposite of what we want. Our stories are universal and everyone can enjoy them.
When I was growing up, I had to choose whether I was more like a Connor kid from Roseanne or more of a Cosby kid from The Cosby Show. When in reality, I was neither. Thanks to the hard work and dedication from our talent pool that are not willing to give up easily, there are young Latinx kids today who have The Casagrandes, Elena of Avalor, The Expanding Adventures of Ashley Garcia, On My Block, and Mr. Iglesias, which allow them to feel seen and represented. That's major progress, but it's not enough. We want equality.
Pose has been a huge success for the FX Network and received five Emmy nominations on Tuesday including one for Billy Porter. Yet there was no love for series creator Steven Canals, nor series stars Mj Rodriguez and Afro-Taino Indya Moore.
Another FX series, What We Do in the Shadows scored eight nominations with none for the show's breakout star Harvey Guillén, whose role in the horror-comedy is prominently at the center of the story. And then there's The Mandalorian, with 15 nominations but none for series lead Pedro Pascal.
After Vida said goodbye at the end of May, it will close out a spectacular series with no recognition from the Television Academy. Yes, the show told the stories of a pair of Mexican-American sisters (played by Mishel Prada and Melissa Barrera), but the arc of the series was about love and sisterhood.
Tanya Saracho, creator and showrunner, championed a diverse cast and staff and provided a safe space for everyone. Something many of those very writers admitted they had never experienced before while working on other shows.
But mainly, their storylines were smart, timely, and award-worthy, but received zero recognition from the Television Academy in three seasons.
Netflix's Orange Is the New Black is another popular series with a large Latino cast that earned no Emmy recognition for these stars on Tuesday. This burns when you have talent like Selenis Leyva, Laura Gomez, Dascha Polanco, Jessica Pimentel, and Jackie Cruz consistently bringing their A-game on screen.
There's also Diego Luna from Narcos: Mexico and his former costar Joaquin Cosio — whose turn from Don Netto on the narco drama to the beloved grandpa on Gentefied — deserves a category of its own! And these are small examples from a very big pool of Latinx talent.
Critics will say, and have said, that talent from marginalized communities is looking for participation awards, but that's simply not true. We don't want anything that we don't deserve. But it's important to recognize that we are not playing on a level field.
We want to earn a seat at the table, not because of our ethnic makeup but because we are talented and hard-working. Not every show is for everyone, yet many mediocre shows are renewed year after year while diverse shows are not supported in the same way financially through marketing and publicity.
It's almost as if networks and streamers are doing the minimum to check off their diversity efforts but don't really believe in these stories enough to invest in their success. I hope that I am wrong.
Moreover, critics are also quick to tell the Latinx community that if they don't feel represented at major award shows we should be happy with having our own, but that is divisive and, in 2020 — the year of George Floyd, a global pandemic, and Sonia Sotomayor — it is unacceptable. We want a seat at the big table and for our voices to be valued.
One way people from underserved communities involved in Hollywood can help enact change is by joining the Television Academy. Qualifications can be found on Emmys.com
Only two Latinx stars scored nods for their work in front of the camera this year: Karamo Brown (who is of Jamaican and Cuban heritage) who was nominated for hosting Queer Eye along with the rest of the Fab 5 and The Handmaid's Tale's Alexis Bledel (who is of Mexican and Argentine descent) who was recognized for her guest-starring role on the popular Hulu series.
Our queens Jennifer Lopez and Shakira were also recognized for their work in the Super Bowl LIV halftime show earning them nominations for outstanding music direction and outstanding live variety special.
The Academy did do a better job of recognizing Latinx talent working behind the scenes, including nods for Javier Grillo-Marxuach, co-executive producer of Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance; Mrs. America casting legend Carmen Cuba, Succession's art director Carmen Cardenas; 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards' art director Angel Herrera; World of Dance choreographers Adrianita Avila and Jefferson Benjumea; Ozark DP Armando Salas; Tiffany Haddish Presents: We Ready director Linda Mendoza; McMillion$ director and editor James Lee Hernandez; Top Chef editor Jose Rodriguez; Hollywood's hairstylist Maria Elena Pantoja; Pose hairstylist Jessie Mojica; and Star Trek: Picard hairstylist Maria Sandoval; among others.
One Day at a Time scored one nomination for Best Multi-Cam editing for Cheryl Champsmith.
The 2020 Daytime Emmy Awards also honored behind-the-scenes Latinx talent — Disney's Elena of Avalor took home two trophies (Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Pre-school Animation Program and Outstanding Sound Editing for a Preschool Animation Program), while Nickelodeon's The Casagrandes won for Outstanding Main Title for an Animated Program.
The Latinx community is asking for equal opportunities in a country where we are 61 million strong as of 2019. It's time for those wanting to support true diversity through representation to step up, and those who have the power to raise a creative from an underserved community to do so.