Stars share their favorite Latinx-themed TV shows and movies
Latinx-themed TV shows and movies are still not as prevalent in pop culture as they can and should be, but there are some great options out there that might not be on your radar yet.
Take Netflix's Gentefied, which is a first-generation story about a group of Mexican-American cousins chasing the American Dream. The dramedy resonates with many Latinx artists, but never seems to get the praise it deserves from general audiences and awards pundits.
"I really love what the folks at Gentefied are doing," says Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Melissa Fumero. "Season 1 was just so great, so beautiful, so spoke to the Latinx culture in Los Angeles. [It] felt really specific and genuine and I feel like not enough people are talking about it."
9-1-1 Lone Star's Gina Torres agrees, and "loves everything about this show!" Adds Clayton Cardenas (Mayans M.C.): "Being Mexican-American, those stories really ring true to me."
Check out a few more TV shows and movies featuring Latinx story lines and characters that should be on your watch list below.
On My Block (2018-present)
On My Block is a series that speaks to DC's Stargirl actress Yvette Monreal. "I grew up in a predominately Black and Hispanic community, so there's a lot of things in [that show that are] completely accurate with the things I was dealing with growing up," she reveals. "Cesar's story line, specifically, like just dealing with where he belongs and being involved with gang members. I wasn't involved in a gang, but I did hang out with gang members so I could have gone [down] a completely different path. That's a show that really resonates with me."
When it comes to the big screen, Yvette Monreal believes Michelle Rodriguez's performance in Girlfight is "completely underrated." She adds, "I love it so much because she was this tough girl with a fire in her belly who proved to be tougher than the men who were there and she's a boxer. She held her own and she was a newcomer, but she freakin' killed it. Chef's kiss. Oscar worthy."
Diary of a Future President (2020-present)
"I am loving Diary of a Future President, because it's about a Latina that grows up to be President of the United States. That is so aspirational and wonderful!" declares showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett (One Day at a Time, With Love). "And it's funny and it's sweet and it has LGBTQ representation. And it's Cuban, and I'm Cuban, so that's lovely too. So I'm loving that show and I'm loving watching it with my kids."
Rutherford Falls (2021-present)
"Another show that I think deserves more love is Rutherford Falls," adds Kellett. "It is so funny, it is so great, it is centered on the native experience, it is joyful, and Sierra Teller Ornelas is the showrunner and she is a badass Mexican-Navajo boss."
Vampires vs. the Bronx (2020)
"A movie that I watched last year that was everything I needed in the moment is Vampires vs. the Bronx which is written and directed by Oz Rodriguez," confides poet and author Gabriela Garcia with a chuckle reflecting on 2020. "And it's the story of a group of teenagers in the Bronx who are defending their community against vampires who are also gentrifiers. And aside from it just being a lot of fun, I have some roots in New York and lived in the Bronx for many years, and I think I've rarely seen a movie that so accurately and specifically and lovingly captures a community in the Bronx. And it's funny, a comedy-horror. It's a lot of fun."
Los Espookys (2019-present)
"I think I would have to say Los Espookys, which is on HBO," Gabriela Garcia answers when EW asks what is an underrated show. "It's this series about a group of friends who run this really strange business providing horror film situations and tricking people who need that. And I think I like it because it features this group of Latinx goth characters and it's really strange and eerie and kind of campy sometimes, and it's also funny and it's beautifully shot."
In the Heights (2021)
"There is a film that I've seen recently that blew me away when it came to not only the representation but the visibility of Latinos and that was In the Heights," notes Cobra Kai star Xolo Maridueña. "I got a chance to go to one of the In the Heights premieres and the entire theater was filled with Latinos — top to bottom. It was just so amazing to see a movie about Latinos. It felt like the frickin' Avengers! It was an amazing celebration, not to mention that the story of In the Heights is really well represented and that New York kind of experience, I think, really was captured and it was super fun."
Amores Perros (2000) (2000)
Xolo Maridueña is also a fan of the 2000 film Amores Perros: "I don't think it's underrated, but I think not enough people know about it. Amores Perros is a movie by [Alejandro G.] Iñárritu. It's an anthology and it truly should be a part of everyone's top five movies. It is unfathomable how good it is!"
West Side Story (1961)
"A Latina character that resonated with me at an early age was Rita Moreno in West Side Story," says Lucifer star Aimee Garcia. "Anita was strong and funny and had integrity and was loyal. She was just absolutely magnetic. She could sing, she could dance, she could hold her own with the boys. She was sexy, she was a romantic, but she could also rip your heart out and make you shed tears. I had never seen a Latina character like that on film. And I am half Puerto Rican and when she was Boricua too, she just made me feel like anything was possible. Then learning that Rita Moreno herself was one of a handful of actors who had won an Oscar, a Grammy, a Tony, and an Emmy — that just completely blew my mind. She single-handedly was a huge inspiration for me and I've gotten the chance to work with her and she's just equally as lovely off camera as well."
Gina Torres does not shy away from the challenging movie Spanglish and her own experiences watching her mother work in another household. "There's a movie that was made a few years ago with Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni and Paz Vega, and it was called Spanglish. And some people loved it, some people hated it, there are members of my community who felt that it just missed the mark… and it wasn't enough. That movie kills me every time, and I keep trying to bring people into my world, of my deep, deep appreciation for this story. Starting with my mother was a domestic, so I immediately felt Paz Vega's character living with and being a part of sort of this tangential part of this family that doesn't understand her 95 percent of the time, that she's expected to understand 100 percent of the time, the difficulty of… and the wear and tear on a person's psyche that that has. That immigrant experience — I'm kind of getting emotional talking about it — knowing that's what my mother went through, knowing how important and essential she was to the families she worked for, and what it took for her to do those things and be that person, and then come home and raise me to be 'a take zero effs from anybody' and follow my dream. There is this moment in the movie when the Paz Vega character is talking to her young daughter who is seemingly becoming completely seduced by this family. Not seemingly, she is… because they have everything that she wants and that she needs to move further, and so her mother's greatest fear is that she's no longer good enough for her daughter. That as a parent, as someone who's working so hard to give their child the best, you take the risk of being left behind, was devastating to me, to see that in that movie. And it's just something that we don't see very often. We don't see the duality in these stories, we don't often get to come home with the maid whose background, we don't get to understand what it is to have a foot in both worlds and the sacrifice on either side — and the deep understanding that it takes. So Spanglish, in case you haven't seen it, I would recommend it. And that family that she's completely seduced by? They're a mess, they're an absolute mess and it's just beautifully acted by all involved."
The Baker and the Beauty (2020)
Gina Torres also spreads the love for ABC's short-lived, critically acclaimed The Baker and the Beauty. "I think the most underrated television show was The Baker and the Beauty, because it was checking all the boxes that I mentioned previously in terms of here you have a family, they just happen to be Cuban, they just happen to be split between immigrants and then their children are first generation Cuban-American and they're doing their best to get by. They're following their dreams, nose to the grindstone, they are hilarious, they love each other deeply, you understand what family means to the Latinx community by and large and how we hold onto each other, which is survival. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it was entertaining, and not preachy in any way. It was, 'Here we are, this is us.'"
According to Station 19 star Carlos Miranda, if you haven't seen Vida yet, you're missing out. "Not just 'cause I'm in it, but it's more than that," notes the actor. "It was such a groundbreaking show, so authentic, and it represented a community that you don't see often in a positive light."
While Carlos Miranda cites La Bamba as a movie he grew up on, there's one film that's particularly special to him. "Desperado was a super dope movie when I was a kid, but now that I think about it, I feel like it was the first time I was conscious to the idea that Latinos are in movies — here's Antonio Banderas starring in a movie and he's dark like me — with the idea that I could do that too, I could be up there."
One Day at a Time 2017-2020
Roots matter to actress Melissa Fumero. "I think the show most recently that really spoke to me was One Day at A Time. Obviously, I'm Cuban, it was about a Cuban family, and it was about a Cuban family in Los Angeles, which we don't see a lot — also would love to see a show with a Cuban family in Miami. But I thought it was cool that it was West Coast, and it was really just about this family and the struggles they go through. It was also about them being Cuban, but it was really just about them being people and being a family and trying to get by. I saw myself, I saw my family, and it just was really honest and refreshing and I loved it so much and I wished it would have gone on many more seasons."
The Brooklyn Nine-Nine star also praises Netflix's Gentefied. "I really love what the folks at Gentefied are doing. Season 1 was just so great, so beautiful, so spoke to the Latinx culture in Los Angeles. [It] felt really specific and genuine and I feel like not enough people are talking about it. The cast is amazing. There's so many great performances. I really think Carlos Santos is brilliant and so funny. I"m such a fan, I want to work with him one day. It's all heavy hitters on that show and more people should be talking about it. Even though a lot of people did talk about Justina's performance on One Day at a Time, I'm still mad that Justina Machado and Rita [Moreno] did not get [Emmy] nominations. It was a crime, a travesty, and I'll be mad about it forever."
Mayans M.C. (2018-present)
"Also, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Mayans M.C." adds Clayton Cardenas. "Our fearless showrunner, Elgin James, who is of multi-ethnicities, has done a beautiful job making a show about captivating storytelling. Our show mainly circles around love, agony, and brotherhood. The show doesn't focus on being Latino. We just happen to be Latino telling you stories.
Mayans M.C. star Clayton Cardenas tells EW Gentefied deeply resonates with him. "Being Mexican-American, those stories really ring true to me, mainly the language between the elders and the youth is really spot on. The elders mainly speak in Spanish, and the youth mainly speak in English. But both old and young know enough of each other's language that they can clearly get both of their points of view across to each other. I think that's magnificent, that's something that a lot of us have lived through."
Ugly Betty (2006-2010)
Haskiri Velazquez (Saved by the Bell, The Girl in the Window) found she could relate to Betty from Ugly Betty. "We both knew exactly what we wanted out of our futures, we were both driven, we were both determined. She's from Queens, N.Y,; I was from Washington Heights, N.Y., we both had to take public transportation everywhere, and no matter how many obstacles we faced — because there was a lot — we still persevered through it and didn't take 'no' for an answer."
"One of my earliest memories of a Latinx film that really resonated with me is probably Selena," shares Love, Victor actress Isabella Ferreira. "I remember watching it all the time because my abuela would play it on repeat, so I'd sit down and watch Selena's life and see all of her hardships and successes. I think that really shaped me as a kid because it made me realize it's okay to do what you love, go for what you want, and be your authentic self, and I think Selena's legacy will forever be remembered by that. And I think J.Lo did a really good job of representing her spirit."
Real Women Have Curves (2002)
"When I was a teenager I loved Real Women Have Curves, " says author Naima Coster (Halsey Street, What's Mine and Yours). "That film spoke to me so powerfully. It is about a young girl, Ana, who is ambitious but afraid to be ambitious, who's searching for her people, people who support her and accept her just as she is. Who is trying to figure out whether to stay and fulfill her mother's expectations for her at home or whether to go away to college. It's also got a love story in it, it's about teenage girl desire, and it's also about self-acceptance and self-love and body positivity, and these were all things I just ate up as a teenage girl and that I needed so much and that were so meaningful to me and it was such an important film that reflected many of the questions and struggles that were so much a part of my life. And all these years later, it really holds up."
"One of my favorite films features a Latina whose story deeply resonates with me: It's Frida," says Station 19 star Jaina Lee Ortiz. "Frida Kahlo was this extraordinary, brilliant, talented, passionate artist, she was a feminist, an icon… and I think Salma Hayek did an incredible job in telling her story. It was devastating but inspirational and I feel like every time I watch it, I'm left with this deep sense of hope and creative freedom. And I love that her story and her legacy live on forever."
¿Qué Pasa, USA? (1977-1980)
"I would say, for me, the first thing that pop up is ¿Qué Pasa, USA?, which was a beacon of hope for any Cuban-Americans that came to this country and were assimilating and trying to find their way," Johnny Sibilly (Hacks, Pose) tells EW. "It was such an amazing representation of what I feel like my family went through, and so many of the people in our own Cuban-American community, and really any Latinx representation of people that come from somewhere to another place and are trying to make it work. I feel like that is such a universal story and I'm so happy that story was told. I do think it needs another pass, or it needs to be rereleased to a wider audience, because it really was such a perfect encapsulation of what people went through in such a funny and exciting way."
Sibilly isn't the only one with love for ¿Qué Pasa, USA?. Aimee Carrero (Maid, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power) is willing to sing its praises from the rooftop. "Underrated TV show about the Latin community — and I will sing this and scream it from the rooftops until I'm blue in the face — it's an old multi-camera sitcom called ¿Qué Pasa, USA?. It was filmed in the early '80s and it features a Latin family — Cuban family — living in Miami, I think in Little Havana, and it is just perfection. It's so funny and it doesn't fetishize Latin people, it doesn't 'other' Latin people. It meant a lot to me as a young person and it still does. It's so funny, it holds up, you should absolutely watch it. And it's in Spanglish, which just makes it all the better."
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