What does Latinx Hollywood need to do to earn some Emmy love? In a year with plenty of striking contenders — Jane the Virgin, One Day at a Time, and Vida, just to name a few — no Latinx were recognized in the lead acting or show categories when the Television Academy announced its 2018 nominations on Thursday.
That doesn’t mean no Latinx were recognized, however. Edgar Ramirez and Ricky Martin received nods for their supporting roles on FX’s limited series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. Lin-Manuel Miranda was nominated for his guest spot on Curb Your Enthusiasm. John Leguizamo was recognized for his supporting role in Waco. And there were more. But Latinx were left out of the highest-profile Emmy categories — that is, the others announced during Thursday’s live broadcast — and shows like Orange Is the New Black, Queen of the South, On My Block, Narcos, Riverdale, and Shades of Blue were completely ignored by Academy voters.
Thursday morning on the set of One Day at a Time — the Netflix comedy that features powerhouse acting by Justina Machado and living legend Rita Moreno — the Emmy news hit hard. The rejection made One Day at a Time showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett even more determined to keep working. “With the Oscars, the work isn’t on the screen,” Calderon Kellett told Vulture. “And that’s it’s own problem. But with TV … the work exists. It is out there. Latinos are doing beautiful work in TV right now and our visibility and our campaigns can’t compete with dominant culture shows so we are excluded from the conversation … for now. I’m committed to telling these stories of other until we are no longer otherized.”
Disappointed that no one in the Latinx community stood out to the Academy voters, Brooklyn Nine-Nine actors Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz — who were in pre-shoots for their One Day at a Time guest appearances when the Emmy nominations were announced — said in a joint interview on set that they had spent the day talking about what they can do to help incite change. Here is an edited and condensed version of that conversation.
Why do you think the Latinx Hollywood community isn’t breaking into awards the way that the black community has, at least in the last couple of years?
Melissa Fumero: I think we, as a community, could be, especially in Hollywood, much more unified. We’re trying to do that on a small scale with this Latinas group that America [Ferrera] and Gina [Rodriguez] started. I wish I had a good answer. I don’t know. It just feels like we’re still kind of invisible. I mean, I was really shocked that Justina [Machado] and [Rita] Moreno weren’t nominated today.
Stephanie Beatriz: Shocked.
And the show.
Fumero: And the show. I mean, they’re doing some of the best work. Take away all the importance of showing Latino culture and everything for representation. They’re just doing amazing, hysterical, and also poignant, heartfelt performances on this show that are just as good as any of those women that were nominated. I don’t get it. I don’t know if it’s that our shows don’t get marketed enough.
Beatriz: Brilliant performances.
The experience of being Latinx in the United States is so diverse in and of itself. Do you think part of not being marketed enough is due to networks not knowing exactly how to address us? The Mexican markets in California and Texas are different, for example.
Fumero: Yes. When you look at the black community, they’re so unified as a community. They’re so supportive of each other. That’s something that is the goal for America and Gina. It was like, “Let’s stop competing and let’s start building a community and supporting each other’s shows and work.”
Beatriz: That’s a good point. There are so many differences within the Latinx community that they can be divisive. We can be a very racist community. The idea of what a “Latina” — and I’m putting this in quotes — is supposed to look like is often defined by caramel-colored skin and brown hair, and that’s not all of us. It’s just not, you know. It’s super limiting to say, “Well, that’s who you are. This whole community is represented by this look or this thing.” I think that that’s where the divisiveness comes in. You’re starving for rep or you’re starving to see yourself, and then somebody opens the door and you see there’s a banquet back there. They’ve had a banquet back there the whole fucking time, then you get pissed off that they don’t have exactly what you want because not only are you hungry, but now you know everybody else has been eating a banquet this whole time. So now you want a fucking petit four. Like, that’s what you fucking want. [Laughs.] Melissa and I have talked about this a lot with various people in the entertainment community, but what I think we need is more work being produced. We just need to start making more. More, more, more. You need to see more of us in all places. Whether that’s more shows like One Day At a Time that are specifically around the Latinx experience, or more focused on life in America, or the immigrant experience, or whatever, there needs to be more of us in casts where you’re not necessarily talking about it.
Fumero: You know, Gina brings this up sometimes — Latinos are the highest consumers of television and film. They spend the most money on it. Sometimes I wonder, is that part of it too? People say, “Oh, well, they’re already buying it. We don’t really need to serve them.” Or, “We don’t really need to award their community because they’re showing up for us anyways.” Instead of, “Oh my gosh, why aren’t we rewarding our most loyal audience? The audience that pays our salaries and shows up and turns on the TV, watches things live?” Why aren’t we rewarding that community? The mentality feels more like, “Meh.”
Beatriz: Yeah, like they’re going to come to the party anyway.
Fumero: It’s really depressing. I don’t know if that’s part of it when it comes to awards or recognition, but I just wonder a lot, What is the disconnect?
Earlier this year, I wrote about seven pilots that were in consideration at the broadcast networks, where the central characters were immigrants and their stories were about their experiences in the U.S. Not one even got a pilot order.
Fumero: I was shocked! I was shocked with everything going on in the past year. I would make jokes saying, “I can’t wait to see the immigrant children next year,” because that’s exactly what Hollywood would do. But no. Isn’t that what we need right now to humanize these stories?! Isn’t that how you actually solve issues like this, by getting to the core of the humanity of it?
Instead, the Charmed reboot features Latinx.
Fumero: They’re scared.
Beatriz: Fear is the great art killer. It’s the connectivity killer. Fear will stop you from pushing the art form, because television is an art form, right? It will stop you from pushing it forward to the next level. It really sucks. But it’s not going to stay that way. It just can’t.
Fumero: It won’t.
Are you tempted to create your own shows?
Beatriz: We talk about it a lot.
Fumero: It’s days like today, where you see so many wonderful people in your community get passed over, that it starts to feel more and more like the answer. Do we just have to band together and create our own stuff? Even if it never happens, just constantly try to get in people’s faces? Is that part of it? Do I take a passive position or do I join everyone else and try to fight and break down the doors like, “We’re here. We’re doing good work!”
Beatriz: Some writers are writing with people like Melissa and [me] in mind for amazing lead roles that have growth and go through these incredible things. Writers like Gloria [Calderon Kellett], writers like [Vida showrunner] Tanya [Saracho], but there are a lot of writers that are not writing with us in the forefront of their minds because they’re thinking, “Who is a movie star?” The imagery of movie stars that we have had, as a society, since the beginning of movies has been a certain type of person. It will continue to be that kind of person until we slowly start making moves to break the mold. That’s the way it is and that’s why it’s taking time, and it’s fucking frustrating. But it’s also looking at the thing and going, “This is the system. How do I wreck it? How do I bust it open from the inside out?” That’s what we’re all trying to figure out.