At The Hollywood Reporter's annual Comedy Actress Roundtable, America Ferrera opened up about the struggles Latina actresses face when they want to branch outside of roles written for Latinas.
Ferrera understands the importance and necessity of having Latinx representation for Latinx scripts on the big screen.
She said, "I've worked in TV and film for years and so my personal success, as much as I wish that that equated to a certain broader success and more opportunities for more Latino characters, that's not always necessarily the case. We came out of the gate with 'Ugly Betty,' and it was years and years after we went off the air that there was another Latino main character on television. So where you would think it's like, 'Oh, it works, let's go in this direction,' it doesn't always end up that way."
Ferrera made history as the first Latina to win an Emmy for the outstanding lead actress in a comedy category.
But she also recognizes the power in being able to work outside of the Latina typecast and considers herself "lucky" to score roles that do not put her in a Latina-only box.
"Fortunately, for me, I've established myself to a certain degree, so I'm so lucky that I now get considered outside of the box of Latina, but I don't think that's true for everyone. In the way that, like, when Halle Berry gets considered for roles that are not written Black, that doesn't apply to everyone."
Unfortunately, Hollywood continues to have a diversity problem — and when Latinxs do get hired for a program or movie, it's usually for a role that perpetuates stereotypes.
Although Latinxs make up nearly 18% of the nation's total population, only 5.8% of Latinxs are represented in TV and film. And they are filling the parts that Hollywood has pigeonholed them into: maids, nannies, and drug dealers.
So it's clear to see why Latinx actors have a hard time earning screen time, and to add another layer of wanting to expand their talents to scripts that aren't written for Latinxs seems like an impossible ask.
While some may think that Ferrera is asking for too much — wanting to break barriers for Latinxs AND land other jobs outside of a Latinx lens — she knows there is progress being made, but it's not enough.
The Latina actress believes that diversity behind the camera is what will revolutionize an industry that predominantly caters to white talent.
Ferrera stated, "There's so much nuance in the way that we talk about the roles that women are now finally getting to inhabit because we're behind the camera, because we get to write our own stuff and say 'This is what feels real to me, this is what I recognize myself in.' The same is true for people of color: If we don't get in the positions of power, if we can't tell our stories, if we can't write and direct and produce our stories authentically, then those roles and those opportunities that feel new and fresh aren't going to come."