Eva Longoria understands that for Latinos, attaining success is only half the battle — amplifying that success is key to ensuring more Latinos get the same opportunities.
“Anytime any Latino is recognized for their work it’s a great feeling,” the “Flamin’ Hot” filmmaker, producer and actress told TheWrap. “The whole point of doing what I do — whether it’s directing or producing — is to amplify the voices of the Latino community.”
Longoria was a successful actress in soaps before her breakout role in ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” and she subsequently launched her own production company to help spearhead shows and movies that showcase Latin American stories and people.
That drive to push boundaries in the entertainment sector is at the heart of TheWrap’s first-ever Latino Power List, which celebrates trailblazers changing the game for Latinos in media. The list spans actors, directors, writers, executives, dealmakers, journalists and up-and-comers who are setting the blueprint for future generations of Latino talent to bring their skillset into the Hollywood landscape.
Longoria reflected on the importance of publicly celebrating when Latinos succeed in this industry.
“This is an extension of the work that we have to continue to do to amplify the fact that we have success,” said Longoria, who is the cover subject for TheWrap’s Latino Power List. “Let’s make sure our peers see that and know that because that means that they’ll make more of these [projects], by more people like us.”
We’re making dents, but it’s still a lot of history and legacy to overcome.”Alexis Garcia, EVP, Fifth Season
It’s a pivotal time to celebrate the diversity of voices in Hollywood. As the economic bubble in the streaming world pops, companies are reducing funding earmarked to produce original content. With that, many Latino-led series have been canceled in recent years. (We still mourn the early end of the “One Day at a Time” reboot, from honoree showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett.)
But it’s not just about increasing Latino-centered stories. The challenge comes with showing that Latino creators, executives and beyond can help build projects that resonate with all audiences. The individuals honored by TheWrap — like Fifth Season EVP and Latino Power List honoree Alexis Garcia, who personally closed major film deals like the sale of “Malcolm & Marie” to Netflix and “Cherry” to Apple — show how Latinos are already making significant contributions to the business, even without pushing for stories that are inherently tied to their race.
“You need that credibility, you need that leverage in order to get things done that are against the history of Hollywood,” Garcia said. “We’re making dents, but it’s still a lot of history and legacy to overcome.”
Population rises, representation stalls
Scripted content is still struggling to reflect the realities of the rising Latino population of the U.S. The Latino population in the United States reached 62.5 million in 2022, accounting for 19% of the country’s population, according to the U.S. Census. That is up from 13% in 2000. Yet according to the 2023 U.S. Latinos in Media report, from nonprofit think tank the Latino Donor Collaborative, between 2018 and August of 2023, the number of Latino leads only grew from 1% to 3.3% on TV, and from 1.4% to 5.7% in film . Fewer Latino-led projects are getting the green light, and recent shows face the uncertainty of renewal orders as the work stoppage keeps them from getting back into production.
Latino representation in Hollywood tracks significantly behind other large racial groups in the country. The LDC cited Nielsen data showing that Latino people make up only 7.1% of characters on screen. That compares with Black people making up 13.6% of the U.S. population but 21% of on-screen characters, while Asian American people make up 6.3% of the population and 7.6% of roles on screen.
“We have seen an exciting and much-needed diversification in entertainment content in recent years,” the report stated. “Unfortunately, Latinos have not benefited from this movement.”
Hope for tomorrow
As Latinos continue to fight for Hollywood representation, the individuals on TheWrap’s list keep hope alive for a more inclusive entertainment industry. Power List honoree Rita Moreno broke the ceiling for Latino performers in Hollywood with her Academy Award-winning performance in 1961’s “West Side Story” – but it was hard-won. One of the biggest lessons she wished she knew starting out in the industry was that she “had value as a performer.” In her autobiography, Moreno said that she faced racism and ostracism as an ethnic performer on the studio lot. Her Academy Award was a first for a Latina, even though she played the role in brownface — and it paved the way for Latino performers for decades to come.
Since then we’ve seen actors like honoree America Ferrera rise to superstardom in roles tied to their heritage (ABC’s “Ugly Betty”), and those that could have been played by a performer of any race (“Barbie.”) Up-and-comer honoree Iñaki Godoy led the cast of the hit Netflix adaptation of the “One Piece” manga to an impressive debut, and Latino performers like Pedro Pascal, Jenna Ortega and Camila Morrone earned their first Emmy nominations in 2023. This year also saw the release of major titles with Latinos in the lead roles, including the second season of “With Love,” created by Calderón-Kellet, the DC superhero film “Blue Beetle,” Prime Video’s “A Million Miles Away,” among others.
“It’s not so lonely anymore,” honoree Salma Hayek-Pinault told TheWrap. “When I started there were very few of us. Now it feels like more and more media is opening up to discover, enjoy and appreciate everything we have to offer.”
On her end, Longoria recently announced the launch of a new media holding company, Hyphenate Media Group, with the mission of providing creative-led projects with the tools to push through in an increasingly competitive environment.
“We’re definitely still underrepresented in front of and behind the camera. But I say that and in the same breath, I also want to applaud the things that we have,” Longoria said. “My life’s purpose is uplifting other Latino creators… [to use] my influence and my spotlight, and shine it on everyone who deserves to be heard and seen.”
Umberto Gonzalez contributed to this story.
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