Latinx Producers Call on Hollywood to Invest in Diverse Talent, Stars: ‘We Are Part of the Mainstream’

TheGrill 2018: “We’re not a separate group, you don’t have to send us to a different division”

Last Updated: October 5, 2018 @ 2:57 PM

One of the reasons Latinx producers and stars have trouble breaking through to the mainstream is the lack of a mechanism “to identify those superstars and turn them into brands,” says veteran TV executive Rick Rodriguez.

“We have a responsibility as a community to single out those people who are doing exceptional work,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez, who currently serves as chief operating officer and head of content for the Spanish-language subscription service Pongalo, appeared on a panel on Latinx entertainment at TheWrap’s annual tech and media conference TheGrill on Tuesday, held at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills.

Moderated by Fundacion Acevedo president Beatriz Acevedo, the panel also featured BESE co-founder and president Daniel Batista and Campanario Entertainment president Jaime Davila.

“Things are a lot better today in Hollywood than they’ve ever been,” Rodriguez said, citing programs like Starz’s half-hour drama “Vida” and Netflix’s “One Day at a Time” as examples of mainstream series featuring Latinx stars and creators.

“The production values, the kind of talent, the exposure we’re getting in this market is much, much better than it’s ever been … but it’s a lot less than we’d like it to be.”

Part of the problem is the “conservatism” of mainstream media executives, said Rodriguez, who has previously served as an executive at Discovery Communications.

“You put on a very different set of lenses when everyday, you’re seeing that the show you’re so passionate about, the subject that you believe in so much didn’t perform,” he said. “There’s definitely a conservatism that occurs when you move into that world.”

Rodriguez also cited the “brain drain” of Latinx talent created by Univision and Telemundo, the country’s two biggest Spanish-language networks.

“Those huge organizations with thousands of people on staff producing 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “It’s easy to discount their contributions, but because so much talent ends up staying there, it doesn’t contribute to the larger population.”

Davila, however, was quick to point out that the sidelining of Latinx audiences and talent to separate networks and divisions ignores the current reality of the Latinx community, which is primarily made up of U.S.-born individuals.

“Most Latinos in the U.S. don’t watch Univision or Telemundo. You age out of it,” he said. “It’s mostly an immigrant experience.”

“You don’t just age out of it, you’re born out of it,” added Batista.

“Hollywood has to recognize that we are part of the mainstream,” said Davila. “We’re not a separate group, you don’t have to send us to a different division.”