Actors of color contend with stereotypes and typecasting on a daily basis. In Hollywood, even in the ‘post-racial era’ an actor’s ethnicity can severely limit the types of roles they are considered for. A Latino actor often has no choice but to audition for roles as a gardener, maid, drug dealer, or janitor and be asked to fake an accent. It’s not much better for blacks.
What if you happen to be Latino and black? Well, things get even more complicated. Afro-Latino actors are a conundrum for casting directors who are looking for a more ‘typical’ Latino look (read as light-skinned and Mexican). They end up booking more African-American roles because they don’t fit the stereotype of what Latinos look like. In Black and Latino, a short web documentary put together by mun2, actress Gina Torres explains, “When I became an actress I quickly realized that the world liked their Latinas to look Italian, not like me. So I wasn’t going up for Latina parts. I was going up for African-American parts.”
Beyond the acting world Afro-Latinos contend with a host of issues. They have to fight for acceptance within the Latino community and sometimes even within their own family. This is due to the fact that many Latinos are unaware of the massive amounts of African slaves that were taken to Latin America. More than 11 million ended up there; that’s 25 times the number of slaves sent to the United States. Even though much of this history remains hidden, the African influence on Latin American food, music, and culture is undeniable.
In honor of Black History Month we are celebrating our favorite Afro-Latino actors and actresses taking over Hollywood. Since they normally only play African American roles we are taking this chance to bring their culture out of the shadows and celebrate their Latino roots.
This list is not comprehensive. Feel free to add anyone we missed in the comments.
Gina was born in New York City and is youngest of three children in a close-knit Cuban American family. She’s had starring roles on the TV shows FlashForward, Alias, Serenity and Dark Angel and also appeared in the films The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
Born in the Bronx and of Dominican descent, she is most known for her role as a nurse on the TV comedy, Scrubs. Since then she has produced projects, acted in the indie hit Gun Hill Road and is currently starring in Lifetime’s show Devious Maids.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, the Puerto Rican actress broke out in the TV series New York Undercover and shortly after made her film debut in I Like It Like That. She most recently played Captain Maria Laguerta on Dexter and will star in a forthcoming film based on the life of Cuban-American pop singer La Lupe.
Born in the Bronx, the half-Mexican actress began her career at an early age making regular appearances on The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Her big break came when she was cast as Dionne in the film Clueless alongside Alicia Silverstone.
Born in New York City to a Cuban/Puerto Rican mother, she broke out in the gritty indie film Kids back in 1995. Her film career has soared since then having starred in Men in Black II, 25th Hour, Sin City, Rent, and Grindhouse. In the much anticipated film Cesar Chavez scheduled to hit theaters in March, she plays Dolores Huerta.
Born in New York, the half-Panamanian actress got her big break at age 11 when she was cast as Ashley Banks, Will Smith’s adorable little cousin on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Recently she produced and starred in the TV shows Buppies and Love That Girl and appeared in the CBS soap The Young and the Restless and the BET comedy Second Generation Wayans.
Born in Washington state, the half-Cuban actor is best known for his role as Brandon Walker on Days of Our Lives. In the past he’s had a series of guest starring roles on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Psych, Desperate Housewives, and Anger Management. He currently stars in Lifetime’s Devious Maids.
Born and raised in Washington D.C., the Cuban actor started his career as a TV host on BET. He is best known for playing Tsu’tey in the sci-fi film Avatar and Fenix ‘Rise’ Calderon in Fast & Furious. He also had roles in the films Jarhead, This Christmas, Miracle at St. Anna and Jumping the Broom in addition to starring in the TV shows Breakout Kings and Deception.
Born in Puerto Rico, he’s best known for his role on the hit show Prison Break. He guest-starred in various television series such as Southland, Arli$$, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and ER. His film credits include 2 Fast 2 Furious and Transformers.
Born in Burbank, California the young Cuban actor is best known for playing Bernie Mac’s nephew for five years on The Bernie Mac Show. His first major role was in the movie Jerry Maguire and will be starring in the forthcoming Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie.