Rising Latina star Isabela Merced (Dora and the Lost City of Gold) jumped on a virtual call with Facebook’s Speak Up Series to talk about what she described as “the stuff that makes people uncomfortable.”
The Speak Up Series, co-hosted by actors Asante Blackk (TV’s When They See Us), Ethan Herisse (TV’s When They See Us) and Reed Shannon (TV’s Station 19), covers issues beyond Hollywood like race, culture and politics.
Merced started by suggesting that as unprecedented and inconvenient as the year has been for everyone, some people might view 2020 as “the year of change” when it comes to speaking out on social injustices.
“What if 2020 doesn’t have to be the worst year ever?” Merced said. “What if it’s the year we all needed? It’s time to be the change. It blows my mind how people are finally stepping up.”
While Merced says she has seen many inspiring things on social media, she does understand that there are many people who need a mental break from the negative news that Americans have been consumed with over the last year. For her, reading bad news in real life is comparable to portraying fictional characters under stress.
“You see how traumatizing the situation that my character was in [in Sicario: Day of the Soldado],” Merced said. “You’re given the script and told to make the experience as believable as possible. Your mind and your body cannot tell the difference. It does affect you – the stuff you see on the internet.”
Merced worries that one day she might become desensitized to the things she sees online and on TV when it comes to racial injustice like the killing of George Floyd. “That’s my concern,” she said. “I don’t ever want to look at something that’s supposed to be completely heartbreaking and roll my eyes and say, ‘I’ve seen this before.’”
The Peruvian-American actress also explained to the show’s hosts why the term “Hispanic” doesn’t describe someone’s race but, instead, their ethnicity (“There are white Latinos and Black Latinos”) and why it’s never OK for Latinos to say the n-word, even if they are stars in the hip-hop industry.
“The first people that come to mind would be Lil Pump and [Tekashi]69,” Merced said. “I feel like Hispanic people know that they shouldn’t [use the n-word]. You just can’t claim a word that you’ve never been oppressed by. The anti-Blackness in the Hispanic community is so real and not talked about enough.”
Merced’s segment in the Speak Up Series episode begins at the 41:15 mark.