When talking about Ted Lasso, it’s very easy to hyperfocus on the main characters like Ted or Rebecca. I can’t deny that they’re clearly stars that shine through every episode while revealing layers to them that fill my heart with joy. However, a character that I can’t stop thinking about on a weekly basis is Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández). The first time he came on screen in episode six of season one, I was overcome with joy, and I haven’t stopped thinking about why ever since.
Dani is a fútbol player who carries himself with an overwhelming air of joy, an understanding of life’s never-ending complexity, and a carefreeness that is contagious and always puts a smile on my face. Characters like Dani, the always happy-go-lucky, hyperactive, and glass-half-full type have existed for a while, from Kronk in Emperor’s New Groove to Chris Traeger from Parks and Recreation. So why did this one, in particular, make such an impact?
Representation has been a slippery slope in Hollywood for decades. More often than not, Latine men are put in this box of “machismo,” further perpetuating harmful stereotypes in the media that these men couldn’t be much other than “dominant” or “aggressive.” A character type that immediately comes to mind is the ‘evil dictator’ as seen on The Expendables, or the ‘evil drug dealer’ as seen on Narcos. These roles fit perfectly within the white narrative that our men are dangerous and make the perfect villains for these specific heroes to defeat.
It wasn’t until fairly recently that I started to notice a shift in that mindset. And that comes thanks to the inclusion of Latine content creators in mainstream writers’ rooms in the past few years. Because of them we’ve gotten content like Jane the Virgin, One Day at a Time, Love, Victor, Gentefied, and On My Block, and have been able to see the many layers and personalities of our men and people portrayed on screen. Little by little, more and more characters like Dani Rojas have been created, and like Dani, they exist in this very exciting space where they aren’t a Hollywood stereotype.
The people around me (family, friends, and more) have always been a vibrant mosaic of things. Dani is just one of us; someone who lives and breathes an ever-evolving complexity of feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Oh, and the sport of fútbol, of course. And you can see and feel that in the character, from the writing that allows him to be more than a Hollywood stereotype, to the spectacular performance from Fernández who brings his own joy and connection to the sport into the mix.
At the end of the day, Dani represents the communities around me and is the purest example that “Fútbol is life.” while redefining what it means to be a man on screen and in real life.
Ted Lasso is currently airing on AppleTV+.