12 Latino Actors That Absolutely Killed It This Year

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Although the Hollywood movie machine is still reluctant to cast Latinos in lead roles, the newest golden age of television has swooped in to save the day. Across broadcast and cable networks, and in digital series on Netflix and Amazon — Latinos are in the house. Although some may be bit parts based on stereotypes, there is a large group of actors making a living playing varied, complex characters. This past year, we had Latino superheroes, Latina college students, reporters, barbers and internet nerds grace the small screen — we even got prominent, positive portrayals of gay Latino characters. With two (yes, TWO) new shows boasting a Latina lead actress, it’s not hyperbole to say that it’s been a historic year for Latinos in television. We want to celebrate those trailblazing actors who broke out in a big way in 2014. Here is our list of 12 Latino actors who absolutely killed it in film or on TV.


Gina Rodriguez

It was my girl Gina’s year. The Chicago-born Puerto Rican scored her first breakout role two years ago in Filly Brown, but this was the year America met her as Jane Villanueva aka Jane the Virgin. The bilingual (!!!) CW show follows the story of a hard working Latina who seems to have it all with a bright future just ahead, when a trip to the gynecologist accidentally artificially inseminates her. That’s just the first episode. Jane was one of two Latina led sitcoms that premiered this fall, and I called it from the trailer: love at first sight. If that wasn’t enough, in interviews Rodriguez took on the lack of opportunities for Latina actresses head-on. A snazzy Golden Globe nod for Best Actress in a TV Comedy isn’t a bad way to christen 2014 the year of our Saint Gina.

— Monica Castillo


Selenis Leyva

We’ll see more of the resident Latina mama-in-charge on Orange is the New Black and the talented Cubana/Domincana that plays her, Selenis Leyva. In case you somehow forgot the explosive second season of the hit Netflix series, we finally got Gloria Mendoza’s tragic back story of domestic abuse, poverty, and fraud. The heartbreaker of an episode had fans asking for seconds, and now that Leyva’s bumped up to a series regular for the third season, I hope/light a candle that they’ll explore Mendoza’s character arc more. Leyva also scored a golden tip of the hat from the Screen Actors Guild for her ensemble work in OITNB. Can we ask for an extra serving of this awesome?

— Monica Castillo


Dascha Polanco

As a fellow nerd, I’ve been #TeamDaya since the 1st season of Orange is the New Black. Dominicana actress Dascha Polanco plays the shy, artistically-inclined Dayanara Diaz who finds love with a prison guard while locked up and knocked up. And if that wasn’t enough to get you on her side, Daya’s problematic mother-daughter relationship with Aleida Diaz (Elizabeth Rodriguez) brought out the tenderest and tensest moments before Vee showed up. Although her character went through some shady waters, Daya’s remained a fan favorite and when she moved up to series regular, shined a light on the plight of pregnant women in prison. Outside the cell block, Polanco’s rocked amazing lavender locks, so we’re totally hair twinsies now.

— Monica Castillo


Tony Revolori

It’s easy to get lost in Wes Anderson’s grandiose sets or among the talented faces of Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, and Willem Dafoe, but Californian actor Tony Revolori held his deadpan stare steadfast. As the younger version of our narrator, Zero Moustafa, he brings to life the glory days of The Grand Budapest Hotel in a whimsical and fantastical way. Secret societies, dastardly villains, a ski chase, a painting of a boy with an apple, beautiful pink cakes, and a Mexican-shaped birthmark await you when you check out Anderson’s latest romp. Revolori’s touching repartee as an apprentice to the experienced Fiennes figure of M. Gustave. The duo make an excellent old-school Batman and Robin as they adventure to solve a murder and find Moustafa love. And if you can keep a straight face when talking to Bill Murray, well, I think he’ll go far. The young upstart Revolori is up for the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards nominee for Best Young Actor/Actress. You rock that bellhop hat.

— Monica Castillo


Raul Castillo

Amazing namesake aside (no relation…that I know of), audiences got their first look at this Texan from the hit HBO series, Looking. Terrible pun aside (sorry), Castillo instantly made waves as barber Richie, one of the group of gay men living it up in San Francisco. The “no way this man crush is just on Mondays” actor and playwright totally wins at being an Instagram celebrity, which in addition to sharing his travels and sneak peeks at the second season of Looking, shares tons of support for other Latino projects like Cristela and Birdman. Plus, he’s a Remezcla reader and gave us a shout out for including Don’t Let Me Drown on our list of top NYC Latino movies. :sniffles: We’re proud of you too! Wait a minute, he went to my college too? Are we at least primos?

— Monica Castillo


Anthony Mendez

We all received a new answer to the question of “who would you have narrate your life?” During my last binge watch of Jane the Virgin, I scared my roommate after she thought she could understand the novela I was watching. Those dulce tones belong to none other than Anthony Mendez, a popular voice-over actor who’s plied his sultry talent for brands like Hot Pockets and Nerf. His tongue-in-cheek delivery caught up audiences to every loopy detail week after week on Jane. You might have laughed off Mendez’s spoof, but let’s face it: he totally gets your life better than Morgan Freeman. And hey ladies: the dude is a legit audio engineer nerd. Swoon.

— Monica Castillo


Emily Rios

Emily Rios has been representing for Mexican-Americans on both the big and small screen for years, from her debut in 2006’s Quinceañera to her multi-season arc on Breaking Bad. But she really wowed audiences as scrappy journalist Adriana Mendez on FX’s The Bridge, the award-winning bilingual drama set at the U.S.-Mexico border. Emily became a series regular this year alongside the Oscar-nominated Demián Bichir. And she so impressed casting directors that her character was changed to more closely resemble her own life, which led to a great “coming out” episode for her character. And then she ignited tons of crushes, platonic and otherwise, when she opened up about her sexuality in an interview with After Ellen. The Bridge may be closed, but our girl is going places — she’s already been cast in the second season of True Detective, and not just as a long-suffering girlfriend.

— Danette Chavez


Oscar Isaac

How do you follow up a year with over a dozen award nominations? If you’re Oscar Isaac, you go on to land the lead in some J.C. Chandor-directed Oscar bait, as well as roles in two of the biggest movie franchises ever. The Guatemalan-Cuban actor, who was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2013 for Inside Llewyn Davis, is getting tons of advanced buzz for A Most Violent Year, a film that imagines the American dream turned nightmare. It’s already won the National Board Review’s Best Film Award. Next up for Oscar is his turn as an X-wing pilot (and possible Han Solo heir) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Miami native will then go Egyptian, sorta — he’s been cast as Apocalypse, the (likely) very first mutant ever, in X-Men Apocalypse. He’s spent the year jumping between genres, eras, and galaxies but is currently situated in the 1980s with a sweet ‘stache for Show Me A Hero, a mini-series about a Yonkers mayor that’s currently in production.

— Danette Chavez


Carlos Valdes

Much like the titular superhero on The Flash, Carlos Valdes (the II, according to IMDb) kinda came out of nowhere: he had one film credit before landing a role on the much-hyped CW original series. And that was for originating the role of Cisco Ramon on The Flash’s superhero sibling show, Arrow. Carlos’ geeky charisma (he’s a music nerd and composer) probably inspired the Flash writers to tweak his character, Cisco Ramon; they scrapped the gangbanger back story and made Cisco a tech prodigy. So now he gets to geek out on and off camera, about everything from designing the Flash’s suit to imagining his own kryptonite (cheese, oddly enough). He’s so goofy and fun that we’re going to use this word one last time before hopefully burying it: he’s adorkable. In 2015, let’s hope The Flash resolves to introduce Cisco’s alter ego, Vibe, who would be the first Latino superhero seen on TV.

— Danette Chavez


Diane Guerrero

Before you ask, there’s good reason for having multiple chicas from the Orange is the New Black cast on this list — season two saw the Latinas take over on and off set. In 2013, Boston actress (by way of New Jersey and Colombia) Diane Guerrero was cast as Maritza Ramos, one half of the Flaritza phenomenon, and the rest is imaginary BFF history. She hit network television this year as Lina, the best friend on Jane the Virgin alongside her breakout list buddy, Gina Rodriguez. As Maritza and Lina, Diane manages to be snarky but soulful, peleonera but supportive. That’s why we’re convinced she’d be one of the best damn friends we could hope to have. (No, seriously.) She also spoke out on an issue few celebs will touch: in an L.A. Times op-ed in November, she shared the story of coming home to find that her parents had been deported when she was just 14 years old. We felt for her and then fell a little more in love with her.

— Danette Chavez


Pedro Pascal

You might not guess that a guy called The Viper would be the underdog in a fight, but that’s Game of Thrones for you. Chileno Pedro Pascal played Oberyn Martell a.k.a. The Viper, a nobleman who was on a quest to avenge his sister. Part playboy, part Inigo Montoya, Oberyn stood up to the mostly god-awful Lannisters by standing in as champion for Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). Sadly, he met his demise at the hands of The Mountain, his sister’s murderer, but the Oberyn fandom is alive and well. So is Pedro’s career: the New Yorker (est. 1993) has been cast as a DEA agent who takes on Pablo Escobar in the Netflix series Narcos, which we will probably be instantly addicted to. And because he’s proven himself more than capable of playing David, he might get a chance to play the more Goliath-like characte r— he’s in talks to play Pontius Pilate in an upcoming Ben-Hur remake.

— Danette Chavez


Dominic Colon

Dominic Colon is a multi-hyphenate threat, but one of the cuddliest threats ever. This Bronx native already has a long C.V., but that’s because he got his start at the age of 9. On screen, he’s a chameleon, appearing in guest spots on everything from Louie to cop dramas like Blue Bloods. He started off the year with a role on NBC’s hit show, The Blacklist. He then snagged a multi-episode arc on the gritty Starz drama Power (with 50 Cent as executive producer), and he’s currently lighting up the big screen in the acclaimed Chris Rock comedy, Top Five. He’s already scored a BRIO Award for his 2011 play Crush, which he then turned into a short film. He’s even got a producing background (mostly in theater), so we can safely assume that in 2015 he’ll be leading his own movie — or movie house.

— Danette Chavez