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Lights, Camera, Acción

Premiere: 10/5/2021 | 00:24:25 |

Discover the candid perspectives of Latine actors, writers, producers, directors, and showrunners across generations as they dissect the ever-evolving issue of Latine representation in Hollywood. Featuring Edward James Olmos, John Leguizamo, Xolo Maridueña ("Cobra Kai"), and Julissa Calderon ("Gentefied"), Peter Murrieta ("Mr. Iglesias"), Marvin Lemus ("Gentefied") and more.

About the Episode

Celebrate the incredible impact Latinos have made in Hollywood — past, present and future, with a focus on the new wave of talent that is blazing their own trail in the industry. Featuring prominent Latinx voices in film and television, this special captures the candid perspectives of talent from in front of and behind the camera, as they share their personal journeys and outlook on the future.

Lights, Camera, Acción features Edward James Olmos, John Leguizamo, Xolo Maridueña (Cobra Kai), and Julissa Calderon (Gentefied), Peter Murrieta (Mr. Iglesias), Marvin Lemus (Gentefied) and more.


Lights, Camera, Acción is a co-production of NGL Studios and LATINO PUBLIC BROADCASTING in association with American Masters Pictures.

Produced & Directed by Ben DeJesus
Producers: Jill Krikorian, Cionin Lorenzo
Executive Producers: Sandie Viquez Pedlow, Michael Kantor, John Leguizamo, David Chitel
Consulting Producer: Nancy De Los Santos
Editor: Edgar Andrade
Original Music By Chris Hajian
Associate Producers: Maria “Bete” Fernandez, Rita Damiron, Gabriela Ibanez-Piedra
Directors of Photography: Michael Crommett, Edgar Andrade
Additional Camera: Jose A. Moreno, Chris Ungco
Sound Mixers: Thomas Orozco, Jason Perez
Grip & Lighting: Ryan Breitenbach, Kurtis Myers
Production Assistants: Jean Fernandez, Allie Demers, Jason Marrero, Jiorgi Miller
Makeup & Styling: Iris Romero, Carmel Bianco, Sonia Lee, Jamie Richmond
Original Score Published by Moving Picture Music – ASCAP
Guitars: John Benthal
Graphic Design: David Irlanda
Colorist: Jose A. Moreno
Audio Post & Mixing: Daniel Hamuy, Ignacio “Iggy” Elisavetsky
General Counsel: Fernando Ramirez
Clearance Counsel: Lisa Callif, Jonathan Fisher, Sarah Schwarzman
Special Thanks: Isabella DeJesus, William DeJesus, Joe Bernard, Ben Leff, John Sosa

Music: Peter Golub
Opening Sequence: ca-square
Legal: Jack Dougherty
Publicists: Mary Lugo, Cara White
Executive Producer: Sandie Viquez Pedlow
Series Producer: Luis Ortiz


Funding for Lights, Camera, Acción is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.


♪♪♪ -The first time I remember seeing Latinos on screen was 'Selena.'

Watching J.Lo, Edward James Olmos was, like, beautiful.

-The name that really sticks out more than anyone is Raúl Juliá. -She moves me not -- or not removes at least affection's edge in me -- were she as rough as all the swelling Adriatic seas.

-The first time I was aware of Rita Moreno was 'The Electric Company' -- the 'Hey, you guys!'

-Hey, you guys!

-Watching 'The Pest' when it was, like, way before I should have been watching it, but it has shaped me.

-Then I'm off to Harvard.

-You really believe that?

-Well, you know, I would settle for Yale, but I love Boston in the spring.

-'¿Qué Pasa, USA?' was on PBS, and it was a Latin family, and they were bilingual, and it was really well-written and hilarious.

And I was like, 'Oh, my God.'

It was like a little miracle of what our representation could really be.

♪♪♪ -There's always been two or three people that you can reference a decade, whether it's Anthony Quinn and José Ferrer or Rita Moreno, Dolores del Río, Ricardo Montalbán.

-It was 'I Love Lucy,' and it was Desi Arnaz, who was Cuban.

[ Laughs ] Not just a random Latino, but, like, Cubano.

-[ Speaking Spanish ] -How dare you say that to me!

[ Laughter ] -What did I say? -I don't know, but how dare you.

-His rants in Spanish, I completely understood, where most of America just loved the idea that he was ranting and had no idea what he was talking about.

-As Latin people, we don't get the credit for the changes that we've brought to Hollywood, like Desi Arnaz creating the sitcom.

Without him filming and bringing three cameras and a live audience into the space, you wouldn't have the modern-day sitcom.

-They set up their own production company, Desilu Productions.

And they actually take a cut in their pay in order to make this happen, but they also, in exchange for that, claimed the rights to the film.

-And he goes, 'Hey, why don't we show one of the episodes again?'

And they're like, 'Well, okay.'

-That sets a framework for syndication and reruns.

Desilu Productions also produced 'The Andy Griffith Show'... [ Whistling ] ...'The Dick Van Dyke Show,' 'Mission: Impossible,' and 'Star Trek.'

-Space: the final frontier.

-These are some of the most significant series that were being produced at that time.

-Hey, Julio! -I'm sorry, man.

-[ Speaking Spanish ] -Hey, hey, listen to him.

They both understand the same language.

-My dad, he used to say in the house all the time that 'Sanford and Son' was as close as we were ever going to get to seeing ourselves on television.

And then a couple years after that, 'Chico and the Man' came out.

-Don't call me -I don't care what it means. Talk English.

-[ British accent ] Very well, friend.

I would like to be the first Chicano to be associated with this flowering enterprise.

-That very distinct memory of watching Freddie Prinze and Jack Albertson on that show, and my dad being excited about it, and my uncle kind of giving him the business about it, because he kept saying, 'That's a Puerto Rican playing a Mexican, man.'

But my dad didn't care.

-Would you welcome, please, Freddie Prinze.


[ Applause ] -Freddie Prinze, he was the first comedian that was called over to the couch on 'Johnny Carson' to sit after the set.

-And coming on this show and getting my first break from you, and... -Well, you broke it up when you came out here.

You also -- It's not enough just to be on a show, 'cause you know you've got to deliver when you get here.

-Yeah. -Lots of people have been on the show, but when you come out, and boom.

-When his show was on and when it was a hit, 'Chico and the Man,' it was 40 million viewers a week.

It was a phenomena.

That's numbers that you would just destroy for right now.

♪♪♪ -A lot of people don't realize that there has been the Latino presence in the Hollywood ecosystem since its inception.

So it's important to not distance the history of Latinos with Hollywood.

We're actually intertwined.

-Whenever a Brazilian girl starts something, she must finish it.

-In the late 1920s, Dolores del Río was in Los Angeles, and her husband, Cedric Gibbons, was the art director at MGM, was developing the statue for the Academy Awards ceremony.

She recommended a compatriot of hers, Emilio Fernández, and a nude study of his body became the basis for the Oscar statue.

-That's like, the little Oscar statuette that is handed out every year is the body of a Mexican actor.

[ Laughs ] It's like -- I think it's a fun fact, but I think it's also a weird one that, like, it's like, okay, we're good enough to be here handing this out... [ Speaking Spanish ] ♪♪♪ -I started acting when I was maybe 10, and then the first consistent job that I worked on was on 'Parenthood' on NBC.

And I was maybe 12 or 13 when that started.

Up until that point, acting was just a side hustle to pay for college.

-Why did you do that yesterday?

-After working on 'Parenthood,' I was like, 'This is the only thing.

This is the only thing for me.'

-And fight! -[ Barks ] -I'm on a show on Netflix called 'Cobra Kai.'

♪♪♪ -Aah! [ Cheers and applause ] -There it is!

-I play Miguel Diaz, an Ecuatoriano kid from the Valley who is shy and timid at first, but through karate finds his strength and finds his confidence thanks to Johnny Lawrence, the ultimate bad guy from the '84 'Karate Kid.'

-It all happened so fast. Everything just came together.

I was blocking, I anticipated, I slithered.

-Your mom's gonna kill both of us.

-One thing I can say and I can give kudos to our creators -- Josh, Jon, and Hayden -- is that I'm Ecuadorian on that show, and I'm Ecuadorian in real life.

And it wasn't enough just to have it be a name-drop.

-I guess it's good you've still got that Mexican.

-Miguel's from Ecuador.

-But it can add the way that they speak, the dialects, the different nuances and slang, to the food that we eat.

-I really like these bananas.

-They're called plantains.


In English, we call them bananas. [ Laughter ] -Like, they made sure to do their research, and for that, I'm super appreciative.

-One of the more powerful aspects of cinema is its ability to create with stereotypes.

-And a stereotype is just one aspect of that culture.

It's not the entire culture.

So when you start to use only stereotypes, you've limited the understanding of that culture to that stereotype.

-When it's a stereotype is when we're the butt of the joke.

When it's a stereotype is when there is no story that goes along with it.

-From about 1908 to 1918, there was a genre called 'greaser films.'

And one of the earliest ones was directed by D.W. Griffith, considered one of the pioneers of narrative cinema, but also considered one of the people that has really racialized our understanding of film narrative through his film 'Birth of a Nation.'

And out of that genre, you begin to see the different types of characters that define Mexican representation.

These include the bandito, the sleepy Mexican, the dark señorita, who's defined by promiscuity.

You have the peon, the worker.

-So, either they expected us to have fruit on our heads and entertain people, expected us to be the Mexican spitfire or the Latina with the attitude, or be the Latin lover.

-You Cubans are supposed to be experts at romance.

-Oh, I am not a Cuban, señor.

I was born in Brooklyn as a child.

-When Rita was doing all of those films where she played those stereotypical role, which was the native girl and the indigenous girl... -It will not rain, I don't think.

-I do not think so, either.

-...they made her sexy, they made her dumb, they made her vulnerable.

And that's what she didn't like.

I don't think it bothered her that she was playing a maid.

It was that -- It was, a maid represented all these negative characteristics.

-You want me to leave?

-Yes. Take the rest of the day off -- with pay.

-I'd love to... but I don't work for you. [ Laughter ] -Lupe Ontiveros, who played hundreds of maids throughout her entire career, and she did so impeccably.

She did so with grace and an understanding and a pride that I so deeply appreciate, because my mother was a domestic.

-Those stories have to be told, too.

It's the lens in which we tell those stories.

So is telling that story is where we have to focus.

-I went to an agent's office, had a meeting, and he says, 'So, what do you want to do?

How do you see yourself in this business?'

So, I'm like, 'Well, I want to star in movies.'

And he looks at me and he says, 'Yeah, well, um, no, you have to understand, a star is someone that people will go see.'

-I used to think that it was me -- that I was, like, not talented enough, not good enough.

And then I started to realize, 'Wait a minute, it's not a fair playing field.'

Lots of producers came up to me and said, 'Oh, too bad you're Latin, because you're so talented, and it's gonna be hard for you.'

And I was like, 'Really?'

-There was no term 'Afro-Latino,' 'Afro-Latina.'

You were either white or Black, or Latin, which basically said white with an accent.

-I remember I went into this audition where I was playing like Gang Banger Number 2, and it was this character from East L.A.

I'm from East L.A.

So, I remember going in, reading my lines, and the guy was like, 'Hey, do you think we can add some more like Speedy Gonzales?

That's kind of what we're looking for -- like that kind of voice.'

-Your birdie friend can't catch me because I put salt on his tail.

-And I didn't realize in the moment how terrible that is.

-We don't specialize in 'Puerto Rican acting 101,' or 'Cuban acting,' or... We train ourselves to be able to do Shakespeare and to be able to do Molière and to do anything.

-I've never sold drugs, and all I was playing was drug dealers.

[ Chuckles ] And so you start to realize that, 'Maybe that's why, growing up, I didn't see anybody like me,' because that's all you get seen for.

-It's really dangerous, because we are consuming a version of us through them.

It's like you're creating this, like, toxic version that is not real.

-It creates a problem on both sides.

For a young Latin person, their ego is not well-nourished.

And then on the other side, people who are -- white people then look at us and going, 'Well, you don't deserve to be here.'

-Not seeing yourself represented is not just an offense.

It is really malicious, you know?

Because entertainment, the media, it changes perception.

And that affects policy.

-Mr. Amacedro is unable to enter a plea at this time.

-And why is that, Mr. Sifuentes?

-Mr. Amacedro has been denied his constitutional right to an attorney.

-Do you know that when Jimmy Smits was on 'L.A. Law,' more Latinos applied to law school than ever before, because they saw someone who was like them and who was a lawyer in a show, and they had never considered that as an option.

-You can help me understand why you have been stealing from our clients.

-'Suits' came along, and Jessica Pearson became a popular character, and she was absolutely everything you wanted her to be.

She was a badass lawyer, suffered no fools, dressed impeccably.

-He's not gonna give up without a fight.

-Louis, I don't have time for this.

So take your arguments and get the hell out of here.

-I'm also responsible for putting a lot of lawyers [laughing] in the world.

So, you know, hey, Jimmy, I see you.

When I had the opportunity to produce the spinoff, 'Pearson,' I said, 'We're going to reinvent her history, and we're making her Afro-Cuban.'

-[ Speaking Spanish ] [ Chuckles ] -I don't need you to valet my car.

I just need to get to work.

-I'm always looking for those battles, just 'cause they're in places you don't expect them to be.

♪♪♪ -I was in the Marines right after high school.

I think the only emotion that I felt I was allowed to express was anger.

Anything else, you kind of have to reserve it and hide it.

And when I stumbled into acting, I think what attracted me was almost like a permission to feel everything you wanted.

It was okay because I was being other people.

The big milestone for me was getting this movie called 'A Better Life' with Demián Bichir.

I became friendly with the director, Chris Weitz.

Knowing Chris Weitz, I think, led to, years later, being in this film called 'Bel Canto' with Julianne Moore and Ken Watanabe.

-Mr. Hosokawa, may I present Ms. Roxanne Coss.

-And I just learned so much from being on set.

I think that was the first time where I felt like I belonged.

I recently played Detective Vic Soto in the third season of 'The Sinner.'

-Why would he be worried about music after a crash like that?

-When I got the call I was like, 'Wait, I got what?'

I hugged my wife and cried tears behind her shoulder, saying, 'Oh'... [ Chuckles ] Because it was a really good role.

It was a detective role. It wasn't a drug dealer.

I got to speak English.

♪♪♪ -The places that we were able to shatter the glass ceiling and the stingy tokenism was independent film and theater.

-What's your name?

♪♪♪ -Isn't it on there, on the license, man?

-Cheech and Chong were cosmic characters.

They lived in the here and now.

Basically, their problem was, when they woke up in the morning, they have to find a joint.

Then everything else would go good from there.

But the search of them finding a joint led us throughout the counterculture and all the characters we encountered.

-Super successful, independent Latin comics that created a whole genre of the weed comedy.

-It always cracked me up that Cheech and Chong were the representatives of the hippie American counterculture, and it was this Chicano lowrider and this Chinese-Canadian guy.

-In 1987, a group of films came out, starting with 'La Bamba.'

-[ Singing in Spanish ] -'Born in East L.A.'

-Hey, look, I want to see your superior officer right now, man.

I know my rights.

-Come and get this guy. -Hey!

-And these were starring Latino actors, in many cases with a Latino producer and/or director.

And it really represented something different in the history of cinema.

-This is basic math, but basic math is too easy for you So I'm gonna teach you algebra because I'm the champ.

-'Stand and Deliver' is the single most-viewed film in educational systems throughout the country.

Thousands -- Tens of thousands of teachers use it every year.

-Gregory Nava -- He gave Jennifer Lopez her big starring role that really launched her career.

Let's take America Ferrera. Where did she get her start?

She got her start in an independent movie written by Josefina Lopez called 'Real Women Have Curves.'

Robert Rodriguez -- he wrote the book on independent filmmakers, and all filmmakers read that book.

He did all his movies out of Hollywood because, after 'El Mariachi,' Columbia wanted him to do 'Zorro,' and he said, 'Great.'

He goes, 'I want to cast Salma Hayek,' and they said no, and basically that deal fell through, and he left town.

They probably said, 'You'll never work in this town again,' and he didn't.

He worked out of Texas.

He made so many movies independently.

He has his own studio there.

-Mother, I still love you.

Oh, how it hurts, tears falling down... -'Filly Brown' with Gina Rodriguez, which was a movie that she busted out on.

She is such a great artist.

-'I Like It Like That,' Darnell Martin, was this beautiful gem of an urban comedy/drama.

-You tell me right now if that's your kid.

-No. -No? -No?

-We were not props or accessories.

We were right smack in the middle of this narrative.

-I've made a lot of mistakes.

-For a brief period, you actually have three television shows at the same time.

You have 'American Family' by Gregory Nava, you have 'Resurrection Blvd.' on Showtime, and then you have the 'George Lopez' show, which is the longest-running show.

-I really enjoyed meeting your mother. She was -- -Enough of your lies! Out!

[ Laughter ] 'I enjoyed meeting your mother.'

That -It really represents the voice I love, just pure Chicano culture.

It was authentic.

And when that authentic voice comes out, everybody recognizes it.

Even people that are not part of that experience recognize it.

-The last few years, it's been amazing to see so many brown faces on the screen on different projects -- It's not just one.

-When you're able to see something onscreen, it's a reflection of your hopes and your dreams, of what you can aspire to.

-If you look, Latinos are trending.

Shows like 'Pose,' they're groundbreaking.

We're dealing with a vision of a Latino who is all-inclusive.

-I'm going to form my own house.

It's my time, it's my dream, and I'm going for it!

-I think it's important to really support actors like Mishel Prada, having Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera with 'In the Heights.'

-♪ Vanessa ♪ -♪ I gotta go ♪ -This is the next wave.

-Leslie Grace came to this project being a legit singer.

-[ Singing indistinctly ] -But what impressed me so much besides her hard work was that she really made herself emotionally available.

It's beautiful to see that she has all of that potential.

-I respect and love and admire Tanya Saracho and Gloria Calderón Kellett because they are doing it.

They're, like, walking the walk.

-I came to Hollywood, and my first job, I was the only Latina on the staff.

The first hour of me having this job, a coworker turns to me and says, 'You do know you're the diversity hire, right?'

And I was like, 'What's that?'

I called my agent, and I was like, 'What is the diversity hire?'

And then he was like, 'Oh, you don't cost the show anything.

The studio pays for you.'

So what I heard is like, 'Oh, you have no value.'

But then another Latina came, Gloria Calderón Kellett, and she'd been doing it for like 15 years.

She was like, 'This is how you do it, kid,' you know?

And now we're still, like, great friends, and we've formed a lot of coalition around being Latinas in this town.

-Embarrass you while I sob during my toast.

Abuelita will dance inappropriately with one of your guy friends.

-You can count on it. [ Laughter ] -Gloria Calderón with 'One Day at a Time,' I think that show really broke so many barriers because she showed Hollywood what a three-camera show with Latinos could be.

-We'll call it Vida.

-Tanya Saracho with her 'Vida,' what a show!

I mean, that broke so many barriers.

-When I had my own writers' room, it was all comprised of all Latina, and half of us queer.

The safety of having an all-Latina writers' room was amazing.

-And she wasn't afraid to go certain places that our community sometimes feels a little bit uncomfortable going to.

-Who are you calling a bully?

I'm out here defending my neighborhood, alright?

-I think shows like 'Vida' or 'Gentefied,' I think they got it right in that they're portraying Latino characters in non-stereotypical ways, and the creators of the shows come from those communities.

♪♪♪ -'Gentefied' is a half-hour series on Netflix that revolves around the Morales family.

It's about a family dealing with, like, a changing neighborhood and trying to chase that American dream.

-Erik, soy Captain Latino America.

Grr! -[ Speaking Spanish ] ...the speed of light? -What?

-It's exploring the idea that the more you chase the American dream, the further you get away from where you came from.

♪♪♪ -I'm on 'Gentefied.' It's a trailblazer show.

It shows the real struggles of what a lot of immigrants and a lot of immigrant children go through on a day-to-day basis, but at the same time incorporating realistic situations that everybody can connect to.

My American Caucasian friends are in love with the show, and they have nothing to do with the Latin culture.

It has to do with them connecting to the story.

A lot of the time, people are like, 'Oh, you're Latino,' and sometimes having a negative connotation when you're younger.

And I'm like, 'I'm Latina and I'm American.

I know Spanish and English. I know two different cultures.'

I'm like, 'I have the best of both worlds.'

I feel really lucky to be in this industry at this time.

I'm like, I'm riding the wave, because I know that I can be a role model to so many kids that don't have role models that look like me.

You could be smart, you could be beautiful, you could be sporty, you could be athletic.

And I want to make sure that all the women know that you can be anything you want to be.

♪♪♪ -Every decade or every year, there's always a movement to say, 'Oh, there's the 'Selena' movie. There's the 'La Bamba' thing.'

There's always some iconic film that seems to give our people hope, some sort of trickle of representation.

However, it's only an outlier, meaning that it happens once every five years.

-These waves of recognition weren't sustainable because there was no money put into creating a support system that could foster more Latino projects.

-It's a civil rights issue.

People do not understand that the failure to include us in the national landscape is by itself a segregation.

And so, we are digitally segregated.

-'Cause we're not underrepresented, we're excluded.

Because you can't be 20% of the population and be less than 1% of the stories.

That's exclusion.

-And that is part of what our message has to be, is that we in our own way can be a united voice of asking for accountability and for social justice related to our image and the way that our image gets presented.

-Everybody always asks, like, 'Oh, is it getting better for Latinos?'

And I'm like, 'Okay, I don't know what you want me to say.

Yes, it is, because look at all these incredible Latinos, but also, no, not fast enough.'

♪♪♪ -You can't put a frame on us 'cause we will break it.

We'll break out of it.

You try to box us in, we'll box you out.

-The digital world is showing you, when you bring the audience right to the product, that's where -- On TikTok and the Gram, on Facebook, Latin people and Latin talent is killing it.

-There needs to be new Scorseses.

There needs to be new Tarantinos.

And they need to be people of color, they need to be women, they need to be people from the LGBTQ community.

-Being behind the scenes, having a seat at the table, building your own table [laughs] if necessary.

-I would like to handle our stories forever.

I feel like we'll never run out of stories, because we haven't been able to tell our stories.

-We have something really important to contribute, and if we have more chances to do that, I mean, who knows what could happen?

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪


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