We hear it all of the time from Latino stars: In order for Latinos to continue making progress in Hollywood, Latin actors have to be able to play any role—not just Latino roles. Fortunately for us, there are already many Latino stars who have shown Hollywood that we're capable of doing just that. Here are nine Latino stars who play non-Latin roles all of the time (brilliantly we might add), and are showing Hollywood casting execs that they're not "great Latino actors" but rather great actors...period!
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Cameron Diaz, 38
The effervescent Cuban actress has had a distinguished acting career that has included hit rom-coms (My Best Friend’s Wedding, There’s Something About Mary), Oscar-nominated films (Being John Malkovich, Gangs of New York), and action movies (Charlie’s Angels, Knight and Day, The Green Hornet). Yet in the 17 years since she made her Hollywood debut as Tina Carlyle in The Mask (1994)—Diaz has never played a Latina in her more than 35 movies. Today, the versatile actress (and proud Latina) is one of Hollywood’s highest paid stars.
Sara Paxton, 23
“I’ve tried! Are you kidding me?” That’s what Mexican actress Sara Paxton said when we asked her why she’s never played a Latina character on the big screen. “I’ve gone on auditions," she added, "and I’ve been like, 'You know my family’s [Latin]... I’ve spoken a little bit of Spanish, and they’re just like, 'Ha ha ha—that’s good!' They’re not going to hire the 'white girl' to play Latina." But Sara didn't let Hollywood's tendency to think of Latinos in stereotypes stop her from showing Hollywood her broad talent. The half-Mexican actress was deliciously evil as the catty sorority girl, Rachel in Sydney White (2007), empathetic as a rape victim in The Last House on the Left (2009), and charming as the title character in the mermaid fantasy film, Aquamarine (2006). Note to Hollywood: Sara can play anything—which means she can definitely play a Latina!
Alexis Bledel, 29
Although Alexis Bledel is half-Mexican, her character Rory Gilmore on the WB's hit series Gilmore Girls (2000-2007), was not Latina. Neither was Bledel's Greek character Lena Kaligaris in the movie, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005), or her character Ryden Malby in the coming-of-age movie, Post Grad (2009). And yet, even though Bledel is a proud Latina, she played these non-Latinas so beautifully that we can't imagine any other actress in the roles!
Joanna Garcia Swisher, 31
In 2009, when Cuban actress, JoAnna Garcia Swisher joined the cast of the CW's Gossip Girl in the recurring role of non-Latina Bree Buckley, Nate's (Chase Crawford) girlfriend, JoAnna told Latina.com what it meant to her to be the first Latina to star on the hit CW show. “I'm always proud to be Latin anywhere I go, but the fact that I'm breaking a little ground here makes me very excited!” she said. The fact that JoAnna wasn't playing a Latina character didn't seem to matter to her at all—like most actors, Garcia-Swisher was happy to be working, and the fact is that her being on Gossip Girl, meant one more Latina starring on a TV show, so we were all for it. JoAnna has played non-Latina roles on three other series: Reba (2001-2007), Privileged (2008-2009), and Better With You (2010). And she was lovely in all of those roles!
Charisma Carpenter, 41
Charisma, who is best known for her roles as all-American cheerleader Cordelia Chase on the hit WB TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Kendall Casablancas on the WB's Veronica Mars, says Hollywood casting execs have never tapped her for Latin roles. "I guess they've never seen me tan," jokes Carpenter, who is half-Spanish. Regardless of Hollywood's refusal to see Charisma as Latina though, the talented actress has had starring roles on five TV series, and has starred in several movies, including The Expendables (2009), with Sylvester Stallone.
Andrew Keegan, 32
Throughout his career, Andrew Keegan has played all-American white guys in movies and on television. He was Joey Donner, a self-absorbed pretty boy in the movie, 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), a privileged prep-schooler in the movie, O (2001), and teen dad Wilson West on the WB series, 7th Heaven. The Colombian actor has never played a character whose ethnicity is Latino, but we'd welcome it if he did: based on his work in these projects, Andrew has demonstrated his ability to shine in both drama and comedy.
Tristan Wilds, 22
Although he's half-Dominican on his mother's side, Tristan Wilds has never played a Latino character on television. Still, we love Tristan and we're fans of his terrific work as troubled youth Michael Lee on HBO's critically acclaimed series, The Wire (2002-2008). We also think he does a fine job as Dixon Wilson, another African American character, on the CW series, 90210. “I get offered a lot of black roles, because apparently I don’t look Latino enough,” Wilds told the New York Daily News in the fall of 2008.
Jamie-Lynn Sigler, 30
Best known for her role as Meadow Soprano, Tony's (James Gandolfini) daughter on the HBO hit, The Sopranos (1999-2007), Jamie-Lynn Sigler is used to playing Italian women in Hollywood. "I have no Italian in me. I'm Cuban, Greek and Romanian and Sephardic Jew, so I couldn't get further from Italian," Sigler has said. "But I guess I've been adopted into that family, too." Maybe the reason Hollywood keeps casting Sigler as italian is that she's done such a terrific job in the roles she's been given to date. Remember when she played Ro, Vince's (Bobby Cannavale) Italian sister on the hit comedy, Will & Grace? She was hilarious!
The Estevez's (Martin Sheen, 70, Charlie Sheen, 45, & Emilio Estevez, 49).
These three amigos never play Latinos, but their tremendous work has proven to Hollywood for decades that Latinos can play any role: not just Latino roles. Martin Sheen's tour-de-force performance in the classic Francis Ford Coppola film, Apocalypse Now (1979), was, and is extraordinarily powerful, and he's done stellar work on TV too, most notably as one of the stars of The West Wing (1999-2006). Sheen's son, Emilio Estevez delivered heartfelt and sweet performances in three Mighty Ducks movies (and we'll always love him for that). And Sheen's other son, Charlie Sheen—who was 2010's highest paid actor on television—has proven himself time and time again in Hollywood, both on the big screen (Wall Street) and on television (Two & Half Men). So while they may not be playing Latinos in Hollywood, the Estevez's are definitely helping Latinos make progress in Hollywood.