EXCLUSIVE: Melissa De Sousa on Afro-Latinas in Hollywood: "All Latinos Don't Look White"

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Panamanian actress Melissa De Sousa, who is best known for her role as the controlling Shelby in the romantic comedy, The Best Man (1999), revealed exclusively to Latina.com that she's in talks to star in a sequel to the hit rom-com. “We’re talking about doing a sequel to The Best Man!” De Sousa dished. “I can’t wait to do it!”

The 43-year-old actress says the sequel would call for her to reprise her role. "It's delicious! I can't wait!" said De Sousa. Even though most fans see Shelby as an antagonist, De Sousa says she doesn't see the character that way. "I don't see her as the meanest woman in the world," she says with a laugh. "But what I love is that people remember the character's name and whenever they approach me on the street, they call me Shelby." De Sousa adds that men and women feel differently about the character. "I've had women come up to me and go, 'I love you, you're just like me!" she says. "Guys look at me kind of leery —they look at me and say ‘here comes trouble’ because they think I’m like Shelby,” she says.

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De Sousa says that starring in The Best Man as the only Latina in an all-Black cast got her typecast in Black roles in Hollywood. “Because I was involved with The Best Man and I wasn’t playing Latina—kind of like how Zoe Saldana played a black girl in Guess Who—that was kind of happening because of the color of my skin," says De Sousa. "I was being cast black."

But De Sousa also wanted play Latina roles, so she spoke to her agent at the time. "I said to my agent, 'you know what? I'm Latina and I should be going out for the stuff that Rosario [Dawson] is going out for. My agent was like, 'well you play Black,' and I said, 'well, have you looked at my last name?' Melissa says with a laugh. "I had to fight to do it." 

Now De Sousa is finally getting her wish! She'll play a Latina in the new BET series, Reed Between the Lines (premiering in the fall), and says representing Afro-Latinas on television is important to her. “I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘thank you for representing the Afro-Latinas—and it occurred to me that this actually means something to people out there who look like me,” says De Sousa. “Once I realized that, I felt like it was a mission of mine to play roles like that and let people know that all Latinos don’t look white—we’re not just one mold,” she says. 

De Sousa says she’s happy to see the success of Afro-Latinas in Hollywood, especially when it comes to Zoe Saldana, her costar in the indie film, Constellation (2005). “I actually played Zoe’s sister in a movie and I’m very proud of her,” says De Soussa. “She’s beautiful and talented — I just wish there were more [Afro-Latinas]," she says. "I want more, more, more and more!”

Still, De Sousa says there are more opportunities for Afro-Latinas than there have ever been. “You know in Hollywood, it’s about cycles,” she explains. “When they had Slumdog Millionaire come out, you started seeing more Indian people on shows. When Rosie Perez was hot they wanted to cast everybody Latina. So it’s all about cycles. But I definitely think Latinos are making their mark and it's much more prevalent than it was in the past,” she says.

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