Esai Morales, star of new film Gun Hill Road, sounded off recently to BET.com about Latino roles in Hollywood. The 48-year-old Puerto Rican actor stars alongside Judy Reyes and up-and-coming transgender actress Harmony Santana in the film, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Gun Hill Road is about an ex-convict who returns home to the Bronx, NY to find his son struggling with his sexual identity.
Morales spoke frankly about Latino actors in Hollywood, comparing their state to those of their black peers in the industry. Morales said two decades ago, he had other Latinos pleading him to ask Steven Spielberg to tell their story as well, since the famous director was behind The Color Purple and Amistad. “We [Latinos] don’t get those types of budgets. We don’t get that production value and that hurts because we have incredible stories too,” the actor said. “We get small films and when we try to go big it’s always some stupid ass Chasing Papi-type movie, corny ass stuff.”
In addition, Morales expressed his thoughts on the lack of historical stories being told that concern Latinos. “Do I have to see movies and television about the English throne or the Holocaust every year? There are multiple multi-million dollar movies with the same backdrop. But our Holocaust—meaning Latino—aren’t ever told,” he said, pointing out to the fact that nothing like the award-winning 1977 television miniseries Roots has been made to reflect the history of Hispanics in America.
“We understand Roots and that experience was mind-boggling and it changed the way society viewed race relations. It was incredibly important. With Roots I was just as proud as anybody else that people of color were getting their stories told,” he said. “But I’m still waiting for our Roots.”