Why aren't there more Latinos on TV? That's a question we ask often here at Latina. So this fall, we set out to grade the major TV networks (and some cable networks, too) to find out if they're featuring enough Latinos in their primetime shows. Read on to find out which networks made the grade (and which ones failed).
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From Californication to Shameless to The Big C and Nurse Jackie, to Weeds and The Borgais—almost all of Showtime's signature shows feature mostly all-white casts—and only two of the network's shows (the hit serial killer drama, Dexter and new drama, Homeland) feature Latino stars in supporting roles.
Now in its sixth year, Dexter, starring Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter, has two Latino series regulars (Puerto Rican actress Lauren Velez, who plays the badass Captain Maria Laguerta and Boricua David Zayas, who plays Sgt. Angel Batista). The show, which is Showtime's most diverse series, also welcomed two new Latino stars this year in season-long recurring roles. Half-Puerto Rican actress Aimee Garcia joined the show in the role of Jamie Batista, the nanny to Dexter's son Harrison, and Mexican actor Edward James Olmos signed on to play James Gellar, a professor of Religion who was believed to be the Doomsday Killer. Season six also saw the return of Mexican actor Christian Camargo as Brian Moser (AKA "The Ice-Truck Killer").
The diversity on Dexter must be contagious, because the show that airs right after it on Sunday nights (new drama, Homeland) is now the only other show on Showtime that features a Latino star in a supporting series regular role (Brazilian actress Morena Baccarin is one of the show's stars).
So while there isn't much diversity on many of Showtime's signature shows, Dexter and Homeland—two of Showtime's highest-rated shows—do a good job of helping the network's diversity efforts. That said, we can't help but notice that all of the lead actors on Showtime (Mary Louise Parker, William H. Macy, Michael C. Hall, Claire Danes, Laura Linney, Edie Falco, David Duchovny, Toni Collette, and Jeremy Irons) are white. With America being as diverse as it is, and with recent census data showing that there are more than 50 million Latinos in America, that doesn't seem right to us.
This fall, ABC—which was once home to shows about Latino families (The George Lopez Show, Ugly Betty)—welcomed a handful of new Latino stars to the network. Sexy 31-year-old Puerto Rican actor Ramon Rodriguez made women swoon as the iconic character Bosley in the shortlived ABC drama, Charlie's Angels—and the same could be said for half-Peruvian hottie Benjamin Bratt, who joined the cast of the medical drama, Private Practice full-time this fall.
Elsewhere on the network, Golden Globe-winning Puerto Rican actor Hector Elizondo (Pretty Woman) is one of the stars of the new Tim Allen comedy Last Man Standing, while Salvadorian actor J.R. Martinez was one of the celebs competing for the title on the new season of Dancing with the Stars. Half-Puerto Rican actress, Lana Parrilla (Swingtown) landed a lead role on ABC this fall. She plays the evil queen in one of their biggest shows of the fall—the spellbinding new drama, Once Upon A Time.
But it's not just the new ABC shows that are featuring Latino talent prominently. There were several Latino stars on returning ABC shows, including Mexican actress Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives), Colombian actress Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) and Mexican actress Sara Ramirez (Grey's Anatomy).
The network also has a slew of Latino stars in supporting roles, including Jon Huertas (Castle), Ian Gomez (Cougar Town), Ricardo Chavira (Desperate Housewives), Rico Rodriguez (Modern Family) and Madison de la Garza (Desperate Housewives). And in the spring of 2012, the network will be rolling out two more shows with Latino stars: the gender-bending comedy, Work It (starring Puerto Rican actor, Amaury Nolasco), and GCB—a dramedy starring Mexican actress Marisol Nichols.
Altogether ABC will have eight Latinos in lead roles on the network this fall, and about six more Latinos in supporting roles. ABC isn't only casting more Latinos than any other network, but it's also doing a great job of casting Latinos in three dimensional roles that aren't Latino stereotypes. Sara Ramirez's character on Grey's Anatomy is Latina, but she's not playing a maid—she's an orthopedic surgeon. Benjamin Bratt is also playing a doctor on Private Practice, Jon Huertas is playing a respected detective on Castle, and as the evil queen in Once Upon A Time, Lana Parrilla is putting a Latina face on an iconic fairy-tale character that has been played, for decades, exclusively by White women.
ABC clearly knows that it makes cents to hire Latinos.
Final grade: A+
When it comes to diversity, NBC is no ABC. Still, the Peacock network did try to add some diversity to its primetime programming this fall—emphasis on “tried.”
Half-Puerto Rican actor Kirk Acevedo (Oz, Fringe) was cast in a supporting role on the Mario Bello cop drama Prime Suspect (which has now been benched by the network), while Mexican actor Al Madrigal had a supporting role on the ill-conceived comedy Free Agents (which got the ax after just six episodes).
Cuban actor Eddie Cibrian was also cast as the lead in The Playboy Club, a shortlived NBC drama set in 1963, that centered on the opening of the first Playboy Club in Chicago. But we all know what happened to that show...
Still, there is one NBC show with a new Latino star that survived this fall—the long-running procedural Law & Order: SVU. Now in its thirteenth season, SVU replaced departing star Christopher Meloni with Cuban actor Danny Pino this fall and the Cold Case alum seems to have worked out for the show.
In addition to Pino, there are also Latino stars on some of NBC’s returning shows. Half-Puerto Rican actress Aubrey Plaza continues to impress as Amy Poheler’s slothful college intern April on the hit comedy Parks and Recreation, while Cuban actor Oscar Nunez is still our favorite grumpy accountant on NBC”s long-running comedy, The Office.
NBC also added some diversity to its reality shows this year. Christina Aguilera was tapped to judge the network’s hit singing competition The Voice, and she’ll return to the show for a second season in the spring. A few weeks ago, NBC also announced that Cuban actress-singer Christina Milian has been tapped to serve as the show’s new social media correspondent!
While many of NBC’s new Latino stars were featured on shows that were cancelled, we have to give the Peacock network an A for effort in their diversity efforts this fall.
From Victor Rasuk and Luis Guzman in How To Make It in America to Kevin Alejandro and Paola Turbay on True Blood—and Paz de la Huerta on Boardwalk Empire—HBO has made a concerted effort this year to represent the 50 million+ Latinos who are currently living in the United States, in their primetime dramas. The network’s comedies—on the other hand—are an entirely different story.
While Puerto Rican actress Ana Ortiz had a recurring role on the hit comedy, Hung this season—there are no Latinos on any of HBO's other comedies, including Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bored to Death, Enlightened, and Entourage—which recently wrapped its eight and final season.
All five of those shows feature largely White casts, which doesn’t make for realistic television viewing when two of those shows (“Bored” and the latest season of “Curb”) are set in the very diverse New York City—while Entourage was set in the similarly diverse L.A.
HBO needs to get hip to the fact that it makes cents (pun intended) to add diversity to its network. ABC, for example, is enjoying one of its most successful seasons of TV programming ever, in part because the network is appealing to various demographics of people. Interestingly, while HBO’s dramas are faring very well in the ratings this year, almost all of the network’s comedies are suffering. Could the lack of diversity be partly to blame?
Last year, there were six Latino stars in lead roles on CBS—but this year, there are only two. Chilean actress Cote de Pablo is still in a lead role (as Israeli Weapons Expert Ziva David) on the network’s #1 drama (heck, TV’s #1 drama!), NCIS, while the network’s hit show, CSI: Miami features Puerto Rican actor Adam Rodriguez in the lead role of Eric Delko.
While CBS is run by a Latina (Puerto Rican Nina Tassler is the President of CBS)—this fall there were few Latinos cast on CBS’ new shows. In fact, the network launched three new dramas this fall including Unforgettable, A Gifted Man, and Person of Interest—and there is not a single Latino star on any of them. In addition, the network's returning dramas (Hawaii Five-O, NCIS: Los Angeles, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Criminal Minds, The Mentalist, and CSI: NY) don’t feature any Latinos either. The one exception is the award-winning drama, The Good Wife, which featured Honduran actress America Ferrera in a recurring role last spring.
CBS has the same problem when it comes to its comedies. The network's two new comedies, 2 Broke Girls and How To Be A Gentleman feature no Latino stars, while established comedies like, Rules of Engagement, Mike & Molly, Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother all feature mostly white casts—and no Latinos—a fact that’s depressing given that there are more than 50 million Latinos in America and 1 in 6 Americans are Latino.
Last year, CBS got a B+ for its diversity efforts. This year, we have to give the network a failing grade. The eye network needs to open its eyes to the fact that Latinos are here and we need to be represented on the small screen.
FINAL GRADE: F
Last year, we gave the C-Dub a failing grade of F because the network had just one Latino (Dominican actor Tristan Wilds) in a lead role, and just two Latino actors (Mexican actor Michael Trevino and Ecuadorian actor Michael Steger) in supporting roles. But did the network become more diverse in 2011? The answer is: not really.
There are eight scripted shows on the CW's primetime schedule this fall: 90210, Supernatural, Gossip Girl, Nikita, The Vampire Diaries, Ringer, The Secret Circle, and Hart of Dixie. Tristan Wilds (90210) is still the only Latino actor with a lead role on the entire network, and Trevino and Steger are back in supporting roles on 90210 and The Vampire Diaries respectively. The C-Dub also cast Mario Lopez as the host of the reality show, H8R (the show was cancelled quickly) and Cuban actor Nestor Carbonnel was cast in a supporting role on the hit series, Ringer. (There are no Latino stars on the network's two other new fall shows: The Secret Circle and Hart of Dixie).
While we were thrilled to see Nestor Carbonnel and Mario Lopez join the network this fall, we must say that we're still disappointed by the CW's lack of diversity in front of the camera. Too many of the network's shows including, Supernatural, Hart of Dixie, The Secret Circle, and Gossip Girl feature largely white casts, which doesn't make a ton of sense, especially in light of recent census data that says that there are more than 50 million Latinos in America. We're hoping the C-Dub will add more color to the network in 2012.
Last year, we were so disappointed by the lack of diversity on the FOX network—namely the lack of Latino stars on the network—that we gave FOX a grade of "F" in our diversity report cards series. The network received a failing grade not only because there were just three Latino stars on FOX last year (Freddie Prinze Jr (24), Monica Raymund (Lie to Me), and Naya Rivera (Glee), but also because all three of those stars were playing supporting roles on the network—there was not a single Latino actor starring on a FOX show last year.
That said, it seems that in 2011 the FOX network made an effort to feature more Latino stars on its primetime shows. The biggest Latina addition to the network this year was of course Jennifer Lopez, who joined FOX's #1 show, American Idol as a judge (replacing Simon Cowell in the show's 10th season). Having Jennifer on Idol boded well for the hit reality singing competition. Not only did it reinvigorate the show creatively—Idol was feeling a bit sluggish in season nine—but it also significantly improved the show's ratings from the year prior.
But Lopez isn’t the only Latina that FOX cast in a leading role this year. Last spring, the network cast Cuban actress Odette Annable (Brothers & Sisters) as the female lead on their Christian Slater comedy, Breaking In. (This summer, Annable was tapped to join FOX's hit show, House as a series regular for the show's eighth season). And of course half-Puerto Rican actress Naya Rivera is still making us split our sides as the irreverent cheerleader-turned-gleek Santana Lopez on FOX's hit comedy, Glee!
We're thrilled that FOX hired more Latin stars in 2011 than it did in 2010 (even if we are a little bummed that the network didn't cast any Latin stars on its two biggest new shows of the fall: The New Girl and the action-adventure series, Terra Nova). And we're excited to tune in to the network this spring to see Cuban actor Jorge Garcia (Lost), as one of the stars of the new sci-fi series, Alcatraz.