When I heard that that the first TV show ever to feature an all-Latina lead cast was about five maids—and that it was called Devious Maids, no less—I, like many of us, did a collective eye roll followed by a sigh. Why did a moment so full of promise have to come with so much baggage?
We are very familiar with that baggage: For decades Hollywood has consistently and almost obsessively cast Latinos in stereotypically negative roles. Gangbangers. Drug dealers. Hypersexual Latin lovers. And of course, maids—slutty ones, saintly ones, subservient ones, sassy ones, ones with ridiculously heavy accents and ones with no speaking role who are just there as part of the background.
Texas-born Mexican American actress Lupe Ontiveros alone estimated that she’d played a maid 150 times in her four-decade TV, movie and stage career, saying in one interview: “I’ve made chicken salad” out of, well, a certain chicken byproduct. Sadly—and perhaps, tellingly—after she died in 2012, she was left out of the Oscars In Memoriam montage, as if her work had been as much an afterthought as that of the maids she portrayed with dignity.
So a lot of the controversy that has plagued Devious Maids, whose pilot airs on Sunday at 10 p.m. on Lifetime, is not only understandable—especially when the cheesy first trailer released featured a bevy of oversexed women—it’s vital.