Hollywood does a really lousy job reflecting the population of the United States, this has been the complaint for a long time.
However, this week there is new data to support that claim. A new study from USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism looked at more than 400 films, T.V. and digital episodes released during a recent year-long span.
Of all that content, fewer than 29% of speaking roles came from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. This is in spite of the fact that such groups now make up nearly 38% of our off-screen population.
Also, let's face it, many of the roles non-white actors get cast in aren't that big or that great.
So, what is it like to be an actor in this climate? We asked Roxana Ortega, who has appeared on shows like NCIS, The League, HBO's Togetherness and Joel de la Fuente, who can currently be seen on Amazon's most-watched new series, The Man in the High Castle and on Netflix's Hemlock Grove.
Joel told me about advice he got early on in his career:
"I met a producer...and the producer said, 'Hey listen, you can be a really big star, you're a leading man. But you need to go to the Philippines and you need to change your name from Joel De La Fuente to Joel Fontaine...I thought it was really funny because you know, here my name is so unique...Here's a guy who's of Filipino heritage but we're going to bring him back to the Philippines, where I will only be seen as American and then give him a name that is neither American nor Filipino."
Roxana on one-dimensional roles:
"The irony is not lost on me. In Hollywood, as I'm driving on La Brea, La Cienega in Los Angeles, I better be auditioning for Mayor. Why am I going to audition for maid number 4? ...Unfortunately Hollywood is about what's tried and true wha't snot going to fail..the way it shows up for roles, you can be the cop, you can be the over-sexualized Latina...you have to talk a certain way to get that across because these become certain colors in a very limited box of crayons that Hollywood is coloring with."
Joel on a need for more complex color characters:
"The problem is, is that it's systemic...how many people who make the really big decisions or who are telling the actual stories have the kind of perspective and the kind of power where they can slowly start to bring in all different kinds of people...this is part of the reason why it's so complicated...you think, well look how many maids have I been in on and that can be an issue, BUT when Jennifer Aniston plays a maid it's a really well---it's not the fact that it's a maid it's the fact that our color is being assigned to that role and that's it...there's no other thought...that's the whole character."
To hear the full interview, press the blue play button above.