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Latino Casting

May 08, 1999

Concerning the article about the lack of Latino roles in film and television ("Latinos Missing in Hollywood's Big Picture," May 5), I was not a bit surprised by the quote from the unnamed casting director: "We told you we wanted somebody who was Mexican. We wanted somebody dirty": My grandmother, a Mexican immigrant, worked as a housekeeper for various Bel-Air and Brentwood families from the 1920s through the 1950s. My father, a fourth-generation Californio, worked as a chauffeur for Irvin S. Cobb, a 1930s radio personality. Mr. Cobb used to invite my parents to his weekly radio program. Modern Hollywood should be so enlightened.

But "modern" Hollywood expects people like my grandmother, my parents and me to be "dirty" because most Hollywood types only have direct contact with those of us who work for them as nannies, maids and gardeners. Get out of your mansions, folks, and drive around Southern California and the rest of the country. A great number of us have moved beyond working-class jobs to professional careers--yes, even to acting, writing, directing and producing.

TERRI DE LA PENA

Santa Monica

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The report commissioned by the Screen Actors Guild which found that "Latino actors work less often [than non-Latino actors] and rank near the bottom in earnings" is no doubt true. But it leaves out an important fact. For the past 20 years or so, in an effort to secure more work for themselves, a community of Latino actors has effectively pressured Hollywood production companies into using only Latino actors in Latino roles. When a Latino role is being cast, only actors with Hispanic names are allowed to read.

Does this mean that only Jewish actors should play Jews, only French actors should play French characters, only New Yorkers should play New Yorkers? We are actors. Pretending to be someone we are not is the name of the game.

It is unfortunate that certain Latino actors have chosen to take this path, and that the Screen Actors Guild has chosen to turn its back. Acting is hard enough; the last thing actors need is to fight each other. What we need most is a level playing field and an open door, no matter what your last name.

BART BRAVERMAN

Los Angeles

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