By Marissa Valles
Actor Christian Barillas and casting director Nicole Arbusto interviewed each other and took questions from the audience during the “Casting and Latinx Representation” workshop held on Monday in the Proscenium Theatre.
Barillas said Latinx people make up 20% of the United States population, but only make up 8% of all leading roles in movies and television.
Behind the scenes, Latinx people only account for 7% of writers and directors. Although Latinx actors such as Pedro Pascal, Jenna Ortega and Oscar Isaac are some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry right now, they are considered outliers.
Despite Arbusto not being Latinx herself, Barillas said it’s important to include people of all backgrounds when it comes to tackling the issue of diversity to avoid creating an echo chamber.
Centering Latinx voices and entertainers is the main priority, but it’s also important to have allies who are willing to help.
“We can have these conversations with people that are like us but if we’re looking to solve some of these challenges, we really have to bring in people from the whole spectrum,” Barillas said.
Arbusto said that since 2020, there has been a rise in understanding the need for diversity and for its authenticity.
One of the problems with casting Latinx people is that Latinx is very broad. Directors and producers aren’t really specific about what they’re looking for most of the time.
“For example, [directors and producers] will ask for someone who is Mexican, but they won’t specify if they’re looking for someone who is from the country Mexico or someone who is Mexican-American.
“When they say they’re looking for someone who is Latinx, they don’t really know if they’re looking for someone who is Guatemalan or Dominican,” Arbusto said.
Arbusto said the main job of a casting director is to help bring the vision that writers and directors have in mind to life.
However, Arbusto said there is a business aspect to casting in addition to the artistic aspect. Networks are required to approve casting decisions, which can impact the way actors are chosen.
“Most of the time it’s a balancing act because at the end of the day you want the network to be happy,” Arbusto said.
Another difficulty with casting Latinx people is that casting directors aren’t allowed to ask actors about their ethnicity.
“Not being able to ask that sort of question is challenging because as a white person, I’m not as tuned in on different accents.
“That’s one of those instances where it would be helpful to be able to ask about someone’s background,” Arbusto said.
One piece of advice given to Latinx actors was to highlight their background during casting.
“Your ethnicity and cultural background is a special skill because it’s something unique that you can bring to a role that another actor might not be able to,” Arbusto said.