From Jenna Ortega to Diego Luna. Who were the big names representing Latinos in mainstream media in 2022?
Representation in media has always been a fight for Latinos, but 2022 proved a huge year with names included in the biggest movies and TV shows of the year.
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As 2022 comes to a close, the dominating narrative surrounding Latinos in media is that there’s not enough. Let us start by saying that that’s true, there isn’t. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t some Latinos to celebrate in the industry. This year, some of the biggest projects in film and television included some established Latino names as well as introducing us to some new up-and-comers to be excited about for the future.
From Diego Luna in Disney Plus’ Star Wars spinoff Andor to Guillermo Del Toro’s take on the classic story of Pinocchio now streaming on Netflix, to the new talk of the town Jenna Ortega, playing Wednesday Addams in Netflix’s new hit Wednesday, are just a few of the many Latino faces we are now starting to see in our favorite media, highlighting the continuing and growing process of growth in Latino representation.
Streaming platforms have been major players in making certain shows and movies with Latino actors and actresses, all the more popular among an American audience that loves to consume and binge watch anything HBO Max, Netflix, and Disney+ offers.
Another key aspect of this has been that the industry has begun to put said Latino actors and actresses at the forefront of their projects and no longer just background characters with limited screen time or speaking parts that were simply just to satisfy the community.
One of the breakout stars of this year and one that will definitely be seeing more of in big projects was Jenna Ortega, a 20-year old Latina born and raised in Los Angeles to Mexican and Puerto Rican parents. At such a young age, her CV is long for any actor and actress of any career length. She has had a tremendous 2022, which started with one of the bigger parts in the fifth installment of the Scream series, with another to come in the new year.
She then was one of the stars alongside Kid Cudi, and Mia Goth in Ti West’s slasher flick X that followed a cast and crew making a pornographic film on an elderly couple's rural Texas farmhome, but find themselves threatened by an unlikely killer. Ortega is ending the brilliant year by playing the titular role of Wednesday Addams in Netflix’s Wednesday, one of the breakout shows of the year.
Along with the new Scream to come in 2023, she also has a role in Brian Helgeland’s — writer of Mystic River and Director of 42, the Jackie Robinson biopic – newest project Finestkind alongside Tommy Lee Jones.
Six-time Academy Award nominated and two-time winning director Guillermo Del Toro has also recently released in time for the holiday season, his creative and stop-motion animated take on the classic story of Pinocchio for Netflix. It features an ensemble voice cast including Ewan McGregor, Christoph Waltz, Cate Blanchett and others. It has received rave reviews that includes a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
A review about the film written by Carlos Aguilar for RobertEbert.com read: “Del Toro is nothing if not a gentle champion of the misunderstood to those whose appearance, origin, or worldview isolate them from the homogeneity of the masses. And in this wooden boy, he finds a walking and talking symbol for the indomitable power of nature, of chance, of the unpredictable factors that can enrich our days even if they weren't precisely what we had hoped for.”
Mexican Actor Diego Luna was also a huge fixture this year. He’s long been a major figure in the acting communities of Latin America and Spain, where his early roles in big Spanish-language films like the critically acclaimed 2001 film Y tu mamá también, made him a huge name and one that he would use to his advantage to finally make the leap into American productions in the mid to late 2000s.
He had a role in Gus Van Sant’s Milk starring Sean Penn — who took home the Best Actor Oscar for that role — as well as a voice actor in the smash animated Latino themed musical, The Book of Life. In the last five years, he has kicked it up a notch that first started in 2018 as drug trafficker Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo in Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico.
Most recently, he has joined the prestigious Star Wars and Disney camp, taking the role of Cassian Andor in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as well as the titular role in Disney+ new hit series Andor.
One of 2022’s late year major releases include the new Damien Chazelle’s — director of Whiplash and La La Land — newest project Babylon starring Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and newcomer Diego Calva, an unknown from Mexico City that Chazelle handpicked to play Manny Torres, a Mexican-American film assistant who aspires to become a film star.
The movie is about the rise and fall of multiple characters during Hollywood's transition from silent to sound films in the late 1920s. For his role, he received the Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor.
One of the year’s last major releases is from nine-time Academy Award and five-time winning Mexican Director Alejandro González Iñárritu – director and writer of The Revenant, and Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).
His latest effort is Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, which had a limited release in the United States on Nov. 4 and is now streaming worldwide on Netflix as of Friday, Dec. 16. The film follows a Mexican journalist/documentarian living in America who returns to his native country and begins having an existential crisis with dreamlike visions.
Other major acting feats and breakthroughs include Tenoch Huerta’s portrayal of Namor in the latest Black Panther film, Wakanda Forever, and Danny Ramirez’s breakthrough as Lt. Mickey ‘Fanboy’ Garcia in the latest Top Gun installment alongside Tom Cruise. For Namor specifically, Huerta was able to portray a character rooted in Mesoamerican and Mayan culture — a rarity in major feature films, especially in ones following superheroes.
Also on Netflix, currently number eight in the Top 10 TV shows in the U.S. right now is Colombian telenovela The Unbroken Voice, or in Spanish Arelys Henao: Canto para no llorar, based on the life of Columbian singer Arelys Henao.
In short, while still limited, Hispanic and Latino breakthroughs in front of and behind the camera have come a long way from even just five years ago. For that alone, it’s worth celebrating.
As 2022 was a big year, and 2023 should maintain that trend.